Sunday 31 July 2011

My favourite Belloc ballade

I read all his ballades a hundred times at a young age. I almost started a Belloc Society when I went down from university- Lady Diana Cooper agreed to be President - and greatly regret not doing so.

Ballade of Hell and of Mrs Roebeck

I'm going out to dine at Gray's
With Bertie Morden, Charles, and Kit,
And Manderly who never pays,
And Jane who wins in spite of it,
And Algernon who won't admit
The truth about his curious hair
And teeth that very nearly fit:
And Mrs Roebeck will be there.

And then tomorrow someone says
That someone else has made a hit
In one of Mr Twister's plays,
And off we go to yawn at it;
And when it's petered out we quit
For number 20, Taunton Square,
And smoke, and drink, and dance a bit:
And Mrs Roebeck will be there.

And so through each declining phase
Of emptied effort, jaded wit,
And day by day of London days
Obscurely, more obscurely, lit;
Until the uncertain shadows flit
Announcing to the shuddering air
A Darkening, and the end of it:
And Mrs Roebeck will be there.

Prince, on their iron thrones they sit,
Impassible to our despair,
The dreadful Guardians of the Pit:
And Mrs Roebeck will be there.


  1. I think the third frm last line is "Impervious to our despair". It's a poem I've loved for decades - and alas, I know Mrs Roebeck.

  2. You sound like a soul-mate. My father's copy of Belloc's Poems and Verse is in a box somewhere so I cannot check impervious or impassible but impassible was what I found on the net and I think it better for some reason. The Edwardian period seemed very recent growing up in the 70s and 80s but now seems very distant.