Sir John Betjeman (28 August 1906 - 19 May 1984) was a British poet and writer on architecture. He was born in Highgate, London, his surname indicating his Dutch ancestry. He left Magdalen College, Oxford without a degree due to lack of work which resulted in his failing his divinity exams. In his verse autobiography, Summoned by Bells (1960), Betjeman tells the story of his early life, up to his employment as a teacher at a preparatory school.
Later, Betjeman obtained employment as a journalist, before joining the civil service. It has recently been revealed that his wartime duties entailed providing secret intelligence reports. Betjeman never took himself too seriously. His poems are often humorous, and in later life he enjoyed a career as a broadcaster, his popularity being in no small measure due to his bumbling image. He became Poet Laureate in 1972, succeeding Cecil Day Lewis. One of his first duties was to produce a poem in honour of the wedding of Princess Anne.
John Betjeman died at Trebetherick, Cornwall in his 78th year.
From A Few Late Chrysanthemums:
Oh little body, do not die. The soul looks out through wide blue eyes so questioningly into mine, that my tormented soul replies: "Oh little body, do not die. You hold the soul that talks to me, although our conversation be as wordless as the windy sky.
Mount Zion: or: In Touch with the Infinite (1931)
Continual Dew: A Little Book of Bourgeois Verse (1937)
Old Lights for New Chancels (1940}
New Bats in Old Belfries (1945)
A Few Late Chrysanthemums (1954)
Collected Poems (1958)