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Weekend 515.0

Monody on the Death of Aldersgate Street Station by Sir John Betjeman (1906-1984)

Snow falls in the buffet of Aldersgate station,
Soot hangs in the tunnel in clouds of steam.
City of London! before the next desecration
Let your steepled forest of churches be my theme.

Sunday Silence! with every street a dead street,
Alley and courtyard empty and cobbled mews,
Till “ tingle tang “ the bell of St. Mildred’s Bread Street
Summoned the sermon taster to high box pews,

And neighbouring towers and spirelets joined the ringing
With answering echoes from heavy commercial walls
Till all were drowned as the sailing clouds went singing
On the roaring flood of a twelve-voiced peal from Paul’s.

Then would the years fall off and Thames run slowly;
Out into marshy meadow-land flowed the Fleet :
And the walled-in City of London, smelly and holy,
Had a tinkling mass house in every cavernous street.

The bells rang down and St. Michael Paternoster
Would take me into its darkness from College Hill,
Or Christ Church Newgate Street (with St. Leonard Foster)
Would be late for Mattins and ringing insistent still.

Last of the east wall sculpture, a cherub gazes
On broken arches, rosebay, bracken and dock,
Where once I heard the roll of the Prayer Book phrases
And the sumptuous tick of the old west gallery clock.
Snow falls in the buffet of Aldersgate station,
Toiling and doomed from Moorgate Street puffs the train,
For us of the steam and the gas-light, the lost generation,
The new white cliffs of the City are built in vain.

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