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Evening in Norwich

by Alan Hunter

Sunset mists do early fall,
Street boys "f'nal! f'nal! call;
Broad shop-windows blaze with light,
Defying the advance of night;
Workers in a brisk elation
Hurry to the bus and station,
Pausing, with a moment free,
To sip the evening cup of tea,
Or leave a coin on the ledge
For Evening News, at Foundry Bridge;
Crowded buses thread the shadow
Of Prince of Wales and Castle Meadow,
And country shoppers tea and browse
In Prince's, or the Curat House;
Shall we go to play or pictures?
Theatre Royal or Carlton,- which is
Nearest for the bus? We'll roam
Perhaps up to the Hippodrome,
Or sitting close with baited breath
At Maddermarket, hiss Macbeth.
Or shall we wander in the street
With slow, and meditative feet.
And wonder by each lighted phaen
What life is stirring here again:-
The pub, with ever open door,
That breathes in smoke, and sells the whore;
The school alive with many a class,
Intent on test, exam, and Pass;
The library, where sit the sages
Turning over Bradshaw's pages,
Rifling reference books with lust,-
While Keats and Shelley hide in dust;
The little shop, which, open yet,
Provides the match and cigarette,
The lecture hall, where Norwich Billy
Learns how to grow sweet peas in Chile,
(And later will the talk retail
Across a pint of Pockthorpe Ale;)
Newspaper offices abustle
More food to the press to hustle -
Gory murder done in Yarmouth,
Pigs at Leicester, - King at Barmouth;
Well! I know a hundred places
That tempt me with their shad'wy faces
In Norwich when the sun is set.
But when the day comes, I forget
Of byegone days, perhaps I sense 'um
Best when looking in the Wensum,
Passing slow beneath the high-ridge
And dormered parapet of Fye-bridge,
Counting stars a-ripple softly
Fathoms deep and fathoms lofty, -
Older than the bridge its ditty,
Older than the ancient city,
Older than the roadman Roman
And Boadicea's painted bowman;
"And yet," the river seems to say,
"I might have first flowed yesterday, -
I shadow not the age untold,
Forever young, forever old;
I seem to only know one race
With all of history in my face."

Let those on whom the night chills tell
Hie to the Castle or the Bell,
And their slow circulation cheer
With Norwich Ale, and Norwich Beer;
Or if the man asserts his rights
Present him with a plate, at White's;
So all are fated and ready when
The dismal curfew tolls at ten.

Norfolk Poems




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