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The Independent Culture
25 Gavin Ewart

Born in London of Scottish descent 77 years ago last week, Gavin Ewart was educated at Wellington College and Christ's College, Cambridge. He has worked as a salesman, for the British Council, and as an advertising copywriter. His work is contained in The Collected Ewart 1933-1980 and Collected Poems 1980-1990 (both Hutchinson). He is also the editor of the Penguin Book of Light Verse. In 1991 he was given the Michael Braude Award for Light Verse by the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters.


In some quite ordinary bathrooms and kitchens

have been committed the most marvellous murders

such as, witnessed by sadists,

would have made their upright members like girders]

In sinks and coppers and wash-basins and bath-tubs

the victimised corpses have been dismembered

and there are thousands of real life crime books

that take good care that this is remembered.

Radio commentators, like black-fairy-story-tellers,

have gloated over the execution of Crippen and others

without for a moment thinking

that in a way he and they are brothers . . .

I believe the deep psychological fact is

that what they admire is the man with the nerve

to put some great cruelty into practice -

like Genghis Khan or Hitler, who would never swerve

or show weakness over Jews, gypsies,

liberals, psychopaths or reds.

After every battle Genghis had to have his

fixed quota of a thousand heads.

All of these determined lunatics

fascinate the meek and mild

who could never quite screw up their courage

to murder a child,

and perhaps even less to saw up a body

or hack one to pieces;

so these murderers act as a sort of safety-valve.

That is my thesis.