The poem describes Edwardian Essex as being tranquil, with its hollyhocks and anglers. Betjeman describes three areas of Essex: Far Essex, Near Essex and Deepest Essex. Far Essex is wetlands. Betjeman describes it using phrases such as, “The level wastes of sucking mud.” Far Essex also contains canals; we know this because Betjeman writes of barges. Near Essex is home of the River Lea, popular with anglers and Epping Forest. Deepest Essex is pure unspoilt beauty. It is full of thatched cottages and old churches. The scene is very traditional unspoilt beauty, with sights such as, “Rise flinty fifteenth century towers.” Betjeman then offers a comparison with modern day Essex:
“Now yarrow chokes the railway track Bramble obliterate the style No motor coach can take me back To that Edwardian ‘Erstwhile’.” Both poets mention change in their poems. Lucy is shocked at how much Jamaica has changed and Betjeman dislikes the way the English countryside has been urbanised so much. Both poets prefer the past. Berry illustrates this by using phrases such as: I meet a young face I get The pain we don’t know each other” Lucy preferred the past because back then she felt she belonged.
She knew everybody and everybody knew her. Nowadays she doesn’t feel at home in London because she doesn’t know anybody and she doesn’t feel at home in Jamaica because everybody has moved on. This saddens her greatly because she is now not only alienated from the people in London but also has nothing in common with her old Jamaican friends either. Betjeman doesn’t like the changes in the England either. Even though he was ashamed that his father thought him to be soppy and he knew this caused his father great pain, he knew that what had happened to the English countryside would hurt him even more.
The scenery described by the two poets is very different. Berry’s account of Jamaica describes it as being very sunny and peaceful. The structure of the poetry written by both poets is very different. Betjeman uses very regular four lined stanzas, each with a regular rhyming pattern, which reflects his routine and uniform lifestyle. The way Berry’s stanzas are irregular with no real rhyme reflect the easygoing lifestyle in Jamaica.
Betjeman writes his poems in Standard English with no colloquial phrases, reflecting his uniform and very English lifestyle further. He uses archaic language, reflecting in some ways the way he dislikes change and also the way he is quite traditional. Berry, however, uses Creole phrases and grammar in his poetry. In the poem ‘Lucy’s Letter,’ Berry uses the phrase, ” I long for we labrish bad,” meaning Lucy longs to gossip without restraint. Berry uses figures of speech in his poetry unlike Betjeman. For instance, in the poem ‘Lucy’s Letter’, Berry uses the metaphor, “I really a sponge” and in ‘From Lucy: Englan’ Lady,’ he uses similes such as, ” Like a seagull flyin’ slow slow.”
Berry and Betjeman have very different writing styles, partly because of the influences of their very different cultures. Berry’s easy going Jamaican upbringing is reflected in his poetry through his use of Creole and the structure of his poetry. Betjeman reflects his English upbringing through his regular, ordered stanzas. Although they are very different they both work very well and make for very enjoyable reading.