POETS AS DRINKING PARTNERS

Yesterday our esteemed Creative Writing lecturer opined that although Robert Browning was a great poet - they like to tell you these things rather than put you to the trouble of working it out for yourself - he wouldn't want to go to the pub with him. I was deliberately keeping quiet this time because of all the disputes I've had with the lecturer in previous classes (it's becoming a bit of a floor show, actually, for the other students); but how wrong can a (presumably) educated man be? Robert Browning would have been a great bloke to go to the pub with. Who else can you think of from the respectable side of the poetry game who wrote two poems in the voice of a man who has murdered his wife? I mean, obviously I don't applaud the sentiment - I've never wanted to murder anybody, although Margaret Thatcher's name still makes me bubble with hate - but at least he wasn't writing cutesy things about knights and long-haired women in towers like Tennyson (sorry Kerry, if you're reading this). Never, ever - it's a good rule to live by - trust anybody whose middle name is 'Lord'.

And think about this for a moment. Other than Browning, who else in the Nineteenth Century, among the poets, was rock and roll enough to make them a good drinking buddy? Byron, of course, made Browning look like a choirboy, but if you went to the pub with Byron he'd leave you to go and bang a big-bosomed strumpet as soon as you went for a piss. Coleridge was also pretty hardcore (these are all Nineteenth Century aren't they? I forget, I slept too heavily last night for scholarship), but you wouldn't be able to get Coleridge off his couch and down the road to the pub in the first place. He'd just lie there mumbling about dead seas and ghost ships. You could try pulling him upright but if you did his body would just roll onto the floor, where he'd splutter with laughter for a moment and then start snoring. I can see it all.

No, it has to be Robert Browning for the pub, I'm afraid, whatever the University tells us. They'd have you with fucking Wordsworth probably, and he'd insist on drinking real ale and rhapsodising boringly in the cool night air.

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