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

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1Mozart

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2Purkis

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3A Crow in Bayswater

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4Christus Natus Est

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5The Frog and the Nightingale

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6Wishes for the Months

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7The Lady’s Complaint

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8Girl with Marionettes

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9Plato and the Waters of the Flood

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10When Sappho Loved

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11The Timeless Nightingale

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12The Poet of Bray

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13Inscription for a Scented Garden for the Blind

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14The Tree-Creeper

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15The Carrion Crow

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16The Stonechat

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17The Blackcap

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18Ibycus

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19Song of the Death-Watch Beetle

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20Flea

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21Inscription for a Sundial

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22A Jellicle Cat

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23The Mulberry Tree

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24The Ghost of Gruesome Towers

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25A Ballad of the Piltdown Man

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26At the Dylan Thomas Centre, Swansea

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27A Ballad of Trafalgar Square

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28Sonnet

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29Ockham’s Razor

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30A Christmas Rose

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Books by John Heath Stubbs