John Betjeman


Hark, I hear the bells of Westgate,
    I will tell you what they sigh,
Where those minarets and steeples
    Prick the open Thanet sky.

Happy bells of eighteen-ninety,
    Bursting from your freestone tower!
Recalling laurel, shrubs and privet,
    Red geraniums in flower.

Feet that scamper on the asphalt
    Through the Borough Council grass,
Till they hide inside the shelter
    Bright with ironwork and glass,

Striving chains of ordered children
    Purple by the sea-breeze made,
Striving on to prunes and suet
    Past the shops on the Parade.

Some with wire around their glasses,
    Some with wire across their teeth,
Writhing frames for running noses
    And the drooping lip beneath.

Church of England bells of Westgate!
    On this balcony I stand,
White the woodwork wriggles round me,
    Clock towers rise on either hand.

For me in my timber arbour
    You have one more message yet,
“Plimsolls, plimsolls in the summer,
    Oh goloshes in the wet!”