Friday, January 23, 2009
The Coach and Horses
The Coach and Horses pub in Dumfries was probably founded about 1590. As the pub is just round the corner from the house in the Stinking Vennel (Bank St, now) where Burns first lived, the place was often frequented by the ubiquitous bard but it has even older poetic connections. In 1773, Burns own literary hero, Robert Fergusson, walked to Dumfries from Edinburgh (72 miles) to drink in the Coach with his friends. Fergusson's 'Poems'had been published in Edinburgh earlier that year and were a major influence on the style and subject matter of Burns' own work. The next year Fergusson fell down a flight of stairs while drunk, incurring some kind of serious brain injury. He died in a madhouse in Edinburgh soon afterwards aged only 24. Burns was instrumental in having a headstone erected in Canongate Churchyard over Fergusson's grave. Recently the statue you can see above was put up outside the gates of the churchyard.
Waiting for the Poet
(The Coach and Horses Dumfries, Jan 2009)
Outside, trees stream like hair
and the little streets shiver,
lean towards the vicious tear
of rain and slap of river.
Through the bellying glass,
people stop, trapped in light,
then birl gape-mouthed past,
like ghosts drowned in night.
When drinking here, you eschewed
winter but feared transience more,
though it was winter killed you,
and your name’s outside the door.
Weather’s wild but words survive,
to lift the chill from those alive.