The English climate is a thing of jest,
A matter of derision, and a mockery.
Let but the wind blow ten days from the west,
The Parson’s field is washed into the rockery;
Then to the east it turns, and from the fringe
Of grew old Tom’s moustache depends an icicle.
Southward it veers; at one his bootsoles singe,
The melting tyres run liquid from his bicycle.
But let rude Boreas sit back and roar,
Drumming his heels and chanting his wild litany-
The tithe-barn totters, and the diary door
Flies through the air and comes to earth in Brittany.
That’s why the English skins are like red leather,
And why their language is so widely dissipated-
They fled abroad to dodge the English weather,
The always turned our worse than they anticipated.
By R. P. Lister
in John Bull (magazine)
November 17, 1956
I went to see a Vision, that I though
Would fill the empty spaces in my mind;
They said it was not there, and so I sought
Knowing securely that I should not find.
But when I stood upon the final edge
Wherefrom the world drops flatly into space.
I looked incautiously from that high ledge
And stood before the Vision, face to face.
So I returned, and told them that they lied,
And I, and all of us, had been deceived;
And some, the wisest, laughed, and other cried,
And some were horrified; but none believed.
R. P. Lister
14 Feb 195*
A little fluffy owlet, short and fat,
Upon the topknot of a fir-tree sat;
He thought of baby rabbits and of mice,
He thought of human beings once or twice.
It can be said and said without demur,
He was a most profound philosopher.
A keeper passed, a sturdy realist;
He raised his gun and aimed; and fired; and missed.
And so, my dearest pillicocks, we see
Two kinds of creatures on this earth there be;
One thinks and dreams and idles in the sun,
The other Works and Acts and Gets Things Done.
Without the Keeper we’d be in a mess,
We should not miss the owl; yet none the less
The keeper missed him. Oftener than not
The man of action’s such a rotten shot.
– R. P. Lister
A huge thanks to Nigel Mace who submitted this poem on the message board. Posted in memory of Nigel’s friend John (Richard) Clarke who introduced Nigel to Lister’s poetry.
London is one thing to the man who dwells
In her, another to the passer-through,
A third to stripling youths who see her new,
Splendid with sooty spires and bright with bells.
She has strange secrets that she slowly tells,
Swift miracles that are perceived by few;
She mingles nectar with a witches’ brew,
A hundred heavens with a hundred hells.
Walking through Westminster, that shrine of Kings,
That web of History, that womb of Law,
I met a man from Colorado Springs,
The Kodak slung below his moving jaw;
Both of us looking on the selfsame things,
But neither seeing what the other saw.
Published in PUNCH, June 3, 1953
(note in the image where it originally reads “camera” but has been correct by Richard after printing)