“Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.”
We saw this item on GalleyCat last week and couldn’t let it pass without comment. It seems disgraced Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich, having infamously quoted Kipling’s “If” in a defiant press conference after scandal erupted around him, has quoted yet another poem in his post-impeachment press conference—this time Tennyson’s “Ulysses.” Evidently no longer content to rust unburnished in the dreary confines of Chicago, he is launching forth into new conquests on the high seas of life, determined “to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.” Though he did not say so explicitly, we can presume that he is doing this not because he has become a laughingstock and a pariah but because his spirit is “yearning with desire / To follow knowledge like a sinking star / Beyond the utmost bounds of human thought.”
For his literary pretensions Blagojevich has of course been roundly mocked, and yet…as this ludicrous popinjay exits the stage to the jeers of the masses, we have to admit that there is a certain literary quality about him, a kind of hilarious anti-grandeur reminiscent of Shakespeare’s or Dickens’s petty fops and tyrants. There’s something marvelous about a man who, as has been widely reported, is so vain about his poofy coiffure that his aides refer to his hairbrush as “the football”—i.e., a nuclear football that must under no circumstances be let out of sight—and at the same time imagines his implication in a squalid corruption scandal as a tragic circumstance worthy of Lord Tennyson. Even the name “Rod Blagojevich” is somehow perfect, its homely syllables comically clashing with the fame he sought for it (and also, like his accent, suggesting humble origins for which his poetic bombast may be an attempt to compensate).
And so, even though Mr. Blagojevich deserves whatever punishment he gets, we’re almost sorry to see him go. We’re also nagged by the feeling that there’s an exact analogue for him somewhere in literature: a minor comic character in a nineteenth-century novel, or even a fairy-tale villain, or something…readers, help us out? If you can think of a literary personality or a short passage of poetry that Blago reminds you of, leave a note in the Comments section. We’ll pick the best suggestion next Monday and name its contributor our Stylish Reader of the Week, with all possible attendant fanfare (including a featured website recommendation). Good luck—and thanks for helping secure ex-Governor Blagojevich the literary immortality he so desperately craves.