The Mermaid

Francis Beaumont

What things have we seen
Done at the Mermaid! heard words that have been
So nimble and so full of subtle flame,
As if that every one from whence they came
Had meant to put his whole wit in a jest,
And had resolved to live a fool the rest
Of his dull life; that when there hath been thrown
Wit able enough to justify the town
For three days past,—wit that might warrant be
For the whole city to talk foolishly
Till that were cancelled; and when that was gone,
We left an air behind us, which alone
Was able to make the two next companies
(Right witty, though but downright fools) more wise.

The Mermaid on Cheapside was a famous tavern in Elizabethan times, patronised by many leading men of letters. Francis Beaumont was one of the Friday Street club, founded by Walter Raleigh and which may have included Shakespeare, Ben Jonson, John Donne and others.