Peterloo Poets

Poetry Publishers 1972 - 2009





The Old Couple



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Poems New & Selected
Poems by F. Pratt Green


Frederick Pratt Green was born in Liverpool in 1903. One of the best known Methodist ministers of his generation, he retired to Norwich in 1969. He began writing poetry comparatively late in life and following his retirement gained an international reputation as a hymn-writer. His poems have appeared in periodicals as widely different as The Listener, The New Yorker, The Poetry Review, Outposts, and The Countryman and they have been anthologised in several of the P.E.N New Poems and Borestone Mountain Best Poems annuals. Two previous collections, This Unlikely Earth (Hand & Flower Press, 1952) and The Skating Parson (Epworth Press, 1963) are out of print. The present volume, which includes 30 newer poems not previously collected, is the author’s personal selection of poems written between 1950 and 1975. The title poem was included in Philip Larkin’s recent Oxford Book Of Twentieth Century Verse and was singled out for praise and quotation in The Times Literary Supplement’s review of that anthology.


The Old Couple

The old couple in the brand-new bungalow,
Drugged with the milk of municipal kindness,
Fumble their way to bed. Oldness at odds
With newness, they nag each other to show
Nothing is altered, despite the strangeness
Of being divorced in sleep by twin-beds,
Side by side like the Departed, above them
The grass-green of candlewick bedspreads.

In a dead neighbourhood, where it is rare
For hooligans to shout or dogs to bark,
A footfall in the quiet air is crisper
Than home-made bread ; and the budgerigar
Bats an eyelid, as sensitive to disturbance
As a distant needle is to an earthquake
In the Great Deep, then balances in sleep.
It is silence keeps the old couple awake.

Too old for loving now, but not for love,
The old couple lie, several feet apart,
Their chesty breathing like a muted duet
On wind instruments, trying to think of
Things to hang on to, such as the tinkle
That a budgerigar makes when it shifts
Its feather weight from one leg to another,
The way, on windy nights, linoleum lifts.


Price 7.95 per copy post free (5.30 post free to Associate Members)
Cover illustration: by Owen Waters
Publication: 1976 (64 pages laminated paperback)