by John Betjeman (1906 - 1984)
John Betjeman published his poem about Slough in 1937 in the collected works Continual Dew. Slough was becoming increasingly industrial and some housing conditions were very cramped. In willing the destruction of Slough, Betjeman urges the bombs to pick out the vulgar profiteers but to spare the bald young clerks. He really was very fond of his fellow human beings. Slough is much improved nowadays and he might be pleasantly surprised by a stroll there.
SloughCome friendly bombs and fall on Slough!
It isn't fit for humans now,
There isn't grass to graze a cow.
Swarm over, Death!
Come, bombs and blow to smithereens
Those air -conditioned, bright canteens,
Tinned fruit, tinned meat, tinned milk, tinned beans,
Tinned minds, tinned breath. Mess up the mess they call a town-
A house for ninety-seven down
And once a week a half a crown
For twenty years. And get that man with double chin
Who'll always cheat and always win,
Who washes his repulsive skin
In women's tears: And smash his desk of polished oak
And smash his hands so used to stroke
And stop his boring dirty joke
And make him yell. But spare the bald young clerks who add
The profits of the stinking cad;
It's not their fault that they are mad,
They've tasted Hell. It's not their fault they do not know
The birdsong from the radio,
It's not their fault they often go
To Maidenhead And talk of sport and makes of cars
In various bogus-Tudor bars
And daren't look up and see the stars
But belch instead. In labour-saving homes, with care
Their wives frizz out peroxide hair
And dry it in synthetic air
And paint their nails. Come, friendly bombs and fall on Slough
To get it ready for the plough.
The cabbages are coming now;
The earth exhales.