Wednesday, 7 July 2010

A Disturbed Night - pt 2
After our adventure at 1.45 this morning the adrenalin was still flowing so that I could not get to sleep - hence the nighttime blogging. When I returned to bed and eventually to sleep I had a recurring dream stimulated by the evocative poem by John Betjeman about the first man to swim the channel unassisted - Captain Matthew Webb. I can't remember when he performed this feat but I do recall that his route was so erratic that he actually swam 39 miles which is equivalent to crossing the channel twice.

A Shropshire Lad

The gas was on in the Institute,
The flare was up in the gym,
A man was running a mineral line,
A lass was singing a hymn,
When Captain Webb the Dawley man,
Captain Webb from Dawley,
Came swimming along the old canal
That carried the bricks to Lawley,
Swimming along, swimming along,
Swimming along from Severn,
And paying a call at Dawley Bank
While swimming along to Heaven.

The sun shone low on the railway line
And over the bricks and stacks,
And in at the upstairs windows
Of the Dawley houses’ backs,
When we saw the ghost of Captain Webb,
Webb in a water sheeting,
Come dripping along in a bathing dress
To the Saturday evening meeting.
Dripping along, dripping along,
To the Congregational Hall;
Dripping and still he rose over the sill
And faded away in a wall.

There wasn’t a man in Oakengates
That hadn’t got hold of the tale,
And over the valley in Ironbridge,
And round by Coalbrookdale,
How Captain Webb the Dawley man,
Captain Webb from Dawley,
Rose rigid and dead from the old canal
That carried the bricks to Lawley,
Rigid and dead, rigid and dead,
To the Saturday congregation,
And paying a call at Dawley Bank
On his way to his destination
.

John Betjeman

The best way to appreciate this poem, as with all his others, is to listen to the great man reciting it. I believe this is still available on a CD recorded in the 1970s- Betjeman's Banana Blush - with musical accompaniament and is really enjoyable.

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