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Collected Poems: With an Index of First Lines [Paperback]

John Betjeman
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

The poetic work of John Betjeman is known both for its range and its mastery of form. Released for the first time in paperback, this selection of his poetry has sold more than two million copies and was awarded the Duff Cooper Memorial Prize.

Product details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: John Murray; 4th Revised edition (1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0719536324
  • ISBN-13: 978-0719536328
  • Product Dimensions: 3.2 x 14 x 22.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 913,295 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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About the Author

John Betjeman was born in London on 28 August 1906. He was educated at Marlborough and Magdalen College, Oxford. In 1931 his first book of poems, 'Mount Zion', was published by an old Oxford friend, Edward James. His second book was 'Ghastly Good Taste', a commentary on architecture, published in 1934. He was knighted in 1969 and was appointed Poet Laureate in 1972. John Betjeman died on 19 May 1984 at his home in Trebetherick, Cornwall and was buried at the nearby church of St Enodoc

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Astounding talent of rhythm and rhyme 13 May 2003
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I don't pretend to be much of an expert on poetry, but when I first read Betjeman's work, I was stunned at the simplicity and beauty of the rhythm he brings to the language. Intelligent and articulate without being pretentious or high-brow, this is nonetheless extraordinary writing by a rare, rare talent. This collection includes some of his later works, perhaps overlooked in the light of his prolific mid-Century output. While not in the same league as his middle period, they still give an insight into a man that excelled at painting images with words.
'Revival ran along the hedge
And made my spirit whole,
With steam upon the windowpane
And glory in my soul.'
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Of all the English poets, Sir John Betjeman (1906-1984) seems to stand alone. His work is hugely popular amongst readers, but because of his `simple' style of incorporating topographical place-names, contemporary allusions, humour (frequently mocking) fused with a melancholy nostalgia for a bygone world, he is never really `accepted' as a poet by fellow poets and critics, including `pseudo-intellectuals' who worship at the altar of T. S. Eliot.
Betjeman, like that other great English poet who suffers much the same snobbish disapproval, A. E. Housman (1859-1936), sought inspiration in the English countryside, towns and villages and conveyed his poetic observations, often witty, urbane and satiric with a light lyrical nostalgia; love is also a major theme, fulfilled and unrequited, with much sadness and regret and written in the structure of the ballad form. But who can fail to fall under the spell of Betjeman with such poems as `Death in Leamington', `The Arrest of Oscar Wilde at the Cadogan Hotel', `Slough', `Upper Lambourne', `Myfanwy' and `A Subaltern's Love-song'?
His interests were far-reaching, from architecture, especially the `Gothic Revival' of Victorian Church architecture, (he was founder of the British Victorian Society); railways, social history, provincial towns and conservation. He didn't take himself too seriously, not even as Poet Laureate (1972) and his Collected Works remains as a monument to the measure of the man - remembered for his conservation work, his child-like enthusiasm and as one of the nation's favourite poets! Wonderful!
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An absolute delight! 29 Dec 2001
A delightful volume which captures the spirit of Betjeman in all its fullness and wit.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 5.0 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential volume of England's greatest 20th century poet 10 May 2002
By - Published on
Betjeman is one of the most enduring and endearing of Britain's poets. I have an old volume that regularly comes down from the shelf to both inspire and amuse me. His verse always has something to say, even on fifth, sixth or seventh reading.
There is a down-to-earth quality to Betjeman's poems and the themes he covers. He is realistic about love, faith, life and human beings. Some of his most amusing verses poke fun at characters that one gets the impression might easily be reflections of himself (see Seaside Golf, for example); his ability to laugh at himself certainly adds an air of ease and approachability to his work. Nevertheless, he is also able to deal with thorny subjects without trivializing the difficult questions they provoke, even if he often does so with a rather wicked sense of humour. For me, the most fascinating of his poems deal with God, faith and religion. Betjeman was an Anglican, and he is not shy about his faith, nor about acknowledging its shortcomings. In Westminster Abbey takes the form of a lady's wartime prayer, and is a brilliant and witty expose of religious hypocrisy; On a Portrait of a Deaf Man is a heartfelt psalmic reflection on the problem of God and evil; Senex is a hilarious confession of struggle with sexual temptation.
Elsewhere, Betjeman treats sexuality with a candour that shocks, and firmly dispells any lingering suspicions that he is merely a fat, jovial and reserved old Englishman (see Late-Flowering Lust). At other times, he offers playful reflections on love, lust, romance and courtship, as in A Subaltern's Love Song or The Olympic Girl.
His attempts at blank verse are delightful, and eminently readable, or preferably listenable (English readers will recall the documentaries he made for British television some twenty or thirty years ago, for which he recited many of his poems, including the charming Beside the Seaside, included here). He is at home musing on the things that he loves most: people and places. Many (probably most) of his poems received their inspiration, and take their titles, from places mainly in and around the English coast. He writes of them with an obvious affection.
It seems that Betjeman has not received the attention he deserves on this side of the Atlantic (US/Canada). His books are few and far between in second-hand bookshops, and my review of his collected poems seems to be the first to appear on Amazon. This is regrettable. I am sure that those who take the time to explore Betjeman's world will find they are richly rewarded; his enthusiasm for his subjects, and his gentle and avuncular manner, surely elicit an appeal that goes beyond national boundaries. This comprehensive collection comes highly recommended.
5.0 out of 5 stars Roaring Waves 3 April 2014
By Rose M Scheel - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
John Betjeman? Spurned by some as being too low-brow and adored by scores of others. Compassion, wit, wisdom, tenderness and the ability to pen a magical turn of phrase were among his gifts. He had the ear, and understood, the heart beat of the people. He was the voice men and women on the street. I am proud that he was chosen as the Poet Laureate in the kingdom of the my birth. Tramping the dunes having taken the ferry from Padstow to Rock (Cornwall) one arrives at John's grave in the grounds of ancient St. Enodoc's church within earshot of winter's roaring waves -- a simple slate slab strikingly garnished with flowers gives eloquent tribute to the man so loved by so many. For me, it is always a moment to think a silent prayer of thanks for the gifts he gave us.

"Then roller into roller curled
And thundered down the rocky bay,
And we were in a water-world
Of rain and blizzard, sea and spraym
And one against the other hurled
We struggled round to Greenaway.
Blessed be St. Enodoc, blessed be the wave...."

A volume to be treasured and well-thumbed.
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