Henley on Thames

I see the winding water make

A short and then a shorter lake

As here stand I,

And house-boat high,

Survey the Upper Thames.

By sun the mud is amber-dyed

In ripples slow and fat and wide,

That flap against the house-boat side

And flop away in gems.


In mud and elder-scented shade

A reach away the breach is made

By dive and shout

That circles out

To Henley tower and town;

And Boats for Hire the rafters ring,

And pink on white the roses cling,

And red the bright geraniums swing

In baskets dangling down.


When shall I see the Thames again?

The prow-promoted gems again,

As beefy ATS

Without their hats

Come shooting through the bridge?

And ‘cheerioh’ and ‘cheeri-bye’

Across the waste of waters die

And low the mists of evening lie

And lightly skims the midge.

Recording reproduced by kind permission of the BBC, read by the author on 6th October, 1949 - from Selected Poems by John Betjeman (J Sparrow, 1948), used with permission of Alexander Aitken Associates.

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