So, Victorian poetry made the news yesterday when everyone’s favorite coxcomb, Rod Blagojevich, ended his already bizarre post-impeachment press conference with a completely inappropriate quotation from Tennyson’s “Ulysses.” The blog of the Chicago Tribune‘s Washington Bureau has video here.

The Trib also notes that this is not the first time that Blago has turned to dead British poets in order to class up the cesspool of his involvement in Illinois politics: he cited Kipling’s “If” at the time of his arrest.

Now, I’m all for people raising the profile of Victorian poetry in the media, but I do wish that Blago had been a little bit more adventerous with his choices. The video clip in the first link (which, sadly, doesn’t include the poetry), where Blago offers this weird, twitchy explanation for his impeachment that apparently has to do with the Illinois legislature not wanting children to have health care (or something–I kept shuddering every time he said “poked and prodded” and there were a lot of those times) suggests nothing so much as the early rants of the Maud speaker against everyone *else’s* corruption (“Villany somewhere! whose? One says, we are villains all”), or even some of the more outrageous portions of the Locksley Hall poems.

The other Victorian genre that springs to mind is, of course, a straight-up Browning-style dramatic monologue. We could see Blago as a kind of inarticulate Bishop Blougram–“You do despise me; your ideal of life / Is not the bishop’s: you would not be I”–or, perhaps more appropriately, as one of the speakers of the early “madhouse cells” poems–a Porphyria’s Lover or Johannes Agricola. He might even declare himself to be a Fra Lippo Lippi-type figure:

You tell too many lies and hurt yourself:

You don’t like what you only like too much,

You do like what, if given you at your word,

You find abundantly detestable.

And I’m sure we could go on–I’d love to hear your suggestions for even more outrageously inappropriate Victorian poems in the comments. In the meantime, I’m sure that the recent visibility of Victorian poetry in our political landscape means that Victorian poetry scholars everywhere will be in high demand for talking-heads gigs on cable news. Jon Stewart, I’m waiting for your call.

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