I just heard a marvelous poem which was read at a London Christmas Eve service. It ended with something like, "London calling, ten past ten, London calling Sir Christopher Wren."
Can someone tell me how to find the entire poem? I want to memorize it.
Merry Christmas! SALLY
Sounds modern-- and like a complaint about modern architecture! Do you know what church it was at, or what program you heard it on?
A complaint about London architecture? Must be by Prince Charles!
I suspect John Betjeman - I don;'t know the piece, but it sounds like him.
"London Calling" is also the title of a song and an album by THE CLASH. (The album cover is a b/w picture of a band member smashing his guitar on the stage -- even before Pete Townshend smashed his.)
This is a VERY LONG SHOT, but was the poem you heard a spoof or version of these lyrics?
London calling to the faraway towns
Now that war is declared-and battle come down
London calling to the underworld
Come out of the cupboard, all you boys and girls
London calling, now don't look at us
All that phoney Beatlemania has bitten the dust
London calling, see we ain't got no swing
'Cept for the ring of that truncheon thing
The ice age is coming, the sun is zooming in
Engines stop running and the wheat is growing thin
A nuclear error, but I have no fear
London is drowning-and I live by the river
London calling to the imitation zone
Forget it, brother, an' go it alone
London calling upon the zombies of death
Quit holding out-and draw another breath
London calling-and I don't wanna shout
But when we were talking-I saw you nodding out
London calling, see we ain't got no highs
Except for that one with the yellowy eyes
Now get this
London calling, yeah, I was there, too
An' you know what they said? Well, some of it was true!
London calling at the top of the dial
After all this, won't you give me a smile?
I never felt so much a' like
Everyone probably already knows this, but 'London calling' was the opening words of most of the broadcasts into Europe during World War 2, so it's used a lot as a sort of shorthand to represent and often then have a go at the wartime spirit/British patriotism and other aspects of the national character etc ( a bit like stiff upper lip). So it turns up in quite a lot of places over the last 50 years - I think Lord Haw Haw started it with an ironic 'Germany calling' to introduce his wartime propaganda broadcasts, but 'London calling' could have been the response to that - before my time! That, and the archtecture theme are the reasons I think the poem being sought might be Betjeman and possibly 1950s - can't find out until the libraries re-open and I've time to visit, by which time my ageing brain will probably have forgotten all about it!
If Sally could tell us a bit more about how the poem went on, not necessarily the actual words, but what happened, it'd help me decide whether Betjeman was worth pursuing as a possible source
I've just come across your request for info about the Christopher Wren poem "London Calling". Unfortunately, I don't know the author, although I did find a reference on Amazon to a book entitled Sir Christopher & Other Poems, by Alfred Jessup. The date for it was 1908 but it is unavailable at present. Which is a shame, as I would love to get a copy of it myself!! I agree it sounds a bit like, John Betjeman's style, but the couple of books I've got of his owkr, don't have it among them.
I learnt it as a child in the 40s and although I don't remember it all, what I do recall goes like this:
Clever men like Christopher Wren, only occur just now and then.
No-one expects, in perpituity, archtects of his ingenuity.
No, never a cleverer dipped his pen, than clever Sir Christopher, Christopher Wren.
St. Brides in Fleet Street lacks a spire, Mary Le Bow a nave & choir.
Please to send the plans complete for a new St. Stevens, Coleman Street.
Salisbury Square's decidedly bare - can you put one of your churches there?
London calling from ten till ten - London calling: Christopher Wren.
I'm sure it was a lot longer than that, but that's all that I can remember. I hope it gives you some clues to work from, if you're still interested. If you've found out anything in the interim, I'd be glad to hear about it, if possible.
I hope people are not going to start posting commercial links not related to poetry here.
LONDON CALLING CHRISTOPHER WREN by Hugh Chesterman
Like Christopher Wren
Only occur just now and then.
No one expects
Architects of his ingenuity;
No, never a cleverer dipped his pen
Than clever Sir Christopher - Christopher Wren,
With his chaste designs
On classical lines,
His elegant curves and neat inclines.
For all day long he'd measure and limn
Till the ink gave out or the light grew dim.
And if a Plan
Seemed rather baroque or too 'Queen Anne'
(As Plans wll may),
He'd take a look
At his pattern book
And do it again in a different way.
Every day of the week was filled
With a church to mend or a church to build,
And never went by an hour but when
London needed Sir Christopher Wren.
'Bride's in Fleet Stree lacks a spire
Mary-le-Bow a nave and choir.'
'Please to send the plans complete
For a new Saint Stephen's, Coleman Street.'
'Pewterer's Hall is much too tall,
Kindly lower the N W wall.'
Can you put one of your churches there?'
Dome of St Paul's is not yet done,
Dean's been waiting since half-past one
London calling from ten till ten,
London calling Christopher Wren!
I got it from here, years ago and have just found it again:
Chesterman was born 1884