John Betjeman's poem "Meditation on the A30" is about a man driving his car and fuming about his unloving wife. In the final verse, he finally turns to action:

"You're barmy or plastered, I'll pass you, you bastard-
I will overtake you. I will!"
As he clenches his pipe, his moment is ripe
And the corner's accepting its kill.

Does the final line really mean the man is about to die in a car crash? This seems a bit 'off' thematically with the rest of the poem, but I can't think of any other interpretation of "the corner's accepting its kill". Is there another possible interpretation, or is there some foreshadowing of this, or does the poem really take a darker turn so abruptly at the very end?

1 Answer 1


You say that you think the end of the character’s life is “‘off’ thematically”. I’d invite you to consider the lines:

And puffs at his pitiful life


At breakfast she said that she wished I was dead

Reading these in the context of the character’s building rage

He open the throttle and bubbles with dottle


I can't go on crawling like this!


Who dares to come hooting at me?


As he clenches his pipe

you get a picture of a man literally spitting and frothing in fury, almost biting through his pipe stem in anger interwoven from the first verse with the concepts of his life and death.

So the mortal turn of the poem is only as abrupt as the bend in the road. The poem is always building towards the death, just as the road is always leading to the bend and the man's fury builds to a fever pitch in which personal safety is set aside in the overwhelming desire to be free of the burdens and restrictions imposed by the presence of other people, on the road and in his life.

In a sense the man's simmering anger become transferred from the wife who wished he was dead, to the traffic. The anger then bubbles over into the rage which kills him.

  • 1
    This answer seems right to me. The opening lines invite us to explain how "a man on his own in a car" can be "revenging himself on his wife". He is taking out his anger on the other road users, reckless as to his own safety, saying to himself, "see how she likes it if I get myself killed!" Sep 5, 2018 at 19:38
  • Thanks, you're quite right, The answer might be even better with a quick summary rather than leaving the conclusion (yes, the poem is building up to his sudden death) unspoken, but you have my +1 and probably acceptance too.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Sep 6, 2018 at 10:31

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