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Eugene Field

1850–1895

Eugene Field was born in St. Louis, Missouri, on September 2, 1850. His father was Roswell Martin Field, an attorney who once represented Dred Scott, an African American man known for the 1857 U. S. Supreme Court case in which he sued for his freedom. Many believe the denial of Scott's bid by the court prompted the U. S. Civil War. After Field's mother, Frances, died in 1856, he and his brother, Roswell, were sent to Amherst, Massachusetts, to live with Mary Field, their aunt. 

Field attended Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts; Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois; and the University of Missouri in Columbia, but left without graduating. In 1873 he began working at the St. Louis Journal. His humorous column "Funny Fancies" gained popularity among readers and in 1880, he moved to Denver, Colorado, where he worked as managing editor of the Denver Tribune and continued to pen a column. According to the Denver Public Library, "Eugene was known throughout Denver for his practical jokes. His office at the Denver Tribune included a chair with a false bottom. An unsuspecting person would attempt to sit in the chair and fall to the floor instead."

In 1883, Field moved to Chicago, Illinois, to write a column for the Chicago Daily News. Throughout his career, his columns would occasionally feature his light verse for children, and he became known as the "Poet of Childhood." His poems were published in collections including The Tribune Primer (Henry A. Dickerman & Son, 1900) and A Little Book of Western Verse (Charles Scribner's Sons, 1903). 

Field died on November 4, 1895, in Chicago, Illinois. 

By This Poet

9

Japanese Lullaby

Sleep, little pigeon, and fold your wings,—
Little blue pigeon with velvet eyes;
Sleep to the singing of mother-bird swinging—
Swinging the nest where her little one lies.

Away out yonder I see a star,—
Silvery star with a tinkling song;
To the soft dew falling I hear it calling—
Calling and tinkling the night along.

In through the window a moonbeam comes,—
Little gold moonbeam with misty wings;
All silently creeping, it asks, "Is he sleeping—
Sleeping and dreaming while mother sings?"

Up from the sea there floats the sob
Of the waves that are breaking upon the shore,
As though they were groaning in anguish, and moaning—
Bemoaning the ship that shall come no more.

But sleep, little pigeon, and fold your wings,—
Little blue pigeon with mournful eyes;
Am I not singing?—see, I am swinging—
Swinging the nest where my darling lies. 

The Bibilomaniac's Prayer

Keep me, I pray, in wisdom's way
  That I may truths eternal seek;
I need protecting care to-day,—
  My purse is light, my flesh is weak.
So banish from my erring heart
  All baleful appetites and hints
Of Satan's fascinating art,
  Of first editions, and of prints.
Direct me in some godly walk
  Which leads away from bookish strife,
That I with pious deed and talk
  May extra-illustrate my life.

But if, O Lord, it pleaseth Thee
  To keep me in temptation's way,
I humbly ask that I may be
  Most notably beset to-day;
Let my temptation be a book,
  Which I shall purchase, hold, and keep,
Whereon when other men shall look,
  They'll wail to know I got it cheap.
Oh, let it such a volume be
  As in rare copperplates abounds,
Large paper, clean, and fair to see,
  Uncut, unique, unknown to Lowndes.

The Little Peach

A little peach in the orchard grew,—
A little peach of emerald hue;
Warmed by the sun and wet by the dew,
          It grew.
One day, passing that orchard through,
That little peach dawned on the view
Of Johnny Jones and his sister Sue—
          Them two.
Up at that peach a club they threw—
Down from the stem on which it grew
Fell that peach of emerald hue.
          Mon Dieu!
John took a bite and Sue a chew,
And then the trouble began to brew,—
Trouble the doctor couldn't subdue.
          Too true!
Under the turf where the daisies grew
They planted John and his sister Sue,
And their little souls to the angels flew,—
          Boo hoo!
What of that peach of the emerald hue,
Warmed by the sun, and wet by the dew?
Ah, well, its mission on earth is through.
          Adieu!