Peter Coleman: Favourite Poems

Poems selected by Peter Coleman and read by Lionel Farrell.

"The Manner of the World Nowadays" by John Skelton


So many pointed caps
Laced with double flaps,
And so gay felted hats
            Saw I never;
So many good lessons,
So many good sermons,
And so few devotions
            Saw I never.

So many good works,
So few well learned clerks,
And so few that goodness marks,
            Saw I never;
Such pranked coats and sleves,
So few young men that preves’
And such increase of thieves,
            Saw I never. 

Such boasters and braggers,
So new-fashioned daggers,
And so many beggers,
            Saw I never;
So many proper knives,
So well apparelled wives,
And so ill of their lives,
Saw I never. 

So many cuckold makers,
So many crakers,
And so many peace-breakers,
            Saw I never;
So much vain clothing,
With cutting and jagging,
And so much bragging,
            Saw I never. 

So many pinkers,
So many thinkers,
And so many good ale-drinkers,
            Saw I never;
So many wrongs,
So few merry songs,
And so many ill tongues
            Saw I never.

So much wrath and envy,
Covetise and gluttony,
And so little charity,
            Saw I never;
So many carders,
Revellers and dicers,
And so many ill-ticers,
            Saw I never. 

Sometimes we sang of mirth and play,
But now our joy is gone away;
For so many fall in decay
            Saw I never.
Whither is the wealth of England gone?
The spiritual say they have none,
And so many wrongfully undone
            Saw I never. 

Were convenient,
But it may not be:
We have exiled verity.
God is neither dead nor sick,
He may amend all yet;
And trow so indeed:
As ye believe, ye shall have meed.
After better hope I ever,
For worse was it never. 

"Sun and Fun" by John Betjeman


I walked into the night-club in the morning;
There was kummel on the handle of the door.
The ashtrays were unemptied.
The cleaning unattempted,
And a squashed tomato sandwich on the floor. 

I pulled aside the thick magenta curtains
– So Regency, so Regency, my dear –
And a host of little spiders
Ran a race across the ciders
To a box of baby ‘pollies by the beer. 

Oh sun upon the summer-going by-pass
Where ev’rything is speeding to the sea,
And wonder beyond wonder
That here where lorries thunder
The sun should ever percolate to me. 

When Boris used to call in his Sedanca,
When Teddy took me down to his estate
When my nose excited passion,
When my clothes were in the fashion,
When my beaux were never cross if I was late, 

There was sun enough for lazing upon beaches,
There was fun enough for far into the night.
But I’m dying now and done for,
What on earth was all the fun for?
For I’m old and ill and terrified and tight.


Leave a Reply