Monday, April 06, 2009


Wilde & Betjeman



Oscar Wilde was arrested on this day in 1895 as he waited at the Cadogan Hotel, having made the decision to face trial rather than flee the country.

The following is the poem, "The Arrest of Oscar Wilde at the Cadogan Hotel," by Sir John Betjeman, who was born on this day in 1906:


The Arrest of Oscar Wilde at the Cadogan Hotel
By John Betjeman

He sipped at a weak hock and seltzer
As he gazed at the London skies
Through the Nottingham lace of the curtains
Or was it his bees-winged eyes?

To the right and before him Pont Street
Did tower in her new built red,
As hard as the morning gaslight
That shone on his unmade bed,

“I want some more hock in my seltzer,
And Robbie, please give me your hand—
Is this the end or beginning?
How can I understand?

“So you’ve brought me the latest Yellow Book:
And Buchan has got in it now:
Approval of what is approved of
Is as false as a well-kept vow.

“More hock, Robbie—where is the seltzer?
Dear boy, pull again at the bell!
They are all little better than cretins,
Though this is the Cadogan Hotel.

“One astrakhan coat is at Willis’s—
Another one’s at the Savoy:
Do fetch my morocco portmanteau,
And bring them on later, dear boy.”

A thump, and a murmur of voices—
(”Oh why must they make such a din?”)
As the door of the bedroom swung open
And TWO PLAIN CLOTHES POLICEMEN came in:

“Mr. Woilde, we ‘ave come for tew take yew
Where felons and criminals dwell:
We must ask yew tew leave with us quoietly
For this is the Cadogan Hotel.”

He rose, and he put down The Yellow Book.
He staggered—and, terrible-eyed,
He brushed past the plants on the staircase
And was helped to a hansom outside.


Collected Poems by John Betjeman. John Murray, London. 1995.

4 comments:

candyschultz said...

I love Wilde and hate what was done to him. His works are some of my absolute favorites.

James said...

I share your appreciation for the works of Wilde. I think The Importance of Being Ernest is one of the greatest comedies ever written and The Picture of Dorian Gray is a favorite of mine in addition to its status as a Victorian classic.

Murr said...

Ha ! My favourite Betjeman poem ever!

Wilde is a Saint.

James said...

Not sure I have a favorite Betjeman poem and I definitely have no Saints. But that having been said I agree with your comment.