John Heath-Stubbs

Image by Caroline Forbes

Song of the Death-Watch Beetle

John Heath-Stubbs

Song of the Death-Watch Beetle

John Heath-Stubbs

Poem introduction

Apart from birds I've written quite a lot of poems about insects and similar creatures.

Song of the Death-Watch Beetle

Song of the Death-Watch Beetle

Here come I, the death-watch beetle
Chewing away at the great catherdral;

Gnawing the mediaeval beams
And the magnificent carved rood screen

Gorging on gospels and epistles
From the illuminated missals;

As once I ate the odes of Sappho
And the histories of Manetho,

The lost plays of Euripides
And all the thought of Parmenides.

The Sibyl's leaves which the wind scattered,
And great aunt Delia's love letters.

Turn down the lamp in the cooling room:
There stand I with my little drum.

Death. Watch. You are watching death.
Blow out the lamp with your last breath.

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


John Heath-Stubbs

John Heath-Stubbs Reading from his poems



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


19Song of the Death-Watch Beetle


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


29Ockham’s Razor

30A Christmas Rose

Books by John Heath-Stubbs