Now Brown, the Romantic, turns to Keats

Our PM as the poet's 'stubborn rock' in a stormy sea? Well, it's a change from Heathcliff, or mad Mrs Rochester

Gordon Brown has inspired many literary comparisons: from the troubled and brooding Heathcliff to mad- woman-in-the-attic Mrs Rochester. An aide to Tony Blair once even described Mr Brown's life as a "Shakespearean tragedy".

Now the Prime Minister has found himself linked to another great work of English literature: from one of the Romantic poets. However, this time Mr Brown is portrayed as a large, immovable object: a rock battered by the waves of a stormy sea, from an epic poem by John Keats.

Former poet laureate, Sir Andrew Motion, made the comparison after Mr Brown – perhaps seek- ing inspiration to sum up his turbulent reign at 10 Downing Street – recently asked him to recommend a work of poetry.

Motion suggested a passage from Keats's Endymion, where the sea god Neptune is compared to a "fast, stubborn rock" impervious to the stormy waters around him. "He rang me to ask the other day if I could recommend a line from a poem for him," Sir Andrew said. "I gave him a line from Keats about being a battered rock we can hang on to in a stormy sea. So keep voting Labour, keep voting Labour!"

The poet told this month's Vogue: "I realise some people find him a complicated figure, but trust Gordon – he has good people around him."

The premier appears to have taken note. Last week, in a major speech on the economy, Mr Brown talked of the country "weathering the storm together" to survive the recession. He added: "While we have come through the worst of this dreadful storm, the waters are still choppy. There are still real risks to the recovery."

The full quote from Endymion reads: "King of the stormy sea! / Brother of Jove, and co-inheritor / Of elements! Eternally before / Thee the waves awful bow. Fast, stubborn rock, / At thy fear'd trident shrinking, doth unlock / Its deep foundations, hissing into foam."

However, while Sir Andrew is a Labour supporter, the comparison is not the most flattering as it has echoes of Mr Blair's back-handed compliment that Mr Brown would be a "big clunking fist".

The Prime Minister is not the first Labour leader to borrow from Keats. The poet was a favourite of the late Michael Foot, who used a quotation from the poem "Great Spirits Now on Earth Are Sojourning" for the title of his book, Another Heart and Other Pulses.

Mr Brown, often criticised for his poor communication skills, blunt style and obsession with dry statistics, is also an unlikely match for Keats, one of the greatest creators of the imaginary world. In 2008, Mr Brown compared himself to Emily Brontë's anti-hero Heathcliff. The dissident Labour MP Frank Field later described him as Mrs Rochester, the insane and incarcerated first wife of Jane Eyre's husband in Charlotte Brontë's novel.

And, according to Boris Johnson, in 2004 Jonathan Powell, Mr Blair's former chief of staff, told the then Tory MP that Mr Brown's life was a "Shakespearean tragedy" because, despite his persistent attempts, he would never become prime minister.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
newsAnother week, another dress controversy on the internet
Life and Style
Scientist have developed a test which predicts whether you'll live for another ten years
health
Life and Style
Marie had fake ID, in the name of Johanna Koch, after she evaded capture by the Nazis in wartime Berlin
historyOne woman's secret life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
News
news... and what your reaction to the creatures above says about you
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executive - Call Centre Jobs

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - Covent Garden, central London - £45k - £55k

£45000 - £55000 per annum + 30 days holiday: Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - ...

Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator - Lancashire - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: 3rd Line Support Engineer / Network ...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Web Developer

£26000 - £33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Web Developer is required to ...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn