Night Mail

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1  I thought WH Auden made a right bollocks of Night Mail, so I've improved it!

2 I only recently realised no mail is now transported by train.



Where is the Night Mail which once crossed the border

Which brought us our cheques and our postal orders

With bundles of letters for disembarcation

For sorting at depots next door to the station

An essential amenity served by the train

But post’s now transported by truck or by plane

A service long-gone to the wall

We don’t need the Night Mail at all.


No more will we witness the grab of the net

A spectacle lost that we no doubt regret

Whereby the express train would not need to stop

At stations on route to collect or to drop

But rather observe as they clutter the roads

Enormous red lorries with motorway loads

Make their daytime and overnight haul

We don’t need the Night Mail at all.


No clouds of white steam shovelled over her shoulder

But spectres more common, commercial and colder

The sight of a Jubilee steaming up Shap

Replace by pantechnicons at Watford Gap

Delivering daily your parcel or letter

Adjudged by the management cheaper and better

Enabling the postie to call

We don’t need Night Mail at all.


Airmail from Spain, Bahrain, the Ukraine

The junk and the dross, discarded and tossed

Solicitors letters upholding the law

No need any longer to drop through your door

Letters from mates, our bills and our rates

From penpals who live in the United States

Which start, “Howdy do dere, y’all?”

We don’t need Night Mail at all.


A day to deliver from Essex to Kent

While e-mails arrive just as soon as they’re sent

Our cheques are not carried by physical traction

With banking now handled by online transaction

No more under threat from a theft on the tracks

We use direct debit and payment by BACCS

So farewell to the Castle and Hall

We don’t need the Night Mail at all, at all,

We don’t need Night Mail at all.

◄ Doing It Twice

Wrong Road Roun' - An Urban Villanelle ►


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Dave Carr

Wed 26th Jan 2011 18:11

I really enjoyed this. I think there is a place for you at York Railway Museum (in the nicest possible way). Some railway nostalgia there for me too.
I am a fan of Auden and you have captured the rhythm and rhyme of the original well.

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Greg Freeman

Thu 20th Jan 2011 18:10

I get the sense that you're more of a mainliner rather than a branch line man ... loved "the sight of a Jubilee steaming up Shap / Replace by pantechnicons at Watford Gap", and "the junk and the dross, discarded and tossed" which very much recaptures the rattling rhythm of Auden's original. Keep stoking the flames, John!

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Elaine Booth

Tue 18th Jan 2011 22:19

John, this is brilliant. A much improved version. And indeed very much harder than it looks, to get such excellent rhyming structure.

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Val Cook

Tue 18th Jan 2011 17:28

Excellent,I love steam trains and poetry. Well done.

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Ann Foxglove

Mon 17th Jan 2011 23:53

Yes, where has all the romance gone! Chuffin' good poem. (I'll have to take another look at WHA's version but I do like the film that went with it.) xx

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Dave Bradley

Mon 17th Jan 2011 23:39

Very enjoyable, John, and harder than it looks. Should perform well.

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alan barlow

Mon 17th Jan 2011 21:34

a very jeremy clarksonesque claim to start off with but ultimately i feel one that holds up.

i did get a feeling of another brick in the wall on the last 2 lines as well

very well written i never thought i would see baccs appear anywhere else but on a pay slip let alone in a poem

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