Eugene Field was an American writer, best known for his children’s poetry and humorous essays. He was known as the “poet of childhood”.
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Famous Eugene Field Poems
Beard And Baby
I say, as one who never feared
The wrath of a subscriber’s bullet,
I pity him who has a beard
But has no little girl to pull it!
When wife and I have finished tea,
Our baby woos me with her prattle,
And, perching proudly on my knee,
She gives my petted whiskers battle.
With both her hands she tugs away,
While scolding at me kind o’ spiteful;
You’ll not believe me when I say
I find the torture quite delightful!
No other would presume, I ween,
To trifle with this hirsute wonder,
Else would I rise in vengeful mien
And rend his vandal frame asunder!
But when her baby fingers pull
This glossy, sleek, and silky treasure,
My cup of happiness is full –
I fairly glow with pride and pleasure!
And, sweeter still, through all the day
I seem to hear her winsome prattle –
I seem to feel her hands at play,
As though they gave me sportive battle.
Yes, heavenly music seems to steal
Where thought of her forever lingers,
And round my heart I always feel
The twining of her dimpled fingers!
Should painter attach to a fair human head
The thick, turgid neck of a stallion,
Or depict a spruce lass with the tail of a bass,
I am sure you would guy the rapscallion.
Believe me, dear Pisos, that just such a freak
Is the crude and preposterous poem
Which merely abounds in a torrent of sounds,
With no depth of reason below ’em.
‘T is all very well to give license to art,–
The wisdom of license defend I;
But the line should be drawn at the fripperish spawn
Of a mere cacoethes scribendi.
It is too much the fashion to strain at effects,–
Yes, that’s what’s the matter with Hannah!
Our popular taste, by the tyros debased,
Paints each barnyard a grove of Diana!
Should a patron require you to paint a marine,
Would you work in some trees with their barks on?
When his strict orders are for a Japanese jar,
Would you give him a pitcher like Clarkson?
Now, this is my moral: Compose what you may,
And Fame will be ever far distant
Unless you combine with a simple design
A treatment in toto consistent.
Chrystmasse Of Olde
God rest you, Chrysten gentil men,
Wherever you may be,–
God rest you all in fielde or hall,
Or on ye stormy sea;
For on this morn oure Chryst is born
That saveth you and me.
Last night ye shepherds in ye east
Saw many a wondrous thing;
Ye sky last night flamed passing bright
Whiles that ye stars did sing,
And angels came to bless ye name
Of Jesus Chryst, oure Kyng.
God rest you, Chrysten gentil men,
Faring where’er you may;
In noblesse court do thou no sport,
In tournament no playe,
In paynim lands hold thou thy hands
From bloudy works this daye.
But thinking on ye gentil Lord
That died upon ye tree,
Let troublings cease and deeds of peace
Abound in Chrystantie;
For on this morn ye Chryst is born
That saveth you and me.
Once — it was many years ago.
In early wedded life,
Ere yet my loved one had become
A very knowing wife,
She came to me and said: ‘My dear,
I think (and do not you?)
That we should have about the house
A doctor’s book or two.
‘Our little ones have sundry ills
Which I should understand
And cure myself, if I but had
A doctor’s book at hand.
Why not economize, my dear,
In point of doctor’s biils
By purchasing the means to treat
Our litt;e household ills?’
Dear, honest, patient little wife!
She did not even guess
She offered me the very prize
I hankered to possess.
‘You argus, wisely, wife,’ quoth I,
‘Proceed without delay
To find and comprehend the works
Of Doctor Rabelais.’
I wrote the title out for her
(She’d never heard the name),
And presently she bought those books,
And home she lugged the same;
I clearly read this taunting boast
On her triumphant brow:
‘Aha, ye venal doctors all,
Ye are outwitted now!’
Those volumes stood upon the shelf
A month or two unread,
Save as such times by night I conned
Their precious wit in bed;
But once — it was a wintry time —
I heard my loved one say:
‘This child is croupy; I’ll consult
My doctor, Rabelais!’
Soon from her delusive dream
My beauteous bride awoke.
Too soon she grasped the fulness of
My bibliomaniac joke.
There came a sudden, shocking change,
As you may well suppose,
And with her reprehensive voice
The temperature arose.
But that was many years ago,
In early wedded life,
And that dear lady has become
A very knowing wife;
For she hath learned from Rabelais
What elsewhere is agreed:
The plague of bibliomania is
A cureless ill indeed.
And still at night, when all the rest
Are hushed in sweet repose,
O’er those two interdicted tomes
I laugh and nod and doze.
From worldly ills and business cares
My weary mind is lured,
And by that doctor’s magic art
My ailments all are cured.
So my dear, knowing little wife
Is glad that it is so,
And with a smile recalls the trick
I played her years ago;
And whensoe’er dyspeptic pangs
Compel me to their sway,
The saucy girl bids me consult
My Doctor Rabelais!
I’m a beautiful red, red drum,
And I train with the soldier boys;
As up the street we come,
Wonderful is our noise!
There’s Tom, and Jim, and Phil,
And Dick, and Nat, and Fred,
While Widow Cutler’s Bill
And I march on ahead,
With a r-r-rat-tat-tat
And a tum-titty-um-tum-tum –
Oh, there’s bushels of fun in that
For boys with a little red drum!
The Injuns came last night
While the soldiers were abed,
And they gobbled a Chinese kite
And off to the woods they fled!
The woods are the cherry-trees
Down in the orchard lot,
And the soldiers are marching to seize
The booty the Injuns got.
When soldiers marching come
Injuns had better scat!
Step up there, little Fred,
And, Charley, have a mind!
Jim is as far ahead
As you two are behind!
Ready with gun and sword
Your valorous work to do –
Yonder the Injun horde
Are lying in wait for you.
And their hearts go pitapat
When they hear the soldiers come
With a r-r-rat-tat-tat
And a tum-titty-um-tum-tum!
Course it’s all in play!
The skulking Injun crew
That hustled the kite away
Are little white boys, like you!
But ‘honest’ or ‘just in fun,’
It is all the same to me;
And, when the battle is won,
Home once again march we
With a r-r-rat-tat-tat
And there’s glory enough in that
For the boys with their little red drum!
Seek not, Leuconoee, to know how long you’re going to live yet,
What boons the gods will yet withhold, or what they’re going to give yet;
For Jupiter will have his way, despite how much we worry,–
Some will hang on for many a day, and some die in a hurry.
The wisest thing for you to do is to embark this diem
Upon a merry escapade with some such bard as I am.
And while we sport I’ll reel you off such odes as shall surprise ye;
To-morrow, when the headache comes,–well, then I’ll satirize ye!
My harp is on the willow-tree,
Else would I sing, O love, to thee
A song of long-ago–
Perchance the song that Miriam sung
Ere yet Judea’s heart was wrung
By centuries of woe.
I ate my crust in tears to-day,
As scourged I went upon my way–
And yet my darling smiled;
Ay, beating at my breast, he laughed–
My anguish curdled not the draught–
‘T was sweet with love, my child!
The shadow of the centuries lies
Deep in thy dark and mournful eyes–
But, hush! and close them now;
And in the dreams that thou shalt dream
The light of other days shall seem
To glorify thy brow!
Our harp is on the willow-tree–
I have no song to sing to thee,
As shadows round us roll;
But, hush and sleep, and thou shalt hear
Jehovah’s voice that speaks to cheer
Judea’s fainting soul!
To-day I strayed in Charing Cross as wretched as could be
With thinking of my home and friends across the tumbling sea;
There was no water in my eyes, but my spirits were depressed
And my heart lay like a sodden, soggy doughnut in my breast.
This way and that streamed multitudes, that gayly passed me by–
Not one in all the crowd knew me and not a one knew I!
‘Oh, for a touch of home!’ I sighed; ‘oh, for a friendly face!
Oh, for a hearty handclasp in this teeming desert place!’
And so, soliloquizing as a homesick creature will,
Incontinent, I wandered down the noisy, bustling hill
And drifted, automatic-like and vaguely, into Lowe’s,
Where Fortune had in store a panacea for my woes.
The register was open, and there dawned upon my sight
A name that filled and thrilled me with a cyclone of delight–
The name that I shall venerate unto my dying day–
The proud, immortal signature: ‘John Smith, U.S.A.’
Wildly I clutched the register and brooded on that name–
I knew John Smith, yet could not well identify the same.
I knew him North, I knew him South, I knew him East and West–
I knew him all so well I knew not which I knew the best.
His eyes, I recollect, were gray, and black, and brown, and blue,
And, when he was not bald, his hair was of chameleon hue;
Lean, fat, tall, short, rich, poor, grave, gay, a blonde and a brunette–
Aha, amid this London fog, John Smith, I see you yet;
I see you yet, and yet the sight is all so blurred I seem
To see you in composite, or as in a waking dream,
Which are you, John? I’d like to know, that I might weave a rhyme
Appropriate to your character, your politics and clime;
So tell me, were you ‘raised’ or ‘reared’–your pedigree confess
In some such treacherous ism as ‘I reckon’ or ‘I guess’;
Let fall your tell-tale dialect, that instantly I may
Identify my countryman, ‘John Smith, U.S.A.’
It’s like as not you are the John that lived a spell ago
Down East, where codfish, beans ‘nd bona-fide school-marms grow;
Where the dear old homestead nestles like among the Hampshire hills
And where the robin hops about the cherry boughs and trills;
Where Hubbard squash ‘nd huckleberries grow to powerful size,
And everything is orthodox from preachers down to pies;
Where the red-wing blackbirds swing ‘nd call beside the pickril pond,
And the crows air cawin’ in the pines uv the pasture lot beyond;
Where folks complain uv bein’ poor, because their money’s lent
Out West on farms ‘nd railroads at the rate uv ten per cent;
Where we ust to spark the Baker girls a-comin’ home from choir,
Or a-settin’ namin’ apples round the roarin’ kitchen fire:
Where we had to go to meetin’ at least three times a week,
And our mothers learnt us good religious Dr. Watts to speak,
And where our grandmas sleep their sleep–God rest their souls, I say!
And God bless yours, ef you’re that John, ‘John Smith, U.S.A.’
Or, mebbe, Colonel Smith, yo’ are the gentleman I know
In the country whar the finest democrats ‘nd horses grow;
Whar the ladies are all beautiful an’ whar the crap of cawn
Is utilized for Bourbon and true dawters are bawn;
You’ve ren for jedge, and killed yore man, and bet on Proctor Knott–
Yore heart is full of chivalry, yore skin is full of shot;
And I disremember whar I’ve met with gentlemen so true
As yo’ all in Kaintucky, whar blood an’ grass are blue;
Whar a niggah with a ballot is the signal fo’ a fight,
Whar a yaller dawg pursues the coon throughout the bammy night;
Whar blooms the furtive ‘possum–pride an’ glory of the South–
And Aunty makes a hoe-cake, sah, that melts within yo’ mouth!
Whar, all night long, the mockin’-birds are warblin’ in the trees
And black-eyed Susans nod and blink at every passing breeze,
Whar in a hallowed soil repose the ashes of our Clay–
Hyar’s lookin’ at yo’, Colonel ‘John Smith, U.S.A.’!
Or wuz you that John Smith I knew out yonder in the West–
That part of our republic I shall always love the best?
Wuz you him that went prospectin’ in the spring of sixty-nine
In the Red Hoss mountain country for the Gosh-All-Hemlock Mine?
Oh, how I’d like to clasp your hand an’ set down by your side
And talk about the good old days beyond the big divide;
Of the rackaboar, the snaix, the bear, the Rocky Mountain goat,
Of the conversazzhyony ‘nd of Casey’s tabble-dote,
And a word of them old pardners that stood by us long ago
(Three-Fingered Hoover, Sorry Tom and Parson Jim, you know)!
Old times, old friends, John Smith, would make our hearts beat high again,
And we’d see the snow-top mountain like we used to see ’em then;
The magpies would go flutterin’ like strange sperrits to ‘nd fro,
And we’d hear the pines a-singing’ in the ragged gulch below;
And the mountain brook would loiter like upon its windin’ way,
Ez if it waited for a child to jine it in its play.
You see, John Smith, just which you are I cannot well recall,
And, really, I am pleased to think you somehow must be all!
For when a man sojourns abroad awhile (as I have done)
He likes to think of all the folks he left at home as one–
And so they are! For well you know there’s nothing in a name—
Our Browns, our Joneses and our Smiths are happily the same;
All represent the spirit of the land across the sea,
All stand for one high purpose in our country of the free!
Whether John Smith be from the South, the North, the West, the East–
So long as he’s American, it mattereth not the least;
Whether his crest be badger, bear, palmetto, sword or pine,
He is the glory of the stars that with the stripes combine!
Where’er he be, whate’er his lot, he’s eager to be known,
Not by his mortal name, but by his country’s name alone!
And so, compatriot, I am proud you wrote your name to-day
Upon the register at Lowe’s, ‘John Smith, U.S.A.’
A Christmas Wish
I’d like a stocking made for a giant,
And a meeting house full of toys,
Then I’d go out in a happy hunt
For the poor little girls and boys;
Up the street and down the street,
And across and over the town,
I’d search and find them everyone,
Before the sun went down
Venus, dear Cnidian-Paphian queen!
Desert that Cyprus way off yonder,
And fare you hence, where with incense
My Glycera would have you fonder;
And to your joy bring hence your boy,
The Graces with unbelted laughter,
The Nymphs, and Youth,–then, then, in sooth,
Should Mercury come tagging after.
To Mother Venus
O mother Venus, quit, I pray,
Your violent assailing!
The arts, forsooth, that fired my youth
At last are unavailing;
My blood runs cold, I’m getting old,
And all my powers are failing.
Speed thou upon thy white swans’ wings,
And elsewhere deign to mellow
With thy soft arts the anguished hearts
Of swains that writhe and bellow;
And right away seek out, I pray,
Young Paullus,–he’s your fellow!
You’ll find young Paullus passing fair,
Modest, refined, and tony;
Go, now, incite the favored wight!
With Venus for a crony
He’ll outshine all at feast and ball
Then shall that godlike nose of thine
With perfumes be requited,
And then shall prance in Salian dance
The girls and boys delighted,
And while the lute blends with the flute
Shall tender loves be plighted.
But as for me, as you can see,
I’m getting old and spiteful.
I have no mind to female kind,
That once I deemed delightful;
No more brim up the festive cup
That sent me home at night full.
Why do I falter in my speech,
O cruel Ligurine?
Why do I chase from place to place
In weather wet and shiny?
Why down my nose forever flows
The tear that’s cold and briny?
To Mary Field French
A dying mother gave to you
Her child a many years ago;
How in your gracious love he grew,
You know, dear, patient heart, you know.
The mother’s child you fostered then
Salutes you now and bids you take
These little children of his pen
And love them for the author’s sake.
To you I dedicate this book,
And, as you read it line by line,
Upon its faults as kindly look
As you have always looked on mine.
Tardy the offering is and weak;–
Yet were I happy if I knew
These children had the power to speak
My love and gratitude to you.
Than you, O valued friend of mine,
A better patron non est!
Come, quaff my home-made Sabine wine,–
You’ll find it poor but honest.
I put it up that famous day
You patronized the ballet,
And the public cheered you such a way
As shook your native valley.
Caecuban and the Calean brand
May elsewhere claim attention;
But I have none of these on hand,–
For reasons I’ll not mention.
So, come! though favors I bestow
Cannot be called extensive,
Who better than my friend should know
That they’re at least expensive?
When, Lydia, you (once fond and true,
But now grown cold and supercilious)
Praise Telly’s charms of neck and arms–
Well, by the dog! it makes me bilious!
Then with despite my cheeks wax white,
My doddering brain gets weak and giddy,
My eyes o’erflow with tears which show
That passion melts my vitals, Liddy!
Deny, false jade, your escapade,
And, lo! your wounded shoulders show it!
No manly spark left such a mark–
Leastwise he surely was no poet!
With savage buss did Telephus
Abraid your lips, so plump and mellow;
As you would save what Venus gave,
I charge you shun that awkward fellow!
And now I say thrice happy they
That call on Hymen to requite ’em;
For, though love cools, the wedded fools
Must cleave till death doth disunite ’em.
O Cruel fair,
Whose flowing hair
The envy and the pride of all is,
As onward roll
The years, that poll
Will get as bald as a billiard ball is;
Then shall your skin, now pink and dimply,
Be tanned to parchment, sear and pimply!
When you behold
Yourself grown old,
These words shall speak your spirits moody:
What heaps of fun
I’ve missed by being goody-goody!
Oh, that I might have felt the hunger
Of loveless age when I was younger!’