Letter to The Times
I cannot abide
the slender new volume,
The Selected Gush (1880-1910).
But, who among us,
in all honesty, could say
they’ve never once been smitten
by her louche, languid lines of lust
(described in this very journal
as ‘fin de siècle erotica’)?
No! Neither I!
I’ve annotated her verse –
been very thorough –
a fan, pencilling stanzas
that once made me blush.
But, of late, sir, her similes
seem not quite as agile
and worse, word flights,
once sweet and fragile,
are frequently crushed
in a rush of modernist
Take, as example, this [from Three Bridges] –
‘In the theatre on Brighton pier/
the slapping swell, slatted, beneath/
reeking of cheap shag baccy. Oh, dear!
I implore thee, unbutton! / Unbutton
and ravage with teeth!
But, of course, instead, I,
back at Three Bridges,
beneath cherry-pink blossom/ petticoats
pooling/ the mown vicarage lawn/ listen
to the morning kisses of leather/ on willow
and read, once again/ his
winter-long letter, describing those damned
screaming of horses at Sebastopol.‘