A BRILLIANT BRILLIANT poem about trains – Southern Trains in fact by Nathaniel Tapley

Listening to Radio 4 while I was working today heard this one:

The Ballad of Southern Rail

This is the tale of Southern Rail
And the trains that failed and failed and failed.
These are the passengers lost at the station,
Dashing twixt platforms post alteration.
Some have gone feral and howl at the moon.
They’ve been lost in an underpass since the third week in June.
Oh Southern Rail, oh Southern Rail
How we envy the swift fast moving snail.

On platform 3 the commuters await a train that now terminates at platform 8
As a ping and a cough and then anticipation
Before… ‘Please check the boards for more misinformation’.
Our limbs are weak, our faces pale
As we wait in the rain for Southern Rail.

There’s bands of roaming business men
Committing crimes agregious
Having gone completely loopy trying to get to Bognor Regis.
Oh who would have thought they would yearn for the smells
Of the 18.03 to Tunbridge Wells.
Where tea time Templars in search of the grail
Are moving train on Southern Rail.

Here are the tourists, the Gretels, the Hansels
on a Brighton service that’s bound to be cancelled.
There are trains with wheels and tracks underneath,
But nothing, no nothing gets to Haywards Heath.
And deep in our hearts how we long to impale
The board of directors of Southern Rail.

They blame the staff, the sick, the frail
The striking, the missing, those living in jail.
The leaves and the snow and the rain and the hail,
From the lightest breeze to the strongest gale.
The cost of doing business, the Daily Mail.
Quinoa, chips and curly kale,
Customer numbers that shift like shale.
On and on and on they wale.
Blaming inclement weather and Jimmy Nail.
And tomorrow you know they’ll have the gall
To release a timetable with no trains at all!

Oh Southern Rail, oh Southern Rail
Your trains are gone
Your excuses stale.
And we wonder out loud as we sit and we wait
If a train that’s coming can also be late.

You can hear him reading it here, which is even better:


Poem for George – who loves trains!

georgetrain1From a Railway Carriage
Stevenson, Robert Louis (1850–1894).
A Child’s Garden of Verses and Underwoods 1913.

FASTER than fairies, faster than witches,
Bridges and houses, hedges and ditches;
And charging along like troops in a battle,
All through the meadows the horses and cattle:
All of the sights of the hill and the plain
Fly as thick as driving rain;
And ever again, in the wink of an eye,
Painted stations whistle by.

Here is a child who clambers and scrambles,
All by himself and gathering brambles;
Here is a tramp who stands and gazes;
And there is the green for stringing the daisies!
Here is a cart run away in the road
Lumping along with man and load;
And here is a mill and there is a river
Each a glimpse and gone for ever!

Great poetry!

The Listeners

‘Is there anybody there?’ said the Traveller,
Knocking on the moonlit door;
And his horse in the silence champed the grasses
Of the forest’s ferny floor:
And a bird flew up out of the turret,
Above the Traveller’s head:
And he smote upon the door again a second time;
‘Is there anybody there?’ he said.
But no one descended to the Traveller;
No head from the leaf-fringed sill
Leaned over and looked into his grey eyes,
Where he stood perplexed and still.
But only a host of phantom listeners
That dwelt in the lone house then
Stood listening in the quiet of the moonlight
To that voice from the world of men:
Stood thronging the faint moonbeams on the dark stair,
That goes down to the empty hall,
Hearkening in an air stirred and shaken
By the lonely Traveller’s call.
And he felt in his heart their strangeness,
Their stillness answering his cry,
While his horse moved, cropping the dark turf,
’Neath the starred and leafy sky;
For he suddenly smote on the door, even
Louder, and lifted his head:—
‘Tell them I came, and no one answered,
That I kept my word,’ he said.
Never the least stir made the listeners,
Though every word he spake
Fell echoing through the shadowiness of the still house
From the one man left awake:
Ay, they heard his foot upon the stirrup,
And the sound of iron on stone,
And how the silence surged softly backward,
When the plunging hoofs were gone.
Source: The Collected Poems of Walter de la Mare (1979)

Walter De La Mare 1873–1956