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On a Portrait of a Deaf Man

 The kind old face, the egg-shaped head,
The tie, discreetly loud,
The loosely fitting shooting clothes,
A closely fitting shroud.
He liked old city dining rooms, Potatoes in their skin, But now his mouth is wide to let The London clay come in.
He took me on long silent walks In country lanes when young.
He knew the names of ev'ry bird But not the song it sung.
And when he could not hear me speak He smiled and looked so wise That now I do not like to think Of maggots in his eyes.
He liked the rain-washed Cornish air And smell of ploughed-up soil, He liked a landscape big and bare And painted it in oil.
But least of all he liked that place Which hangs on Highgate Hill Of soaked Carrara-covered earth For Londoners to fill.
He would have liked to say goodbye, Shake hands with many friends, In Highgate now his finger-bones Stick through his finger-ends.
You, God, who treat him thus and thus, Say "Save his soul and pray.
" You ask me to believe You and I only see decay.

by John Betjeman
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