John Betjeman - Peggy Purey-Cust

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John Betjeman reads his poem Peggy Purey-Cust - From Summoned By Bells - A BBC TV film of Betjeman's verse autobiography of the same name - Featuring Betjeman himself as narrator - First broadcast on Sunday 29 August 1976.

Peggy Purey-Cust
by John Betjeman (1906-1984)

O Peggy Purey-Cust, how pure you were:
My first and purest love, Miss Purey-Cust!
Satchel on back I hurried up West Hill
To catch you on your morning walk to school,
Your nanny with you and your golden hair
Streaming like sunlight. Strict deportment made
You hold yourself erect and every step
Bounced up and down as though you walked on springs.
Your ice-blue eyes, your lashes long and light,
Your sweetly freckled face and turned-up nose
So haunted me that all my loves since then
Have had a look of Peggy Purey-Cust.

Along the Grove, what happy, happy steps
Under the limes I took to Byron House,
And blob-work, weaving, carpentry and art,
Walking with you; and with what joy returned.
Wendy you were to me in Peter Pan,
The Little Match Girl in Hans Andersen -
But I would rescue you before you died.

And once you asked me to your house to tea.
It seemed a palace after thirty-one.
The lofty entrance hall, the flights of stairs,
The huge expanse of sunny drawing-room,
Looking for miles across the chimney-pots
To spired St. Pancras and the dome of Paul's.
And there your mother from a sofa smiled.

After that tea, I called and called again,
But Peggy was not in, she was away,
She wasn't well. House Of The Sleeping Winds,
My favourite book, with whirling art-nouveau
And Walter Crane-ish colour plates I brought
To cheer her sick-bed. It was taken in.
Weeks passed and passed and then it was returned.
O gone for ever Peggy Purey-Cust.