Thursday 6 November 2014

John Betjeman by Martin Jennings (St Pancras)

I love this sculpture so much, I'm probably going to start going out of my way to look at it. You know, compared to the stereotypes of the adjoining Meeting Place sculpture, the wind lifting this rather individually shapen poet's coat and nearly blowing his hat away while he gazes up in wonder are what actually captures the romance of travel. My spirits lift just looking at him. He also has every right to a nice sculpture in St Pancras station:
Betjeman was one of the most energetic figures who, in the 1960s, fought the destruction of St Pancras - mercifully unthinkable today, now that public taste has softened towards George Gilbert Scott's marvellously elaborate neo-Gothic station buildings and old Midland Grand Hotel. "He didn't save it singlehandedly, but it certainly wouldn't have happened without him," said Andrew Motion, one of Betjeman's successors as poet laureate.

Somehow, though, I'd missed out on his efforts a poet until now. Now I've discovered him, I find he has that mix of spirituality and prosaic-ness that's typically British. When I learned he liked the ghost stories of M. R. James, I looked to see if he'd written any ghost poems and discovered A Shropshire Lad, about the homecoming of the ghost of Captain Webb, swimmer of the English Channel, who died while attempting to swim through the rapids under Niagara Falls. It even works quite well as a folk song:

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