Continuing on with our week of poems from In Their Cups (in honor of the upcoming release reading which you already know lots about, and have told your friends about, and that hottie you see at the bus station) comes the poem with maybe my favorite title in the book: “Oh, For a Bowl of Fat Canary.” It’s by John Lyly, a writer in the late 1500s who had a way with words and drinks, and seems like someone you (and me) would want to spend a rowdy evening with, drinking and becoming jolly. “Canary” does not mean he was boozy enough to eat birds though. “Canary” was actually a type of sack from the Canary islands (with sack being an old term for a fortified white wine). Now, that makes it all a bit less unfriendly to our feathered friends.
Oh, For a Bowl of Fat Canary
Oh, for a bowl of fat Canary,
Rich Palermo, sparkling Sherry,
Some nectar else, from Juno’s dairy;
Oh, these draughts would make us merry!
Oh, for a wench (I deal in faces,
And in other daintier things);
Tickled am I with her embraces,
Fine dancing in such fairy rings.
Oh, for a plump fat leg of mutton,
Veal, lamb, capon, pig, and coney;
None is happy but a glutton,
None an ass but who want money.
Wines indeed and girls are good,
But brave victuals feast the blood;
For wenches, wine, and lusty cheer,
Jove would leap down to surfeit here.
—Oh, For a Bowl of Fat Canary, John Lyly