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Northumberland House

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I was always a thoughtful youngster,
Said the lady on the omnibus,
I remember Father used to say,
You are more thoughtful than us.

I was sensitive too, the least thing
Upset me so much,
I used to cry if a fly
Stuck in the hatch.

Mother always said,
Elsie is too good,
There’ll never be another like Elsie,
Touch wood.

I liked to be alone,
Sitting on the garden path,
My brother said he’d never seen a
Picture more like Faith in the Arena.

They were kindly people, my people,
I could not help being different,
And I think it was good for me
Mixing in a different element.

The poor lady now burst out crying
And I saw her friend was not a friend but a nurse
For she said, Cheer up duckie the next stop is ours,
They got off at Northumberland House.

This great House of the Percies
Is now a lunatic asylum,
But over the gate there still stands
The great Northumberland Lion.

This family animal’s tail
Is peculiar in that it is absolutely straight,
And straight as a bar it stood out to drop after them
As they went through the gate.


November 1964


Source: Poetry (June 2012)

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This poem originally appeared in the June 2012 issue of Poetry magazine

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Northumberland House

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