Monday, 30 April 2012



Slough

Come friendly bombs and fall on Slough!
It isn't fit for humans now, 
There isn't grass to graze a cow. 
Swarm over, Death!


Come, bombs and blow to smithereens
Those air -conditioned, bright canteens, 
Tinned fruit, tinned meat, tinned milk, tinned beans, 
Tinned minds, tinned breath.



Mess up the mess they call a town-
A house for ninety-seven down
And once a week a half a crown 
For twenty years.



And get that man with double chin
Who'll always cheat and always win, 
Who washes his repulsive skin 
In women's tears:



And smash his desk of polished oak
And smash his hands so used to stroke
And stop his boring dirty joke
And make him yell.



But spare the bald young clerks who add
The profits of the stinking cad;
It's not their fault that they are mad, 
They've tasted Hell.



It's not their fault they do not know 
The birdsong from the radio, 
It's not their fault they often go 
To Maidenhead



And talk of sport and makes of cars
In various bogus-Tudor bars 
And daren't look up and see the stars
But belch instead.



In labour-saving homes, with care
Their wives frizz out peroxide hair
And dry it in synthetic air
And paint their nails.



Come, friendly bombs and fall on Slough
To get it ready for the plough.
The cabbages are coming now;
The earth exhales.


*****

GCSE English Literature students have to analyse

 an unseen poem for part of their exam. 

Every year, I wonder who chooses these 'unseen' poems!

There's really no knowing what will come up in the exam

and in a way it doesn't really matter as long as the students

have a 'formula', so to speak .

Anyway, I've chosen this one to give to my students,

 to practise their unseen analysis.

Written in 1937, as a protest against the many factories which were

being built in Slough, the poem brought much protest

and Betjeman was rather unpopular with some, for daring

 to write such mockery!


If anyone knows Slough or indeed lives in the town

do let us know what it is really like!!

;-)


(Photo courtesy of Google images)

7 comments:

lynda said...

Haven't been to Slough but have seen the signs as I whiz past on the train/bus and I DO love the poem! Thanks for sharing!

Puppet Lady said...

John Betjemin certainly did Slough quite a disservice by writing this poem. I was born and brought up just outside Slough, and now live, after many years in different parts of the world, near the town once again (just off to the top left of your picture, as it happens).
Like any modern town, it has it's faults and ups and downs architecturally. It now has a very high immigrant population (who are perhaps less likely to have been influenced by this piece of english 'literature' when deciding to move here...?)
It isn't all bad - http://puppetystuff.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/walk-in-park.html
and
http://puppetystuff.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/another-park-with-crocuses.html

but the current renovation project in the town centre has been much criticised.

I'm sure if Betjemin had visited the railway station, a splendid victorian building which still stands today, he would have admired it. Not to mention one of the first housing developments, Upton Park, whose elegant houses surround the pretty park in the first link above. Pity that subsequent housing was not quite so grand.

The name of the town itself is unfortunate - conjouring up either deep dispair - as in 'slough of despondency' - or a muddy swamp - which is, I was always told, where it gets it's name, as it was originally a swampy area on the Thames floodplain.

The comedy series 'The Office' did little to improve the image of the town. 'Make Slough Happy', a BBC documentary about a social experiment aimed at improving people's level of happiness, had some positive results, but it needed the miserable name to make this snappy title!

Sal said...

Thank you for that!
The extra information is much appreciated and it's good to get a more balanced view of the town! ;-)

Anonymous said...

How now Brown Slough?
Grazing on the concrete grass
Shall I take junction 6 though?
Oh no! I think I will pass
Speeding west along the M4
Fleeing through the Thames Valley corridor

Clearly no poet but a worthy try?
Or doomed to failure because he was a Betjeman than I

Practicing "rounding of the vowels"
Correct use of the diphthong
To vacate such bovine bowels
On olde Slough was clearly wrong

But in my mind a question arose
So time to set apart the prose
I really do have to know
Why is it Slough and not Sluff or Slow though?

Anonymous said...

It looks like your readers have had enow of Slough
Or enough of Sluff lol!

Anonymous said...

What is more depressing is...
Slough 4
EDWARDS 3

Says it all really reely

galant said...

Love Anonymous's poem!!!
Our windowcleaner shares his surname with the town so one day I asked him if he knew the poem ..."Come friendly bombs ..." and he looked at me as if I'd really lost the plot!
Margaret P