The Baby and the Bird

Old Rome had many taverns,
Devoted to the vine, 
Where Ovid pledged each new love 
In red Falernian wine; 
Catullus, shamed by Lesbia, 
Poured out his grief in verse; 
Apuleus noted follies, 
And pondered which was worse. 

But the place that draws me ever 
When my fancy's running wild, 
Is a little pub in Oxford 
Called The Eagle and the Child, 
The Eagle and the Child, oh, 
Or else, as I have heard 
Its regulars all called it-- 
The Baby and the Bird!

The company was lively 
In Soutwark's Tabard Inn,
When Chaucer and the Pilgrims 
Were telling tales within,
And on the Canterbury road 
They took that April day, 
And at the other hostels 
Where they stayed upon their way.


When Villon, gutter-poet, 
Reeled through the Paris night,
Drunk on verse and hypocras 
And looking for a fight, 
The Pomme de Pin, the Cheval Blanc 
All welcomed him, and more, 
With wine at every table 
And doxies at each door. 


Of all the City's taverns,
When Bess was England's Queen, 
The Mermaid, undisputed, ruled 
The literary scene. 
Each Global play was played again 
And christened in brown ale, 
Whde Shakespeare, or Ben Jonson, 
Stood up to tell the tale. 


Augustan wits made merry 
At London's Cheshire Cheese-- 
The topic was no matter, 
So that the manner please-- 
Be it Love or Politicks,
'Twas scandalous, I've heard,
And Johnson had his Boswell
To write down every word.

(REFRAIN) Asking, 

They sing of famous taverns, 
But considering them all, 
The one where I had rather 
Been a fly upon the wall,
Would be the Inn where Tolkien,
Lewis, Williams too,
Met with the other Inklings 
Asking, "Who has something new?"

[By Diana L. Paxson]

Diana L. Paxson, long-time active in ‘The Mythopoeic Society’, and in ‘The Society for Creative Anachronism’, is the author of many novels, including The White Raven, The "Fionn MacCumhal trilogy, and a trilogy on the Siegfried legend, the most recent volume of which, The Lord of Horses, has been published recently.


Cato said...

Thank you for keeping this blog going. I'm sure you have many silent visitors, who stop by for a respite from the mad world. I thought it was necessary to let you know how much your work is appreciated (whoever you are).

I went to the Bird and the Baby (that's the name I knew it by) several years ago during a pilgrimage to Oxford. (Yes, a pilgrimage, to visit the sacred sites where Tolkien and Lewis toiled -- sacred to me, anyway.) It was an experience I will never forget -- to sip ale in the shadow of Oxford's dreaming spires, where once Tollers and Jack read aloud their just-born tales.

Keep up the good work!

Arborfield said...

I studied at Oxford myself and would have been pleased to show you around to the 'rather less known' sites. Glad you enjoy the blog...