A Subaltern's Love Story

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Journey through “A Subaltern's Love Song”

I am using the Reader-Response approach to the poem “A Subaltern's Love Song” by John Betjeman (1945). The first thing that captured my imagination was the reference to a tennis tournament because of my competitive nature. And that these two people, that I assume at least knew each other and were probably dating, were playing against each other. I got the feeling that there was a good possibility that he let her win the tournament and in the end he won her.

The author is sharing a love story that could be construed as an event in his own life. He starts by painting a picture of a lady that spends time in the sun and either has a deep tan or sunburn from the sun in Aldershot, England. He then goes on to describe the tennis match that they had against each other and his feelings about losing. He shares how he was mad at first and then became sad, and finally glad that she won. You witness this in the line “How mad I am, sad I am, glad that you won.” (as cited by Clugston, 2010, pg 30, line 10). This is also where I got the feeling that he may have let her win and after doing so, he was mad at himself for giving in to his competitive side.

After the tennis tournament, he walked her home which he made seem like time went by very quickly as they were consumed in conversation with each other as can be seen in the lines “Her father's euonymus shines as we walk and swing past the summer-house buried in talk...(as cited by Clugston, 2010, page 30, lines 13-14). He seems to be enamored by her.

“The scent of the conifers, sound of the bath, The view from my bedroom of mossdappled path, As I struggle with double-end evening tie, For we dance at the Golf Club, my

victor and I.” (as cited by Clugston, 2010, page 30, lines 17-20). When I read this the first time I thought they were still at her house. After reading it a second time, I realized that he was in his own bedroom getting ready for the dance at the Golf...
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