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From the Observer archive, 20 May 1984: John Betjeman was a giant of our age whose verse was rooted in the past

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The poet's death has deprived us of an original whose vision never wavered

The popularity of John Betjeman's poetry has worked rather in his disfavour with parts of the literary establishment, as it did in the middle and later career of his beloved Tennyson. The comparison could be extended, in that both poets are always tending to a mood of loneliness and regret in their work, and there are technical parallels too.

But differences abound. Perhaps the largest is in Tennyson's loss of power after the age of 40 or earlier and Betjeman's retention of his to the end. Nor did he Betjeman develop noticeably: he got it right from the start and stayed with it, another sin against critical orthodoxy, which likes artists to progress from an early period to maturity.

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