Thoughts on Planning Matters: A poem by John Betjeman – Inexpensive Progress

Encase your legs in nylons,
Bestride your hills with pylons
O age without a soul;
Away with gentle willows
And all the elmy billows
That through your valleys roll.

Let’s say goodbye to hedges
And roads with grassy edges
And winding country lanes;
Let all things travel faster
Where motor-car is master
Till only speed remains.
Destroy the ancient inn signs
But strew the road with tin signs
‘Keep left’, M4, ‘Keep out’
Command, instruction, warning’
Repetative adorning
The rockeried roundabouts.

For every raw obscenity
Must have it’s small ‘amenity’
It’s patch of shaven green,
And hoardings look a wonder
In banks of floribunda
With floodlights in between.

Leave no village standing
Which could provide a landing
For aeroplanes to roar,
But spare such cheap defacements
As huts with shattered casements
Unlived in since the war.

Let no provincial High St
Which might be your or my street,
Look as it used to do,
But let the chain stores place here
Their miles of plain glass fascia
And traffic thunder through.

And if there is some scenery
Some unpretentious greenery
Surviving anywhere,
it does not need protecting
For soon we’ll be erecting
A Power Station there.

When all our roads are lighted
By concrete monsters sited
Like gallows overhead,
Bathed in the yellow vomit
Each monster belches from it
We’ll know that we are dead.


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