THE VILLAGE INN by John Betjeman "The village inn, the dear old inn, So ancient, clean and free from sin, True centre of our rural life Where Hodge sits down beside his wife And talks of Marx and nuclear fission With all a rustic's intuition. Ah, more than church or school or hall, The village inn's the heart of all." So spake the brewer's P. R. O., A man who really ought to know, For he is paid for saying so. And then he kindly gave to me A lovely coloured booklet free. 'Twas full of prose that sang the praise Of coaching inns in Georgian days, Showing how public-houses are More modern than the motor-car, More English than the weald or wold And almost equally as old, And run for love and not for gold Until I felt a filthy swine For loathing beer and liking wine, And rotten to the very core For thinking village inns a bore, And village bores more sure to roam To village inns than stay at home. And then I thought I must be wrong, So up I rose and went along To that old village alehouse where In neon lights is written "Bear". Ah, where's the inn that once I knew With brick and chalky wall Up which the knobbly pear-tree grew For fear the place would fall? Oh, that old pot-house isn't there, It wasn't worth our while; You'll find we have rebuilt "The Bear" In Early Georgian style. But winter jasmine used to cling With golden stars a-shine Where rain and wind would wash and swing The crudely painted sign. And where's the roof of golden thatch? The chimney-stack of stone? The crown-glass panes that used to match Each sunset with their own? Oh now the walls are red and smart, The roof has emerald tiles. The neon sign's a work of art And visible for miles. The bar inside was papered green, The settles grained like oak, The only light was paraffin, The woodfire used to smoke. And photographs from far and wide Were hung around the room: The hunt, the church, the football side, And Kitchener of Khartoum. Our air-conditioned bars are lined With washable material, The stools are steel, the taste refined, Hygienic and ethereal. Hurrah, hurrah, for hearts of oak! Away with inhibitions! For here's a place to sit and soak In sanit'ry conditions.