Wednesday, 28 August 2019

'Hassock and cassock, paraffin and pew...'

John Betjeman's birthday today – he was born on this day in 1906. Browsing the Collected Poems, I alighted on this one. It's an evocative piece for a church crawler (and occasional churchyard picnicker) like me, though the chances of finding a key under the mat of a locked church are now, sadly, zero. As so often with Betjeman, death is never far away (here in the 'sweet smell of cerements') and the innocence of the scene has a faintly erotic edge – or is that just me?

An Archaeological Picnic

In this high pasturage, this Blunden time,
  With Lady's Finger, Smokewort, Lovers' Loss,
And lin-lan-lone, a Tennysonian chime
  Stirring the sorrel and the gold-starred moss,
  Cool is the chancel, bright the altar cross.

Drink, Mary, drink your fizzy lemonade
  And leave the king-cups; take your grey felt hat;
Here, where the low-side window lends a shade,
  There, where the key lies underneath the mat,
  The rude forefathers of the hamlet sat.

Sweet smell of cerements and of cold wet stones,
  Hassock and cassock, paraffin and pew;
Green is a light which that sublime Burne-Jones
  White-hot and wondering from the glass-kiln drew,
  Gleams and re-gleams this Trans arcade anew.

So stand you waiting, freckled innocence!
  For me the squinch and squint and Trans arcade;
For you, where meadow grass is evidence,
  With flattened pattern, of our picnic made,
  One more bottle of fizzy lemonade.

I guess 'Blunden time' means a time of rural peace and quiet in picturesque surroundings, as in Edmund Blunden's pastoral poems.
The 'Tennysonian chime', 'lin-lan-lone', occurs in a poem written for music, Far-Far-Away – 'The mellow lin-lan-lone of evening bells...'
'Trans' – an abbreviation since hijacked for other uses – is short for Transitional (between Norman and Gothic).


  1. شركة نقل عفش بالرياض وجدة والدمام والخبر والجبيل اولقطيف والاحساء والرياض وجدة ومكة المدينة المنورة والخرج والطائف وخميس مشيط وبجدة افضل شركة نقل عفش بجدة نعرضها مجموعة الفا لنقل العفش بمكة والخرج والقصيم والطائف وتبوك وخميس مشيط ونجران وجيزان وبريدة والمدينة المنورة وينبع افضل شركات نقل الاثاث بالجبيل والطائف وخميس مشيط وبريدة وعنيزو وابها ونجران المدينة وينبع تبوك والقصيم الخرج حفر الباطن والظهران
    شركة نقل عفش بجدة
    شركة نقل عفش بالمدينة المنورة
    شركة نقل اثاث بالرياض
    شركة نقل عفش بالدمام
    شركة نقل عفش بالطائف
    شركة نقل عفش بمكة
    شركة نقل عفش بينبع