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Image by Caroline Forbes

Poem introduction

'The Poet of Bray' - I should like to point out that this parody is not autobiographical. It was written round about 1950.

The Poet of Bray

The Poet of Bray

Back in the dear old thirties' days
When politics was passion
A harmless left-wing bard was I
And so I grew in fashion:
Although I never really joined
The Party of the Masses
I was most awfully chummy with
The Proletarian classes.
This is the course I'll always steer
Until the stars grow dim, sir-
That howsoever taste may veer
I'll be in the swim, sir.

But as the tide of war swept on
I turned Apocalyptic:
With symbol, myth and archetype
My verse grew crammed and cryptic:
With New Romatic zeal I swore
That Auden was a fake, sir,
And found the mind of Nicky Moore
More int'resting than Blake, sir.

White Horsemen down New Roads had run
But taste required improvement:
I turned to greet the rising sun
And so I joined the Movement!
Glittering and ambiguous
In villanelles I sported:
With Dr Leavis I concurred,
And when he sneezed I snorted.

But seeing that even John Wax might wane
I left that one-way street, sir;
I modified my style again,
And now I am a Beat, sir:
So very beat, my soul is beat
Into a formless jelly:
I set my verses now to jazz
And read them on the telly.

Perpetual non-conformist I -
And that's the way I'm staying -
The angriest young man alive
(Although my hair is greying)
And in my rage I'll not relent -
No, not one single minute -
Against the base Establishment
(Until, of course, I'm in it).
This is the course I'll always steer
Until the stars grow dim, sir -
That howsoever taste may veer
I'll be in the swim, sir.


from Collected Poems (Carcanet, 1988), copyright © John Heath-Stubbs 1988, used by permission of the author.

Recordings

John Heath-Stubbs Reading from his poems

1Mozart

2Purkis

3A Crow in Bayswater

4Christus Natus Est

5The Frog and the Nightingale

6Wishes for the Months

7The Lady’s Complaint

8Girl with Marionettes

9Plato and the Waters of the Flood

10When Sappho Loved

11The Timeless Nightingale

12The Poet of Bray

13Inscription for a Scented Garden for the Blind

14The Tree-Creeper

15The Carrion Crow

16The Stonechat

17The Blackcap

18Ibycus

19Song of the Death-Watch Beetle

20Flea

21Inscription for a Sundial

22A Jellicle Cat

23The Mulberry Tree

24The Ghost of Gruesome Towers

25A Ballad of the Piltdown Man

26At the Dylan Thomas Centre, Swansea

27A Ballad of Trafalgar Square

28Sonnet

29Ockham’s Razor

30A Christmas Rose

Books & cds by John Heath-Stubbs