»  John Betjeman's "Late-Flowering Lust"


Late-Flowering Lust

by John Betjeman, 1906-1984


•  Background

In a TV interview he gave in his old age, Betjeman was asked the conventional question: "Do you have any regrets?" Replied the poet:  "Yes. I wish I'd had more sex."  Well, it's never too late …


•  Play the reading


•  Text of the poem

My head is bald, my breath is bad,
    Unshaven is my chin,
I have not now the joys I had
    When I was young in sin.

I run my fingers down your dress
    With brandy-certain aim
And you respond to my caress
    And maybe feel the same.

But I've a picture of my own
    On this reunion night,
Wherein two skeletons are shewn
    To hold each other tight;

Dark sockets look on emptiness
    Which once was loving-eyed,
The mouth that opens for a kiss
    Has got no tongue inside.

I cling to you inflamed with fear
    As now you cling to me,
I feel how frail you are my dear
    And wonder what will be —

A week? or twenty years remain?
    And then — what kind of death?
A losing fight with frightful pain
    Or a gasping fight for breath?

Too long we let our bodies cling,
    We cannot hide disgust
At all the thoughts that in us spring
    From this late-flowering lust.