Thursday, April 17, 2008

Miss Joan Hunter Dunn

An article in the Times today imparts the sad news that John Betjeman's muse, Miss Joan Hunter Dunn died last Friday aged 92. I know that I have written about both Betjeman and this poem before, but as it is the end of their era here it is again.

A Subaltern's Love Song

Miss J. Hunter Dunn, Miss J. Hunter Dunn,
Furnish'd and burnish'd by Aldershot sun,
What strenuous singles we played after tea,
We in the tournament - you against me!

Love-thirty, love-forty, oh! weakness of joy,
The speed of a swallow, the grace of a boy,
With carefullest carelessness, gaily you won,
I am weak from your loveliness, Joan Hunter Dunn.

Miss Joan Hunter Dunn, Miss Joan Hunter Dunn,
How mad I am, sad I am, glad that you won,
The warm-handled racket is back in its press,
But my shock-headed victor, she loves me no less.

Her father's euonymus shines as we walk,
And swing past the summer-house, buried in talk,
And cool the verandah that welcomes us in
To the six-o'clock news and a lime-juice and gin.

The scent of the conifers, sound of the bath,
The view from my bedroom of moss-dappled path,
As I struggle with double-end evening tie,
For we dance at the Golf Club, my victor and I.

On the floor of her bedroom lie blazer and shorts,
And the cream-coloured walls are be-trophied with sports,
And westering, questioning settles the sun,
On your low-leaded window, Miss Joan Hunter Dunn.

The Hillman is waiting, the light's in the hall,
The pictures of Egypt are bright on the wall,
My sweet, I am standing beside the oak stair
And there on the landing's the light on your hair.

By roads "not adopted", by woodlanded ways,
She drove to the club in the late summer haze,
Into nine-o'clock Camberley, heavy with bells
And mushroomy, pine-woody, evergreen smells.

Miss Joan Hunter Dunn, Miss Joan Hunter Dunn,
I can hear from the car park the dance has begun,
Oh! Surrey twilight! importunate band!
Oh! strongly adorable tennis-girl's hand!

Around us are Rovers and Austins afar,
Above us the intimate roof of the car,
And here on my right is the girl of my choice,
With the tilt of her nose and the chime of her voice.

And the scent of her wrap, and the words never said,
And the ominous, ominous dancing ahead.
We sat in the car park till twenty to one
And now I'm engaged to Miss Joan Hunter Dunn.

-- John Betjeman


Anonymous said...

I always thought his poetry was a bit twee. Compared to Philip Larkin, who is immense.

Solar Panel Phil said...

Miss Rachel, greetings!

You are far younger than I (52 last week), but it was nice to come across your tribute to a lady of an even earlier age today. Some of the simple things thankfully transcend generations; JB would be happy :-)

Good luck with everything

Victor Verse said...

Inspired by distant memories of this poem, I was doing research on JB and his works:

Inspired since a boy, by Miss Joan Hunter Dunn,
My curser found Google, the search had begun.
As I clicked and I clacked to review Blogasphere,
A link flaunted blue and a clue soon appeared.
As my eyes flitted over your Blog's syndication,
The purple turned black with bereft devastation.
The connifers died as read your reviews,
And I didn't want Gin with the six-o'clock news.
That strength in her backhand, that light on her hair,
The sweet-smelling Spindle in warm Surry air,
The warming aquaintence of Aldershot sun,
My racket press misses Miss Joan Hunter Dunn.

Thank you for your information.