We found this very affectionate parody of John Betjeman torn out of a magazine (possibly the London Magazine) in our voluminous archives. It is by the eminent travel writer Patrick Leigh Fermor and appears to date from the fifties or sixties. Whoever tore it out obviously valued it as an item worthy of preservation, and indeed as parodies go, it is a pretty accurate imitation of the poet’s style.
Although the scansion is sometimes clunky ( or even downright bad) and the rhymes positively Byronic at times—risk it/biscuit; harmony/Abide with me—the piece is redolent of Betjeman’s inimitable , well, Betjemanisms, as it evokes a visit by bicycle to a parish church, which could be anywhere, but may possibly have been in Cornwall. As well as the expected allusions to ecclesiastical features—interiors and exteriors—and Anglican name dropping ( with the Catholic Pugin worked in)—we find the poem overloaded with evocative trade names ( Peak Frean biscuits, Ronuk polish, Raleigh and Rudge bikes, Dolcis, Lotus and Delta shoes.
Because of his inimitable style Betjeman must be one of the most parodied of twentieth century writers. One of the best of these exercises appeared in Private Eyeduring the poet’s own lifetime, and we must assume that it was appreciated by its ‘ victim’. I learnt it off by heart and hope that I can recall it accurately:
‘ Lovely lady in the pew
Golly, what a scorcher, pheeew
What wouldn’t I give to do
Unmentionable things to you Continue reading