Poems of London

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Hardcover
$15.95 US
4.4"W x 6.49"H x 0.86"D  
On sale Oct 05, 2021 | 288 Pages | 978-0-593-32020-4
| Grades 9-12 + AP/IB
Poems of London is an anthology of poems inspired by this storied city, from its teeming medieval streets to the multicultural metropolis it is today

Poems of London covers a wide range of time and includes not only the pantheon of classic English poets, from Shakespeare to Wordsworth to T. S. Eliot, but also tributes by notable visitors from all over, from Arthur Rimbaud to Samuel Beckett to Sylvia Plath, and contributions by an array of immigrants or the children of immigrants, including Linton Kwesi Johnson, Patience Agbabi, and recent Booker Prize-winner Bernardine Evaristo. All the famous sights of London, from the Thames to the Tower, are touched on in this vibrant collection, and denizens of its busy streets ranging from princes to pubgoers to pickpockets wander through these pages. The result is an enthralling portrait of an endlessly varied and fascinating place.
Foreword
 
THE THAMES AND OTHER WATERWAYS
RUDYARD KIPLING The River’s Tale
MICHAEL DRAYTON From PolyOlbion
OSCAR WILDE Impression du Matin
JOYCE CARY From The Horse’s Mouth
WILLIAM WORDSWORTH Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802
DENISE RILEY Composed underneath Westminster Bridge
D. H. LAWRENCE Town in 1917
ANONYMOUS Frost Fair 1684
JOHN TAYLOR From An Arrant Thief
LOUIS MACNEICE Charon
JAMES ELROY FLECKER Ballad of the Londoner
JO SHAPCOTT ‘Delectable Creatures’
CICELY FOX SMITH London Seagulls
WILFRED OWEN Shadwell Stair
JOHN DAVIDSON In the Isle of Dogs
U. A. FANTHORPE Rising Damp
BEN JONSON From On the Famous Voyage
KIT WRIGHT Wailing in Wandsworth
EDMUND SPENSER From Prothalamion
T. S. ELIOT From The Waste Land
 
THE CITY AND WESTMINSTER
WILLIAM DUNBAR London
TRADITIONAL Oranges and Lemons
T. S. ELIOT From The Waste Land
SIR JOHN BETJEMAN From Summoned by Bells
TOM CHIVERS The Bells
DAVID JONES From The Anathemata: ‘The Lady of the Pool’
ANONYMOUS City Street Cries
FRANCIS BEAUMONT From Master Francis Beaumont’s Letter to Ben Jonson
JOHN KEATS Lines on the Mermaid Tavern
SIR JOHN DAVIES Plague
THOMAS NASHE A Litany in Time of Plague
JOHN DRYDEN The Fire of London
IAN NAIRN St. Stephen Walbrook
WILLIAM BLAKE Holy Thursday
PETER BOSTOCK A Few Words from Rev. Sydney Smith
THOMAS HARDY In St. Paul’s a While Ago
LOUIS MACNEICE Homage to Wren
ARTHUR HENRY ADAMS Fleet Street
WILLIAM BLAKE London
PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY Hell
WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE The Princes in the Tower
OLIVER REYNOLDS Little Ease
SIR THOMAS WYATT ‘Who list his wealth and ease retain’
GEOFFREY HILL From Holbein
U. A. FANTHORPE Portraits of Tudor Statesmen
DAVID HARSENT From Fire: A Song for Mistress Askew
ANDREW MARVELL From An Horatian Ode upon Cromwell’s Return from Ireland
LIONEL JOHNSON By the Statue of King Charles at Charing Cross
JONATHAN SWIFT Clever Tom Clinch, Going to Be Hanged
LAWRENCE DURRELL A Ballad of the Good Lord Nelson
ARTHUR RIMBAUD Villes
VIRGINIA WOOLF Big Ben
FRANCIS BEAUMONT Westminster Abbey
IMOGEN ROBERTSON The Statues of Buckingham Palace
 
DIVERSIONS
EDMUND WALLER From On St. James’s Park, As Lately Improved by His Majesty
JOHN WILMOT, EARL OF ROCHESTER from A Ramble in St. James’s Park
EZRA POUND The Garden
SYLVIA PLATH Queen Mary’s Rose Garden
TED HUGHES Jaguar
SAMUEL BECKETT Serena I
WILLIAM EMPSON Homage to the British Museum
RÓISÍN TIERNEY Song of the Temple Maiden
FERGUS ALLEN Imperial War Museum, November
ALEXANDER POPE Hampton Court
THOMAS HARDY A Spellbound Palace
JOHN DONNE Twickenham Garden
WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE Prologue to Henry V
ANONYMOUS From On the Death of the Famous Actor, Richard Burbage
BEN JONSON On Salathiel Pavy: A Child of Queen Elizabeth’s Chapel
BEN JONSON From To the Memory of My Beloved, the Author, Mr. William Shakespeare
 
DAY AND NIGHT
MARY ROBINSON London’s Summer Morning
IVOR GURNEY London Dawn
GEOFFREY MATTHEWS Aubade 1940
SIR JOHN BETJEMAN Business Girls
WILLIAM WORDSWORTH The Real Scene
WILLIAM WORDSWORTH The Blind Beggar
JONATHAN SWIFT A Description of a City Shower
JOHN DAVIDSON Fog
JOHN GAY Pickpockets
ROSEMARY TONKS An Oldfashioned Traveller on the Trade Routes
R. P. LISTER Buses on the Strand
LUKE HEELEY To a Disused Phone Box
IAN NAIRN Red Lion, Duke of York Street
JOHN HEATHSTUBBS Lament for ‘The Old Swan’, Notting Hill Gate
GEORGE GORDON, LORD BYRON Don Juan in London
THOMAS HOOD A Nocturnal Sketch
RICHARD LE GALLIENNE A Ballad of London
T. E. HULME The Embankment
SIR JOHN BETJEMAN On Seeing an Old Poet in the Café Royal
ERIC MASCHWITZ A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square
ARTHUR SYMONS Behind the Scenes: Empire
ROSEMARY TONKS Orpheus in Soho
RICHARD SCOTT From Soho
JOHN OLDHAM From A Satire, in Imitation of the Third of Juvenal
CHARLES CHURCHILL The Haunted City
AMY LOWELL A London Thoroughfare, 2 a.m.
D. H. LAWRENCE Parliament Hill in the Evening
HUBERT WITHEFORD The World in the Evening
SYLVIA TOWNSEND WARNER Quiet Neighbours
BERNARD SPENCER Regent’s Park Terrace
ROBERT BRIDGES London Snow
DEREK MAHON One of These Nights
SIDNEY KEYES Greenwich Observatory
 
NATURE AND PLACE
JOHN KEATS Ode to a Nightingale
THOM GUNN Keats at Highgate
AMY LEVY A London Plane Tree
D. H. LAWRENCE Letter from Town: The Almond Tree
ROBERT LOWELL Closed Sky
RUTH FAINLIGHT Solstices
CHARLOTTE MEW The Trees Are Down
CHARLES DICKENS Earthquake in Camden Town
EMILE VERHAEREN London
WILLIAM BLAKE From Milton
HILARY DAVIES In the Fire Frost Morning
MARTINA EVANS On Living in an Area of Manifest Greyness and Misery
EDGAR BATEMAN If It Wasn’t for the ’Ouses in Between
KEN SMITH From Fox Running
WILLIAM BLAKE From Jerusalem
WILLIAM WORDSWORTH The Reverie of Poor Susan
BERNARDINE EVARISTO Seven Dials, London, 1880
PATRICK KAVANAGH Kerr’s Ass
 
SOME LONDONERS
WILLIAM WORDSWORTH All Specimens of Man
ABRAHAM NAHUM STENZEL Whitechapel in Britain
EMANUEL LITVINOFF A Long Look Back
PERCY FRENCH The Mountains o’ Mourne
IAN DUHIG Grand Union Bridge
ALDWYN ROBERTS London Is the Place for Me
LINTON KWESI JOHNSON Inglan Is a Bitch
FLEUR ADCOCK Immigrant
JOHN AGARD What Ails the King?
PATIENCE AGBABI Sir Topaz & Da Elephant
JOHN SHIRLEY The Maunder’s Praise of His Strowling Mort
FAWZI KARIM Night’s Scavengers
WILLIAM BLAKE ‘Why should I care for the men of Thames’
INUA ELLAMS Directions
FOREWORD
 
Whether you live in London, as I have done for almost fifty years, or are on a brief visit, you cannot help being reminded of both the geographical extent and the historical depth of the city. How do you make sense of it all?
 
For the purposes of this anthology – a pocketsize book about a vast and teeming place – I have begun at the centre. Think of the River Thames as the artery that from earliest days has allowed London’s heart, the City of London, to beat. There and in Westminster is where you will find the greatest concentration of the traces of history, some well-preserved and plain to see, others more hidden. But there is no need to rely just on old buildings and monuments: poets from the Early Modern period onward have been among the busiest and liveliest chroniclers, whether reporting events or imagining them, celebrating metropolitan life or deploring it; and while the evidence they offer is necessarily partial, it adds up to a considerable body of witness.
 
William Blake stands on a different plane from his fellows in having attempted, singlehanded, something more ambitious: the articulation, in his prophetic books Milton and Jerusalem, of a comprehensive mythology of London. Blake may still be thought eccentric, as he was in his own day, but his is the spirit that I have come to regard as presiding over my choice of poems, extracts from poems, song lyrics, topical doggerel and poetically charged prose. Embracing not only the city centre, but also the districts and boroughs that sprawl around and away from it, Blake’s vision strikes me as a vigorous assertion of eccentricity as the most reliable means of seeing the place as it really is.
 
So the following pages set out, in their own manner, to do justice to the full range between history and mythology, objective reality and the private feelings of the individual. The past – some of it proud, much disgraceful – looms large; but London’s habit of growing and changing needs to be considered as well. With this in mind, I have placed in my final section a handful of poems addressing the experiences of immigrants who have become citizens. Regrettably, it has not been possible to include a section about London as the revitalizing new intake of the future will know it.
 
I should like to thank Charles Boyle, Eleanor Bron, Nancy Campbell, Neil Corcoran, Tom Deveson, Cliff Forshaw, Vivi Lachs, Alan Leith, Lord Lisvane and Gwyneth Powell for their advice and assistance with
this book.
 
Christopher Reid

About

Poems of London is an anthology of poems inspired by this storied city, from its teeming medieval streets to the multicultural metropolis it is today

Poems of London covers a wide range of time and includes not only the pantheon of classic English poets, from Shakespeare to Wordsworth to T. S. Eliot, but also tributes by notable visitors from all over, from Arthur Rimbaud to Samuel Beckett to Sylvia Plath, and contributions by an array of immigrants or the children of immigrants, including Linton Kwesi Johnson, Patience Agbabi, and recent Booker Prize-winner Bernardine Evaristo. All the famous sights of London, from the Thames to the Tower, are touched on in this vibrant collection, and denizens of its busy streets ranging from princes to pubgoers to pickpockets wander through these pages. The result is an enthralling portrait of an endlessly varied and fascinating place.

Table of Contents

Foreword
 
THE THAMES AND OTHER WATERWAYS
RUDYARD KIPLING The River’s Tale
MICHAEL DRAYTON From PolyOlbion
OSCAR WILDE Impression du Matin
JOYCE CARY From The Horse’s Mouth
WILLIAM WORDSWORTH Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802
DENISE RILEY Composed underneath Westminster Bridge
D. H. LAWRENCE Town in 1917
ANONYMOUS Frost Fair 1684
JOHN TAYLOR From An Arrant Thief
LOUIS MACNEICE Charon
JAMES ELROY FLECKER Ballad of the Londoner
JO SHAPCOTT ‘Delectable Creatures’
CICELY FOX SMITH London Seagulls
WILFRED OWEN Shadwell Stair
JOHN DAVIDSON In the Isle of Dogs
U. A. FANTHORPE Rising Damp
BEN JONSON From On the Famous Voyage
KIT WRIGHT Wailing in Wandsworth
EDMUND SPENSER From Prothalamion
T. S. ELIOT From The Waste Land
 
THE CITY AND WESTMINSTER
WILLIAM DUNBAR London
TRADITIONAL Oranges and Lemons
T. S. ELIOT From The Waste Land
SIR JOHN BETJEMAN From Summoned by Bells
TOM CHIVERS The Bells
DAVID JONES From The Anathemata: ‘The Lady of the Pool’
ANONYMOUS City Street Cries
FRANCIS BEAUMONT From Master Francis Beaumont’s Letter to Ben Jonson
JOHN KEATS Lines on the Mermaid Tavern
SIR JOHN DAVIES Plague
THOMAS NASHE A Litany in Time of Plague
JOHN DRYDEN The Fire of London
IAN NAIRN St. Stephen Walbrook
WILLIAM BLAKE Holy Thursday
PETER BOSTOCK A Few Words from Rev. Sydney Smith
THOMAS HARDY In St. Paul’s a While Ago
LOUIS MACNEICE Homage to Wren
ARTHUR HENRY ADAMS Fleet Street
WILLIAM BLAKE London
PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY Hell
WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE The Princes in the Tower
OLIVER REYNOLDS Little Ease
SIR THOMAS WYATT ‘Who list his wealth and ease retain’
GEOFFREY HILL From Holbein
U. A. FANTHORPE Portraits of Tudor Statesmen
DAVID HARSENT From Fire: A Song for Mistress Askew
ANDREW MARVELL From An Horatian Ode upon Cromwell’s Return from Ireland
LIONEL JOHNSON By the Statue of King Charles at Charing Cross
JONATHAN SWIFT Clever Tom Clinch, Going to Be Hanged
LAWRENCE DURRELL A Ballad of the Good Lord Nelson
ARTHUR RIMBAUD Villes
VIRGINIA WOOLF Big Ben
FRANCIS BEAUMONT Westminster Abbey
IMOGEN ROBERTSON The Statues of Buckingham Palace
 
DIVERSIONS
EDMUND WALLER From On St. James’s Park, As Lately Improved by His Majesty
JOHN WILMOT, EARL OF ROCHESTER from A Ramble in St. James’s Park
EZRA POUND The Garden
SYLVIA PLATH Queen Mary’s Rose Garden
TED HUGHES Jaguar
SAMUEL BECKETT Serena I
WILLIAM EMPSON Homage to the British Museum
RÓISÍN TIERNEY Song of the Temple Maiden
FERGUS ALLEN Imperial War Museum, November
ALEXANDER POPE Hampton Court
THOMAS HARDY A Spellbound Palace
JOHN DONNE Twickenham Garden
WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE Prologue to Henry V
ANONYMOUS From On the Death of the Famous Actor, Richard Burbage
BEN JONSON On Salathiel Pavy: A Child of Queen Elizabeth’s Chapel
BEN JONSON From To the Memory of My Beloved, the Author, Mr. William Shakespeare
 
DAY AND NIGHT
MARY ROBINSON London’s Summer Morning
IVOR GURNEY London Dawn
GEOFFREY MATTHEWS Aubade 1940
SIR JOHN BETJEMAN Business Girls
WILLIAM WORDSWORTH The Real Scene
WILLIAM WORDSWORTH The Blind Beggar
JONATHAN SWIFT A Description of a City Shower
JOHN DAVIDSON Fog
JOHN GAY Pickpockets
ROSEMARY TONKS An Oldfashioned Traveller on the Trade Routes
R. P. LISTER Buses on the Strand
LUKE HEELEY To a Disused Phone Box
IAN NAIRN Red Lion, Duke of York Street
JOHN HEATHSTUBBS Lament for ‘The Old Swan’, Notting Hill Gate
GEORGE GORDON, LORD BYRON Don Juan in London
THOMAS HOOD A Nocturnal Sketch
RICHARD LE GALLIENNE A Ballad of London
T. E. HULME The Embankment
SIR JOHN BETJEMAN On Seeing an Old Poet in the Café Royal
ERIC MASCHWITZ A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square
ARTHUR SYMONS Behind the Scenes: Empire
ROSEMARY TONKS Orpheus in Soho
RICHARD SCOTT From Soho
JOHN OLDHAM From A Satire, in Imitation of the Third of Juvenal
CHARLES CHURCHILL The Haunted City
AMY LOWELL A London Thoroughfare, 2 a.m.
D. H. LAWRENCE Parliament Hill in the Evening
HUBERT WITHEFORD The World in the Evening
SYLVIA TOWNSEND WARNER Quiet Neighbours
BERNARD SPENCER Regent’s Park Terrace
ROBERT BRIDGES London Snow
DEREK MAHON One of These Nights
SIDNEY KEYES Greenwich Observatory
 
NATURE AND PLACE
JOHN KEATS Ode to a Nightingale
THOM GUNN Keats at Highgate
AMY LEVY A London Plane Tree
D. H. LAWRENCE Letter from Town: The Almond Tree
ROBERT LOWELL Closed Sky
RUTH FAINLIGHT Solstices
CHARLOTTE MEW The Trees Are Down
CHARLES DICKENS Earthquake in Camden Town
EMILE VERHAEREN London
WILLIAM BLAKE From Milton
HILARY DAVIES In the Fire Frost Morning
MARTINA EVANS On Living in an Area of Manifest Greyness and Misery
EDGAR BATEMAN If It Wasn’t for the ’Ouses in Between
KEN SMITH From Fox Running
WILLIAM BLAKE From Jerusalem
WILLIAM WORDSWORTH The Reverie of Poor Susan
BERNARDINE EVARISTO Seven Dials, London, 1880
PATRICK KAVANAGH Kerr’s Ass
 
SOME LONDONERS
WILLIAM WORDSWORTH All Specimens of Man
ABRAHAM NAHUM STENZEL Whitechapel in Britain
EMANUEL LITVINOFF A Long Look Back
PERCY FRENCH The Mountains o’ Mourne
IAN DUHIG Grand Union Bridge
ALDWYN ROBERTS London Is the Place for Me
LINTON KWESI JOHNSON Inglan Is a Bitch
FLEUR ADCOCK Immigrant
JOHN AGARD What Ails the King?
PATIENCE AGBABI Sir Topaz & Da Elephant
JOHN SHIRLEY The Maunder’s Praise of His Strowling Mort
FAWZI KARIM Night’s Scavengers
WILLIAM BLAKE ‘Why should I care for the men of Thames’
INUA ELLAMS Directions

Excerpt

FOREWORD
 
Whether you live in London, as I have done for almost fifty years, or are on a brief visit, you cannot help being reminded of both the geographical extent and the historical depth of the city. How do you make sense of it all?
 
For the purposes of this anthology – a pocketsize book about a vast and teeming place – I have begun at the centre. Think of the River Thames as the artery that from earliest days has allowed London’s heart, the City of London, to beat. There and in Westminster is where you will find the greatest concentration of the traces of history, some well-preserved and plain to see, others more hidden. But there is no need to rely just on old buildings and monuments: poets from the Early Modern period onward have been among the busiest and liveliest chroniclers, whether reporting events or imagining them, celebrating metropolitan life or deploring it; and while the evidence they offer is necessarily partial, it adds up to a considerable body of witness.
 
William Blake stands on a different plane from his fellows in having attempted, singlehanded, something more ambitious: the articulation, in his prophetic books Milton and Jerusalem, of a comprehensive mythology of London. Blake may still be thought eccentric, as he was in his own day, but his is the spirit that I have come to regard as presiding over my choice of poems, extracts from poems, song lyrics, topical doggerel and poetically charged prose. Embracing not only the city centre, but also the districts and boroughs that sprawl around and away from it, Blake’s vision strikes me as a vigorous assertion of eccentricity as the most reliable means of seeing the place as it really is.
 
So the following pages set out, in their own manner, to do justice to the full range between history and mythology, objective reality and the private feelings of the individual. The past – some of it proud, much disgraceful – looms large; but London’s habit of growing and changing needs to be considered as well. With this in mind, I have placed in my final section a handful of poems addressing the experiences of immigrants who have become citizens. Regrettably, it has not been possible to include a section about London as the revitalizing new intake of the future will know it.
 
I should like to thank Charles Boyle, Eleanor Bron, Nancy Campbell, Neil Corcoran, Tom Deveson, Cliff Forshaw, Vivi Lachs, Alan Leith, Lord Lisvane and Gwyneth Powell for their advice and assistance with
this book.
 
Christopher Reid

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