Lucy Vickery

T.S. Eliot goes to Glastonbury

T.S. Eliot goes to Glastonbury
‘Barefoot women come and go/ Talking of bands I do not know…’ [Shutterstock]
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In Competition No. 3157 you were invited to describe a visit to Glastonbury or Glyndebourne in the style of an author of your choice.

Highlights in an especially hotly contested week — oh, for more space! — were Timothy Clegg’s John Masefield, R.M. Goddard’s John Cooper Clarke, John Mounsey’s Evelyn Waugh, Hugh King’s Edward Gibbon, Anthony Bevan’s Rev. James Woodforde, Anthony Whitehead’s Martin Amis, C. Paul Evans’s Wordsworth, Nicholas W.S. Cranfield’s Samuel Pepys and several admirable Austens.

Over to the winners, printed below, who are rewarded with £25 each.

Oh, she said, her pale iris half-open, squinting at the Main Stage. Indeed, she found she had been shivering, despite the heat, hoping that Jonny Greenwood would never end, what had possessed him? Was it the ondes Martenot? Her ears had been attuning, de-tuning (the effect was exquisite); that’s what happened; your eardrums puckered, how odd it all was! She looked surreptitiously at Thom, for oh, she was on first name terms, he was so tender in his incoherence, so vulnerable, damaged beyond repair, but his voice rising like shimmering steam. But what did it all mean? Not only was the moon ascending, fragile, uncertain, yet bright like a polished half-sovereign; the crowd, into which she was melting, deliquescent, was humming, struggling, as one, upwards. Poor people! Hair plastered with mud; feet mired in sludge; dewy faces rapt. ‘I feel transformed,’ she said, thinking of that afternoon, at Lost Vagueness.

Bill Greenwell/Virginia Woolf
I remember, I remember,

That Glastonbury trip,

A fistful of decades ago

When I was young and hip,

The music like a benison,

The friendly scent of dope

That made the fields of Worthy Farm

A universe of hope.


I am time’s feeble puppet now.

My aged back is bent,

And Glastonbury only mean

A corporate event.

For all the trauma change has wrought,

Sweet memories linger yet

As I confront a fallen world

Of failure and regret.

Basil Ransome-Davies/Thomas Hood
But when to mischief minstrels bend their will

They swiftly find fit instruments of ill.

They howl like cats and frightful music comes

From wild guitars and ear-assaulting drums.

Indecently the jesters on the stage

Feign epilepsy writhing in a rage

And while the air conveys their ululations

Hordes of admirers chant their celebrations.

A little learning in the way to sing

Can prove to be a most unpleasant thing.

The very vilest of our youthful breed

Have come here to fulfil some savage need.

This Glastonbury orgy seems to sell

What one would guess was surely wrought in hell.

Frank McDonald/Alexander Pope
Let us go then, I with you,

To see the Whitelake wander towards the Brue

At Worthy Farm, and hear the annual New Age

Sing this year’s anthem from the Pyramid Stage.

Let music harmonise with meditation,

In a transcendence beyond hallucination.

Oh, lay aside all that is anxious or restive

To pose the overwhelming question, ‘What price festive?’


Barefoot women come and go

Talking of bands I do not know.


And indeed there will be time to share

Quantities of cannabis and vegan fare

Do I dare walk upon a Sacred Space or a Green Field?

Is global extinction a fate to which I am prepared to yield?

Where are the songs of wisdom and humanity?

It may be they will not sing themselves to me.

Chris O’Carroll/T.S. Eliot
About festivals they were never wrong

the old ravers: about where you stood

and the optimum position, how they must take place

in a mudbath while the unhippy world looks uncomprehendingly on.

How, when ecstasy swings the mood, swaying deleriously,

there will be moon-children, wild-eyed and losing themselves

among tents of futurology and herbal wisdom,

rolling their cigarettes shakily on a Wellington boot.


At Glastonbury, par excellence: how everything merges

in a mix of grass, haze, and the spinning world’

loud sum of collective success. The bands, playing on

while darkness pleats and gathers at the corners,

are something happening, communicating in spells

until suddenly all are grown-up and have somewhere important to go.

D.A. Prince/W.H. Auden
Over the gently swooping Downs

We glide in Duncan’s limousine,

And then in evening dress and gowns

Step out on to a meadowy green.

Here we shall picnic on the grass,

As evening keeps the night at bay,

And celebrate with clinking glass

Performing as ourselves at play.

The actual house, not stately grand,

(A lifted Jacobethan face)

Defers to newer walls that stand

To hold the spirit of the place.

Once church or chapel saw the quest

To find the joy of true belief:

May opera here now leave us bless’d

With music’s spiritual relief?

W.J. Webster/John Betjeman

No 3160: Short story

You are invited to supply a short story whose opening sentence is ‘I have no idea whether I killed him.’ Please email up to 150 words to by midday on 29 July.