Explore the complete works of John Bradburne

Beatification votes: 1748

Editorial conventions

Catalogue number

Each poem has been assigned its own catalogue number. In a few cases, where a poem was given a significant revision at a later date, or for a special collection, two numbers are given, referrring to the two versions.

In the manuscript archive, poems are grouped according to their year and number, e.g. 78.1, 78.2, etc. These numbers are purely arbitrary, and have no correlation with chronological sequence.

Poems which have no known date are assigned the prefix 00: 00.1, 00.2 etc. Poems which have been transcribed from tape recordings are prefixed with T: T.1, T.2 etc.
Other abbreviations, referring to various named collections of poems, are as follows:

AUB An Unusual Book
EDD M’Temwa or Every Day has its Doggerel
IC In Calicem
LM Liturgical Movement
OBS O Beata Solitudo / O Sola Beatitudo
OE Odds and Ends
PT The Plain Truth magazine used as a folder for poems
RPPP Rainbowed Parabola over Promised Pastorale
TPC The Poets Cornered
WJ The Wandering Jew


Where possible, a poem has been assigned a date. This is usually the date of the poem as it is given in the original manuscript - John Bradburne usually ended a poem with the date (and sometimes even the time at which he wrote it) or feastday. In cases where he didn’t, it is usually possible to work out the date from another poem on the same page or on an adjacent page. In a number of cases, this is not possible, and I have had to rely on similarities in the typeface or page colour in order to suggest a likely date. In a few cases, no date at all can be assigned with confidence. All uncertain cases are shown by a question-mark.

Any other information John Bradburne adds about the provenance of a poem (such as where it was written) is given alongside the date.


In order to provide a quick guide about the length of a poem, I have given a summary of the number of verses and the rhyme structure of each verse, using a traditional classification: for example, ‘6-line ababcc’ means that in a verse of six lines, the first and third lines rhyme, as do the second and fourth and the fifth and sixth.

Any other points of rhetorical interest are also indicated under this heading - for example, John Bradburne’s occasional use of acrostics.


A brief description is given of the physical nature of the text - the page colour and size, whether the text is manuscript, original typescript, photocopy (a term I use to include roneos, and stencils, as well as poems which have been photocopied more recently), and so on.


Each poem has been given one or more thematic classifications. As some poems are extremely diverse, thematically, this exercise can be only a first approximation. I am not suggesting that the whole of any one poem is on the stated theme, but simply that this theme is an important element in that poem. Here follows a list of themes, grouped into broad categories, along with their explanations:


Church - pope, infallibility, religious orders, vocations, Rome, documents, denominations, church history
Faith - and its practices, penance, sacrifice, monastic life, beliefs, music, Mass, evolution, Islam
God the Father - creator, being, Spirit
God the Son - incarnation, eucharist, crucifixion
Jews - Judaism, Christ as Jew
New Testament - Nativity, Apocalypse, parables
Old Testament - Eden, characters, events, ancestry of Jesus, Israel history
General reflection - on life, resurrection, eternity, heaven, rosary, love, evil, time, solitude
Social - issues, such as birth control, race, relationships

Local and nature

Fauna - bees, birds, eagles... alone or as a stimulus for reflection
Landscape - flora, landscape, weather, stars, space, tribes, described or used as a stimulus for reflection
Mtemwa - and its inhabitants, leprosy, gifts to the lepers, Mashonaland, Silveira House
Local politics - landowner rows, local practices, maladministration
Political - national political events, other peoples

Events and Objects

Day - commemorating a feast day or festival
Month - commemorating a time of year
Objects - and what they do, e.g. musical instrument, tune, painting


SW England - Devon, Somerset
England - outside the SW - Cambridge, Norfolk, Cumbria, London
Europe (general travel, including the Mediterranean)


SE Asia
South America



Domestic - people John Bradburne knows or to whom he’s related
Fantasy - ghosts, dreams, imaginary characters, mythical beings
Letters - in poem form, or addressed to someone directly, letters of thanks
Personal - his own appearance, likes and dislikes, activities, biography, memories


People - famous individuals or groups used as stimulus for reflection
People: literary (other than Shakespeare) including fictitious characters
Poetry - reflections on his own poetry and on poetry or writing in general, or on the nature of language; also, a poem showing a particular technique
Shakespeare - either alone or linked with Francis Bacon

Prose texts

Title page

Other poems

Multiple - a very long poem with a variety of themes
Unclear - a poem which proved difficult to classify

Line counting

Counting the lines of verse in this oeuvre is not as straightforward as it might seem. I have restricted the count to actual lines of verse, excluding the following:

- poem titles

- rewrites of lines, noted in the database in square brackets

- salutations that introduce a poem (as in 'Dearest Mother'), unless they are a part of a verse line

- farewells, good wishes etc at the end of a poem, unless they are a part of the rhyme scheme

- notes and footnotes explaining individual words, or giving a reference (eg to the Bible)

- long quotations from other writers (e.g. Shakespeare) in the body of a poem (qutes of one or two lines are usually incorporated into a stanza)

- affirmations, usually single words, that are added to the end of a poem, such as 'Amen', 'Selah', Shalom', unless they are incorporated within the rhyme scheme

- section headings, such as 'posthorn' or 'Envoi' in ballades - again, unless incorporated into a line.

- John's signature or sign-off name, such as 'babblebard'

- artistic interpolations, such as a drawing of birds in flight, or the use of M with a cross

I have included single lines in other languages, such as 'Om mani padme hum', 'Domine permane mecum'.

John often includes a stanza from one poem within another, sometimes with minor adaptations, as in 'Ut Unum Sint', which recycles some earlier writing. I have tried not to include recyclings in the count, but I may not have caught all of them.



All the surviving manuscripts of John's poetry and prose had to be photographed, as part of the beatification process, and these images are now uploaded onto the website. The quality varies a great deal, as some of the manuscripts are very faded, or are poor photocopies; but most are clear and easy to read. You will see a mixture of handwritten and typed items, as well as the pictures which John sometimes used to accompany his poetry.

The poems are enormously varied in length. John was scrupulous about using every bit of available space on a page, paper being in such short supply. This is why we see some very short poems, of just two or three lines: they enabled him to fill a tiny bit of space remaining at the foot of a page. At the other extrene, we see poems of a thousand or more lines, taking up several pages, which is why some poems are accompanied by a large number of images: each page was photographed separately. 

In many instances, more than one poem appears on a page - sometimes three or four. These have been separated for display here, unless there was a good reason for keeping some together. For example, John often wrote a poem and then followed it up with a short related poem, headed Ibid ('the same') or Continuo, or (his favourite) Posthorn. These have been kept together. Other connections between the poems are noted in the editorial column under Links.

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