Wednesday, October 22, 2008

For the Teddy Lovers


The bear that sits above my bed
A doleful bear he is to see;
From out his drooping pear-shaped head
His woollen eyes look into me.
He has no mouth, but seems to say:
"They'll burn you on the Judgement Day."

Those woollen eyes, the things they've seen
Those flannel ears, the things they've heard -
Among horse-chestnut fans of green,
The fluting of an April bird,
And quarrelling downstairs until
Doors slammed at Thirty One West Hill.

The dreaded evening keyhole scratch
Announcing some return below
The nursery landing's lifted latch,
The punishment to undergo
Still I could smooth those half-moon ears
And wet that forehead with my tears.

Whatever rush to catch a train,
Whatever joy there was to share
Of sounding sea-board, rainbowed rain,
Or seaweed-scented Cornish air,
Sharing the laughs, you still were there,
You ugly, unrepentant bear.

When nine, I hid you in a loft
And dared not let you share my bed;
More aged now he is to see,
His woollen eyes have thinner thread,
But still he seems to say to me,
In double-doom notes, like a knell:
"You're half a century nearer Hell."

Self-pity shrouds me in a mist,
And drowns me in my self-esteem.
The freckled faces I have kissed
Float by me in a guilty dream.
The only constant, sitting there,
Patient and hairless, is a bear.

And if an analyst one day
Of school of Adler, Jung or Freud
Should take this aged bear away,
Then, oh my God, the dreadful void!
its draughty darkness could but be
Eternity, Eternity.

by John Betjeman

Archibald Ormsby-Gore, better known as Archie, was the teddy-bear of Sir John Betjeman, sometime British Poet Laureate. When he attended Oxford University in the 1920s, Betjeman brought Archie with him and, as a result, Archie became the model for Aloysius, Sebastian Flyte's bear in Evelyn Waugh's novel Brideshead Revisited. Archie and Jumbo (a stuffed elephant) were in Betjeman's arms when he died in 1984.

The picture is of one of my bears, Elgy (hard "g").


willow said...

Now this Elgy has some personality!

Blog Princess G said...

He's quite the bear Willow. He's been to the opera *and* the beach and most places in between. Very good-natured.

Lavinia said...

Oh count me in as a Teddy lover (hand waving frantically to emphasize my point)!

Blog Princess G said...

Lavinia: I hear you! I see you! All the teddy fans over here....