Licensed for embracement: insouciance and exigency in John Betjeman's love poems

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Much of John Betjeman's popular reputation as a writer derives from love poems, such as 'A Subaltern's Love Song' and 'Pot Pourri from a Surrey Garden', that appear to be characterised by an insouciant, sometimes facetious attitude towards matters of the heart. This essay argues that a poet who academia has often caricatured as a flippant purveyor of light verse is better seen as one who deliberately makes light of disruptive sexual urges and fears that consistently troubled him, seeking an aesthetic means to exert a degree of control over unsettling aspects of his character that threatened to overwhelm him.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)342-356
JournalCambridge Quarterly
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 26 Nov 2013



  • John Betjeman
  • Love Poems
  • Poetry

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