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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 Romantic 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 Selected Poems by John Heath-Stubbs. Reprinted by permission of David Higham Associates, Ltd. Copyright © 1990 by David Higham Associates, Ltd. All rights reserved.

From Selected Poems by John Heath-Stubbs. Reprinted by permission of David Higham Associates, Ltd. Copyright © 1990 by David Higham Associates, Ltd. All rights reserved.

John Heath-Stubbs