Thursday, October 13, 2016

Limerick for the English Pastoral

Author Uncertain

The Dean’s son, Nathaniel Clover
Once bowled seven no-balls in an over
Which had never been done
By a clergyman’s son
On a Tuesday in August at Dover

The form is Edward Lear, the tone A.A. Milne, the title my invention, the author reputedly Clement Freud, though this is probably either apocryphal or wishful-thinking on his part – it ought to have been written by Bill Frindle or Henry Blofeld, but I don't suppose it was. Could there, however, be a more succinct and complete description of that certain-type-of-Englishman, Larkin with his bicycle clips, Betjeman with his train-spotting manual – the quirky obsessiveness, the clerkish idealism, the self-mockery that isn't really self-mockery at all, the victory at Waterloo inspired by House Sport at Eton, the memorialisation of failure as though, like Dunkerque, it had actually been some kind of triumph.

The poem has never appeared in print, so far as I am aware. It may be read, however, on the website of the England cricket team, which one day will hopefully be www… , a rather better scorecard than Nathaniel Clover's - I leave it to those of you who do understand these things to explain the subtlety of the above to those who don't.

The illustrations are, top, The Close at Clifton College in Bristol, made famous by Henry Newbolt in a poem you will find on another page of this book - click here - though in fact it wasn't really Newbolt who made The Close famous, but rather W.G. Grace, cricketer extraordinaire, whose portrait is in the illustation on the right.
As to the presence of these poems in a serious anthology, let me just say that I take everything in life extremely seriously, not least the need for mockery, including self-mockery, and a good deal of irreverence, satire and iconoclasm. This page is my contribution to that genre.

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