Slough

Introduction

Come, friendly bombs, and fall on Slough! It isn't fit for humans now, There isn't grass to graze a cow. Swarm over, Death!

“ ” First verse

"Slough" is a ten-stanza poem by Sir John Betjeman, first published in the 1937 collection Continual Dew.

The British town of Slough was used as a dump for war surplus materials in the interwar years,[1] and then abruptly became the home of 850 new factories just before World War II.[2] The sudden appearance of this "Trading Estate", which was quickly widely reproduced throughout Britain, prompted the poem. Seeing the new appearance of the town, Betjeman was struck by the "menace of things to come". He later regretted the poem's harshness.[3] The poem is not about Slough specifically, but about the desecration caused by industrialization and modernity in general, with the transformation of Slough being the epitome of these evils.[4] Nevertheless, successive mayors of Slough have understandably objected to the poem.

The poem was written two years before the outbreak of World War II, during which time Britain (including Slough itself) experienced actual air raids.

Much later, in a guide to English churches, Betjeman referred to some churches as "beyond the tentacles of Slough" and "dangerously near Slough".[5] However, on the centenary of Betjeman's birth in 2006, his daughter apologised for the poem. Candida Lycett-Green said her father "regretted having ever written it". During her visit, Mrs Lycett-Green presented Mayor of Slough David MacIsaac with a book of her father's poems. In it was written: "We love Slough".[6]


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