Bio: John Betjeman () was named poet laureate in , and is known for his nostalgic writings on contemporary topics. On a pillar in Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey is a memorial to Sir John Betjeman, Poet Laureate and broadcaster. Sir John Betjeman’s centenary will be marked with a wreathlaying ceremony at his memorial in Poets’ Corner on Monday.
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Given the circumstances, one would imagine the tone to be sombre and reverent, but it soon becomes clear that the lady westkinster there primarily to pray for her own needs, and her selfish motives underscore the text.
The whole poem can be read here. The poem is set out in seven stanzas, each of six lines, which are known as sextets.
Sir John Betjeman
The first and third lines are written with four stresses, thus trochaic tetrameter, while the second and fourth have three stresses and are iambic trimeter. The concluding lines in the rhyming couplet return to the iambic tetrameter rhythm.
By using trochaic rather than iambic rhythm westminstef therefore placing the stress at the start of the line, Betjeman succeeds in making westminter tone more emphatic. This betieman his purpose as the speaker is a woman who is used to giving orders and clearly she thinks that God is not beneath her command. One is almost inclined to read this poem in the Received Pronunciation that would have been commonly heard on the BCC in years gone by.
The pompous tone is possibly best expressed in a line from the last stanza:.
She is thus happy to let the Lord wait while she readies herself and drops in a little Latin to make us aware of her status. The alliteration in the fourth line almost makes it seem a little trite.
In Westminster Abbey – Poem by John Betjeman
This clever use of juxtaposition is successful in poking fun at her. The fourth line in which she condescends to pardon God if he should make a mistake shows how devoid of actual piety she is, since it is God who traditionally pardons sinners, not the reverse.
Further deficits in her character emerge as she reveals herself to be openly racist. In this stanza the Speaker lists the things which make living in the United Kingdom so attractive to her.
In holding her up to ridicule Betjeman is using this poem to criticise all those belonging to the upper classes who were only concerned with their own interests. Just as in verse two, the woman supposes that she is on an even-footing, and in fact may even be superior to God Himself.
This shows the lack of any true piety or personal relationship with God.
She also reveals an obsession with money. Rather than pray for the preservation of life, she is more concerned that her shares should take a drop amid the tumultuous world affairs.
Once again, she will only do what suits her, and on her own terms. After her pious ramblings, the woman feels she can leave with a lighter spirit, leaving zbbey readers wondering whether to laugh or cry.
Many of his poems were anti-establishment, as he cast a scathing eye over modern society and its pretentiousness.
He was beloved by many, and the poet Philip Larkin was a particular fan of his work.