A Ballade of an Anti-Puritan

 Beer pumps

A few days ago I saw a curious tagline on some newspaper website or other along the lines of ‘The Tories shouldn’t be seen as the party of Booze and Fags’. I didn’t read the whole article – it was just too dispiriting – but I gather it was a complaint about the dropping of legislation about minimum pricing of alcohol from the Queen’s Speech.

I think a lot of voters would disagree with the sentiments of the article anyway. Booze and cigarettes are already expensive enough; pubs are closing because they struggle to make a profit – and because people are no longer allowed to smoke in them. Perhaps a ‘booze and fags party’ would be a good thing – or at least ‘a party of small pleasures’, or a ‘great British pub party.’ Pubs, after all, are one of the important institutions of British society, part of our social fabric and our history, loved by men and women (though perhaps more by men), the rich and the poor, conservatives and socialists, skivers and strivers (though especially skivers), the proud and the shameless, the young, the too-young and the old alike.

G.K Chesterton would surely agree. He sang the praises of the pub in prose and verse, and defended the right of men to their small pleasures from the temperance movements and health freaks of his own day. Here is one of his light-hearted ‘ballades’, dedicated to this most British of pastimes, buggering off to the pub:

They spoke of Progress spiring round,

Of light and Mrs Humphrey Ward–

It is not true to say I frowned,

Or ran about the room and roared;

I might have simply sat and snored–

I rose politely in the club

And said, `I feel a little bored;

Will someone take me to a pub?’

The new world’s wisest did surround

Me; and it pains me to record

I did not think their views profound,

Or their conclusions well assured;

The simple life I can’t afford,

Besides, I do not like the grub–

I want a mash and sausage, `scored’–

Will someone take me to a pub?


I know where Men can still be found,

Anger and clamorous accord,

And virtues growing from the ground,

And fellowship of beer and board,

And song, that is a sturdy cord,

And hope, that is a hardy shrub,

And goodness, that is God’s last word–

Will someone take me to a pub?



Prince, Bayard would have smashed his sword

To see the sort of knights you dub–

Is that the last of them–O Lord

Will someone take me to a pub?

This poem reminded me of nothing more than the ‘Anyone fancy a pint?’ man from the nineties comedy sketch show, the fast show, in which various assembled groups were interrupted at a most inopportune moment by Paul Whitehouse asking, ‘Anyone fancy a pint?’

In Chesterton’s poem, then, the assembly is a meeting of the Fabian society, or some such group of North London progressives, and Chesterton himself is the Paul Whitehouse character getting up halfway through, although he doesn’t seem to be inviting the Fabians to come with him… Well, it’s always a bit embarrassing when you have to stand at the bar and order someone a tomato juice.

Picture Credit: http://www.guardian.co.uk/money/2011/oct/06/average-cost-pint-bitter-good-pub-guide



Filed under humour, Poetry

3 responses to “A Ballade of an Anti-Puritan

  1. Another friend of mine from England told me about this situation a year and a half ago. The day that England loses its pubs will be a sad one indeed. Let’s hope you can resurrect these fine institutions, instead of just Jesus, or TGI bloody Fridays. Thanks for the post, host.

  2. It’s funny you bring Jesus into it – he turned water into wine; the modern day puritans would prefer it if he had left it as water, or maybe made it into carrot juice. That would be a singularly unimpressive miracle.

  3. Pingback: Animula | sweettenorbull

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