Monday, July 9, 2012

Poetry Monday

Four new episodes of Lewis began on Masterpiece Mystery last night (Thank you, television), but there was a special treat last week, a one-off mystery called Endeavor, set in 1965, in which a young Inspector Morse (a very good Shaun Evans) solves his first murder mystery. Evans didn't quite mesh with John Thaw for me, but he was an excellent character in his own right, and the writing and direction were first rate.

There was a real literary bent to the episode, especially since primary clues were buried in crossword puzzle solutions and first editions of poetry texts, including John Betjeman, but I was still surprised to spot a completely out-of-the-blue reference to Philip Larkin's poem "Mr Bleaney." Morse is being shown his digs and the landlady quotes the first two lines of the poem. I nearly leapt out of my chair.

Here it is in full:

Mr Bleaney

by Philip Larkin

'This was Mr Bleaney's room. He stayed
The whole time he was at the Bodies, till
They moved him.' Flowered curtains, thin and frayed,
Fall to within five inches of the sill,

Whose window shows a strip of building land,
Tussocky, littered. 'Mr Bleaney took
My bit of garden properly in hand.'
Bed, upright chair, sixty-watt bulb, no hook

Behind the door, no room for books or bags -
'I'll take it.' So it happens that I lie
Where Mr Bleaney lay, and stub my fags
On the same saucer-souvenir, and try

Stuffing my ears with cotton-wool, to drown
The jabbering set he egged her on to buy.
I know his habits - what time he came down,
His preference for sauce to gravy, why

He kept on plugging at the four aways -
Likewise their yearly frame: the Frinton folk
Who put him up for summer holidays,
And Christmas at his sister's house in Stoke.

But if he stood and watched the frigid wind
Tousling the clouds, lay on the fusty bed
Telling himself that this was home, and grinned,
And shivered, without shaking off the dread

That how we live measures our own nature,
And at his age having no more to show
Than one hired box should make him pretty sure
He warranted no better, I don't know.


  1. I shouldn't admit this, but sometimes Poetry Monday is my one dose of higher culture in a week. Thanks for that.


  2. Endeavour was excellent; thanks for transcribing the poem.