Feb 6, 2023
Welcome back to another season of the Well-Read Poem! In this series we will be reading six poems about writers, some of them well-known, some of them not as well known. Our aim in this season is to give listeners some insight into the lives, minds, and imaginations of authors long deceased, and some understanding of what they have meant to their fellow scribes.
Today's poem is “The Arrest of Oscar Wilde at the Cadogan Hotel” by John Betjeman. Poem begins at timestamp 3:54.
The Arrest of Oscar Wilde at the
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.