Yes, I do go on...poems, poems, poems. But I really need to have these tickets for free beer at TAP NY 2007 in the hands of those who will use them to drink free beer. Is that so wrong? Listen. I am the one around here who put in four good years of my life to get a BA in English Literature and I better get some action on this contest or I will think of them as lost years. Lost. Which is kind of appropriate as my quick survey of some of the better known pub and beer sorts of poems out there is kind of depressing. Let's review them, shall we? Because that is what four years of B-grades in English Lit got me, the power to review.
- The comment by Captain Hops of Beer Haiku Daily is exactly right. "At The Quinte Hotel," posted yesterday, is a fantastic poem. Likely the best you will ever read or at least the best I have read so far.¹ Yet there is a melancholy about the respective place of beer and poetry that is at the core of the poem.
- Back in the Enlightenment, things were not so cheery as that. In April 1737, Aaron Hill penned "Alone, in an Inn, at Southhampton" which is about as dreary a sentiment as any I have come across. Mind you, 1737 wasn't any sort of non-stop party generally but really:
Scarce can a passion start, (we change so fast)Perhaps one less drink for Aaron next time, bartender.
E're new lights strike us, and the old are past.
Schemes following schemes, so long life's taste explore,
That, e'er we learn to live, we live no more.
- A generation later, Thomas Warton wrote "Solitude at an Inn" and at least recognized the opportunity to stay away from the outside world and even the others at the inn as something of a positive:
No poetic being hereInelegant and rude! Sounds like a snob out for some slumming to me.
Strikes with airy sounds mine ear;
No converse here to fancy cold
With many a fleeting form I hold,
Here all inelegant and rude
Thy presence is, sweet Solitude.
- Warton's contemporary, William Shenstone, on the other hand gets his values right:
Here, waiter! take my sordid ore,Fabulous. While Hill, Warton and Shenstone all provide that personal reflection that foreshadowed romanticism, only the latter was not a total drip and might have actually been someone you might have enjoyed meeting at the pub.
Which lackeys else might hope to win;
It buys what courts have not in store,
It buys me Freedom, at an inn.
- Another generation on and we have "Original Elegy on a Country Alehouse" by Thomas Dermody which loses me somewhat as to who is the subject of any given line, leading me to think I am suppose to mourn the passing of a poetic ale-swigging cat.
- Flash forward to the late Victorian era and consider he-of-the-ale Thomas Hardy's 1898 poem "At an Inn" from Wessex Poems and Other Verses. Please consider it yourself as I have really no idea what is going on except perhaps a Victorian version of "Day Time Friends, Night time Lovers" or some other 1970s new country crap.
- Finally - for now - we see that contemporary tavern poetry is well exemplified by "In The Black Rock Tavern" by Judith Slater, published in 2004. Like Purdy's work, it wells you why the comfort of the pub is important without discussing the point. No tryst gone wrong, no nose turned up at the company. Just a place and a moment where you are taken for you are.
¹ For someone with a B-grade in English Lit from over 20 years ago these two concepts merge.