Doing Nicely, Thank You (In answer to several kind inquiries from the country and overseas)
E. V. Knox (1940)
Troy fell. It is not very probable time will renew it,
But London remains full of helmeted women and men,
Long tutored in what to do, why, and which way to go to it
And hoping by some means to get to the office by ten.
A city not proud in its heart of heroic performance,
But slightly bewildered to find that the era of glass
Introduced (I am told) in the days of the conquering Normans
Is now in the night-time of Hitler most likely to pass.
A city that covers with curtains the windowless casement
And laughs but obeys when the word has come down from the wise
Not to crouch—as they once were enjoined—under beds in the basement
But to leap to the roofs of the buildings and stare at the skies.
A city unbroken, unbowed by the threats of the Axis
And saving a trifle and banting and doing its best
To spare a few coins for the urgent Collector of Taxes
Who hides with his staff in a funk-hole way down in the West.
A city deprived of a part of her principal glories
Yet still with some monuments standing and some of her spires,
And (who shall gainsay me?) how fond of all perilous stories!
How thrilled by the labours of firemen, the watching of fires!
A city of painstaking pupils and earnest instructors
(And everyone's crater the largest of all in the land),
A lemonless, onionless city with female conductors
On Manchester buses half lost in the wilds of the Strand.
A city if peopled by souls not as stubborn as Cato's,
Yet facing the bomb-fall (and crowding to look at the proofs),
Full-bearded (from shortage of razors), and eating potatoes,
and standing all night with a sand-bucket up on the roofs.