On The Mermaid Tavern: Summary & Analysis

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Introduction

      Keats was a great admirer of Elizabethan poets and dramatists. On The Mermaid Tavern, he pays a tribute to their memory and their happy life; of course he does not mention their names. He feels that even today the poets are as happy and contented as they were when they were alive. They must be enjoying the same kind of food and drink in the heaven, as they did at the Mermaid Tavern of London. As the Mermaid Tavern ceased to function at the end of the Elizabethan age, the poet feels that the Mermaid has now shifted to eaven where the poets drink and carouse in the same old fashion.

Summary

      Mermaid Tavern was popular as the hut of literary men in the Elizabethan age. Here they relaxed and drank and discussed problems of poetry, of drama, and of life in general. The poet wishes to know whether the dead poets and dramatists have found an equally good place in heaven where they meet and enjoy. Keats feels that there can never be a better place than the Mermaid Tavern of London.

The Mermaid in the Zodiac

      One day the signboard of the Mermaid Tavern was lost and nobody could trace it. Ultimately an astrologer wrote about it (on his parchment) that the sign-board had flown to heaven. The sign-board had changed into a constellation. There is double meaning of ‘sign of a tavern’ and ‘sign of the Zodiac’. Mermaid or Virgo is the name of a constellation which is a sign of the Zodiac. So the Mermaid of London has been transformed into Mermaid of the Zodiac. The Elizabethan poets were seen enjoying life in the same old way in heaven, as in the Mermaid Tavern of London. The poet comes to the conclusion that the dead Elizabethan poets now live in heaven and drink divine beverages and delicious food under the sign-board of the new Mermaid Tavern in their new surroundings. This is of course, a fancy of Keats that the Mermaid of London has now been changed into the ‘Mermaid of the Zodiac’.

Style

      This is a fanciful poem written in a jovial mood. The idea is to pay a tribute to the great poets and dramatists who lived in the Elizabethan age. The Mermaid Tavern was deservedly popular and has been praised by many writers. The reference to Robin Hood and maid Marian is rather forced and far-fetched. Of course, the play on the word ‘Mermaid’ (name of the London Tavern and a sign in the Zodiac) is quite appropriate and convincing. There, is another feature of this poem—the refrain. The refrain occurs in the last four lines of the poem. The music of the rhymes is in every second line. The poem being in couplets has the freedom of diction of romantic poetry.

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