Souls of Poets dead and gone,

I usually think about the English Romantic poets – Byron, Keats, Coleridge, Shelley Wordsworth etc. – banging on about antiquities, nature and the mysteries of the soul, but, from today’s poem at least, it seems that Keats also liked a night down the pub, maybe with a pint and a pie, perhaps a game of darts or dominoes and a crack at chatting up the barmaid. Here is his tribute to his local boozer, the Mermaid Tavern.

Lines on the Mermaid Tavern
BY JOHN KEATS

Souls of Poets dead and gone,
What Elysium have ye known,
Happy field or mossy cavern,
Choicer than the Mermaid Tavern?
Have ye tippled drink more fine
Than mine host’s Canary wine?
Or are fruits of Paradise
Sweeter than those dainty pies
Of venison? O generous food!
Drest as though bold Robin Hood
Would, with his maid Marian,
Sup and bowse from horn and can.

I have heard that on a day
Mine host’s sign-board flew away,
Nobody knew whither, till
An astrologer’s old quill
To a sheepskin gave the story,
Said he saw you in your glory,
Underneath a new old sign
Sipping beverage divine,
And pledging with contented smack
The Mermaid in the Zodiac.

Souls of Poets dead and gone,
What Elysium have ye known,
Happy field or mossy cavern,
Choicer than the Mermaid Tavern?

From <http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/173741&gt;

Yes, the beginning and the end of the poem do refer to poet’s souls and their usual preference for bucolic or pastoral surroundings, but the comparison comes down in favour of the tavern, better in every way than the charms of nature. It is the tavern that provides the best wine, the best pies, the most food of all sorts, and fig to serve Robin Hood and Maid Marion.

The second stanza transforms the appeal of the Mermaid into something more universal, by imagining the inn-sign being blown away and ending up somewhere in the stars, where the poets could gather and enjoy a drink together. Presumably this would be a meeting place for the dead poets from all times who would compose more poems in praise of the Mermaid Tavern from their heavenly vantage point.

The Poetry Dude

Advertisements
Standard

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s