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Accolade for J. W. Bazalgette

by  James Graham

Posted: Wednesday, February 1, 2012
Word Count: 226
Summary: A sort of modern apostrophe. Couldn't think of anyone living that beats this guy!

Accolade for J.W. Bazalgette

Sir Joseph William Bazalgette:
it would have been an honour, sir,
to meet you. A brief embarrassment
for you, though - I’d have been
struck dumb, or blurted out
‘I love your work’. Or even made
a gaffe about your marvellous name,
that rings with sympathetic magic,
a great necromancer’s name (or so
it seems to me, but probably
to no-one else). Ah, better surely

that we are separated by a century;
that though I cannot speak to you
I can tell the folks who have forgotten
what they learned in school:

you built the London sewers, vast
colonic tubes like railway tunnels.
You ended the Great Stink.
Before the medics had learned how
to punish microscopic lethal mites
that drained the body in a day, and left
dry corpses - you had made the water clean.
You flushed out cholera from the city.

You estimated how much excrement
would issue from each borough daily,
worked out diameters, then doubled them.
Simplicity is genius. You doubled them:
and so in 2012 the snarled-up city
still runs freely below ground, and fish
live in the Thames. It would indeed

have been an honour, sir, to meet you,
but you knew you could not live as long
as your great buried piece of modern art.
We love your work. It will outlive us too.