Thisby Thestoop and the Black Mountain

It’s fair to say that I read a good number of books children’s books. Having kids of my own, I like to pilfer their shelves from time to time. In our house, we like to stock “the classics” as a sort of quality guarantee. Since children’s books became a genre there have been writers who have tried to cash in on the children’s market as a way to make a quick buck with little effort. Reading “the classics” means that you get the best books from every era without having to wade through the formulaic twaddle, most of which has mercifully been forgotten over the years.
It’s a different story with modern children’s books. Picking up a new children’s book means taking a chance on wasting your time, and the modern children’s book publishing machine loves tried and true formulas. After the success of Harry Potter we got books about schools for magical/mythological/specially talented kids who are sorted into groups based on their personalities. After The Hunger Games took off, we’ve have had m…

John Betjeman

John Betjeman is one of my favorite modern poets. A solid Anglican fellow who studied under C. S. Lewis at Oxford (though the two never liked each other), Betjeman was an aesthete and good friends with Evelyn Waugh and W. H. Auden. His poetry displays a biting wit that he unleashes upon Roman Catholics, Puritans, Modernists, and certain aspects of his own Anglican church. Here is one of his poems that I am particularly fond of.

An Eighteenth-Century Calvinistic Hymn
by John Betjeman

Thank God my Afflictions are such
That I cannot lie down on my Bed,
And if I but take to my Couch
I incessantly Vomit and Bleed.

I am not too sure of my Worth,
Indeed it is tall as a Palm;
But what Fruits can it ever bring forth
When Leprosy sits at the Helm?

Though Torment's the Soul's Goal's Rewards
The contrary's Proof of my Guilt,
While Dancing, Backgammon and Cards,
Are among the worst Symptoms I've felt.

Oh! I bless the good Lord for my Boils
For my mental and bodily pains,
For without them my Faith all congeals
And I'm doomed to HELL's NE'ER-ENDING FLAMES.

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