I completed this only yesterday, read it at the Poetry and Jam Session at Kipps’ last night, and someone asked if there was somewhere he could read it- so here it is-


“I wonder what they do all day”-

“They eat and reproduce”, you say;

“They do not work and cannot play;

All you see is that they stay

Stuck to rocks in this gentle bay.”

“Eat and reproduce- how gay

It sounds; but what a way

To live the life of Riley-

Stuck to a rock while surging waves

O’erwhelm them.” Drily

You admit incomprehension,

A thing you usually choose not to mention.

We  cannot enter a barnacle’s mind.

Even if they had a thing called Mind

We are of such a different kind.

They do not understand the meaning of life

Or bother themselves to ask O, what’s the point?

(And you, no different to a dog sniffing a post –

Though, as you walk into the sea, anoint

Your feet, here on your quasi-spiritual quest,

You realise there’s nothing to record;

And  yet it still must be recorded.



Quintus Horatius Flaccus; Matthew Arnold; Me.


It’s an old idea, at least to me,
That Love will return, but empty-handed,
No matter how you beg Her “Leave me be”
In dreams that slip your understanding.
Ah spare me! Venus; let me be.

Once again you set me on my shanks –
There have been so many meetings, partings
At so many bus stops, taxi-ranks,
So many passions that turned into farces,
So many walks back home on canal banks.

Yes, love will return but empty-handed.
The tormentor will wind the rack;
Believing you have answers he is minded
To keep on winding ’til you crack-
All he asks of you is to be candid.

The only remedy for love is song
But art is too brief, life too long
We go on singing all the time there’s light
And now ’tis night. And now, he said, ’tis night.

It is an ‘old idea’ because it comes from Horace (65-8 BC)- Ode IV, 1:

Venus, again thou mov’st a war 

Long intermitted, pray thee, pray thee spare

(Intermissa, Venus, diu

 rursus bella moves)

This is Horace-


I am thinking of commissioning a statue of myself in this pose; possibly in similar garb. My only doubt about doing so is that if I put it up here in Folkestone, it will get covered in seagulls’ droppings, and before long I will look less like a poet, and more like a rag-and-bone man (or rag-and-bone person, if there is such a being). Not that I’m vain…

NPG Ax27807; Matthew Arnold by Elliott & Fry, published by  Bickers & Son

Not sure I want to look like him…

Dover Beach
The sea is calm tonight.
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits; on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand,
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanched land,
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.

Sophocles long ago
Heard it on the Ægean, and it brought
Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
Of human misery; we
Find also in the sound a thought,
Hearing it by this distant northern sea.

The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth’s shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.


“The sea is calm tonight” he said.
“For God’s sake”, she said; “come to bed.”
“Ah, God!” he said; “well, there’s a thing.
You know that, when I offered you my ring,
I told you that, as somebody once said, I don’t do God.”
“Jesus! “(“Not him either”) “will you come to bed?”
He said “I’m glad we’re married; you’re a grand girl;
But there’s nothing else of value in this world-
Really; there’s neither joy, nor love, nor light-”
“Look”, she said; “I’m wearing this incredibly sexy nightie
I got for the honeymoon”- “nor certitude”-
“And under it I’m in the nude”-
“Nor peace, nor help for pain; it’s hell!
But still, we have each other; just as well-
I get so pessimistic sometimes”, he said,
“That, to be frank, I wish that I were dead.”

“Are you listening to me?” she said.
“If you don’t get your kit off and join me in this bed”-
“Sophocles”, he went on – at which “Right!” she said; “I’ve had enough;
If you’re getting into that Ancient Greek stuff
I’m off. I’m going down to the disco, and I’m going dressed like this!
I’m sure some nice Barbadian boy will give me a kiss
And, who knows, something more.
So come to bed or I’m out of that door.”
When he said- “The Sea of Faith was once-”
She threw the box of condoms at his bonce.

The Deathbed Poet

Thank you Kathy for giving me the idea for this.

The deathbed poet
Reads a couplet
Softly, clearly,
Leans nearly
To the dying ear
Unconscious of fear
Making sure the words
Cannot be heard
By the bored,
Tired, snivelling
Bystanders welling
Up from time to time
Reassuring one another: “It’s her time”.

The deathbed poet
Does not do assessments
The poems have lines
About ancient heroes, today’s headlines
The pleasures and excitements of love,
Lines about sky, trees, leaves,
About dogs and neighbours,
Children, ice-cream flavours
The undertaker’s polished hat
About this-and-that.

The deathbed poet
Does not know if
The ear so close
Hears or knows
What is meant
Who it was who sent
This visitor, a stranger,
And the wetted sponge
Will not unlock the lips to brood
On what was not or what was understood

It is in the tiny space between
The poet’s lips and the single ear
Held for a moment and then gone


Complaints Department

They say I gave no comfort to her-
It is a simple misunderstanding-
They should have asked for a priest-
For palliation, painkillers-
Poetry does not promise suchlike things

My literature makes it clear
That I do not promise comfort
My concern is for rhythm, rhyme;
Anapaests, iambs, punctuation, semi-colons;