Poet Betjeman's unrequited love dies at 92

Thu Apr 17, 2008 7:16am EDT
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By Paul Majendie

LONDON (Reuters) - Joan Hunter Dunn, genteel muse to Britain's Poet Laureate John Betjeman and the inspiration for one of his best known poems, has died at the age of 92.

Betjeman, who famously complained in old age that his one regret was not having had enough sex, worshipped her in verse -- but his love was always unrequited.

"I am weak from your loveliness, Joan Hunter Dunn," he declared in "A Subaltern's Love Song" which he wrote after their wartime meeting at the Ministry of Information.

The poem, a paean of praise to a doctor's daughter, encapsulated Betjeman's vision of an idyllic England where couples played tennis after tea on a country house lawn and then danced until dawn at the golf club ball.

"Love-thirty, love-forty, oh weakness of joy

"The speed of a swallow, the grace of a boy," he wrote.

The poem may quiver with repressed desire but the relationship was always platonic.

Betjeman biographer Bevis Hillier, who twice interviewed the poet's muse, said on Thursday: "He had a massive crush on her ... But she made it very clear to me that he never made anything approaching a pass at her."   Continued...