The Obstructionist

(A Subterranean Episode)

Original Text: 
E. V. Knox, "The Obstructionist," A Little Loot (London: George Allen and Unwin, 1920): 105-07. SRLF:LAGE-2019382 Internet Archive
1She was not built upon a beauteous plan;
2    I did not like her face or features much,
3The lady who was talking to the man
4    Behind the little hutch.
5But something fine about her, something free,
6    Kept me in rapture gazing well content,
7While Time rolled onwards to Eternity
8    And trains arrived and went.
9Merely her cheek it was--like some fair flower
10    Blooming in that illimitable cave;
11She seemed to think the station was her bower,
12    The booking-clerk her slave.
13She did not seem to heed the traffic's sound
14    Nor the dull cries behind her, moan on moan,
15She seemed to think the Electric Underground
16    Was gouged for her alone.
17Lightly she stood and talked, now rash, now coy,
19She toyed with that young man as children toy
20    With coneys in a cage.
21I had not been surprised to see her drag
22    (So deaf she seemed to all besides her whim)
23Lettuces out of her portentous bag
24    And poke them through to him.
25I said she kept me charmed, though others swore;
26    Still there are limits; men have work to do;
27One cannot linger spellbound evermore,
29And so my murmurs swelled at last the bruit
30    Of clamorous men behind, a restive swarm,
31Nor caring greatly what infernal route
32    Carried her precious form.
33If only she would choose, and choose quite quick;
34    For all the tides of London's life were still,
35And the hushed gates, forgetful how to click,
36    Paused for her sovran will.
39Harried the hundred gauds therein bestowed
40    And fished up half-a-crown,
41And lingering, took her change and turned away;
42    But not before she flashed, as women can,
43One glance at me--one glance that seemed to say,
44    "You are no gentleman."
45No gentleman indeed! I followed her
46    Musing, "Has Justice, have the gods forgot?"
48    But this time they did not.
49O soothing balsam for a bosom's sore!
50    Out of her careless hand, I'm pleased to say,
51She dropped that ticket on the tube-lift floor;
52    I left it where it lay.


18] gage: ticket. Back to Line
28] Bakerloo: underground subway line in London, at this period, from Elephant and Castle (south of the Thames) northwest through Baker Street and Paddington to Queens Park. Back to Line
37] plunged: spent extravagantly. Gloucester Road: west-end area. The fare seems to have included a transfer to another line. Back to Line
38] reticule: small handbag. Back to Line
47] Ate: Greek goddess of ruin. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: