Robert William Service |
Let us have birthdays every day,
(I had the thought while I was shaving)
Because a birthday should be gay,
And full of grace and good behaving.
We can't have cakes and candles bright,
And presents are beyond our giving,
But let lt us cherish with delight
The birthday way of lovely living.
For I have passed three-score and ten
And I can count upon my fingers
The years I hope to bide with men,
(Though by God's grace one often lingers.
So in the summers left to me,
Because I'm blest beyond my merit,
I hope with gratitude and glee
To sparkle with the birthday spirit.
Let me inform myself each day
Who's proudmost on the natal roster;
If Washington or Henry Clay,
Or Eugene Field or Stephen Foster.
oh lots of famous folks I'll find
Who more than measure to my rating,
And so thanksgivingly inclined
Their birthdays I'll be celebrating.
For Oh I know the cheery glow|
Of Anniversary rejoicing;
Let me reflect its radiance so
My daily gladness I'll be voicing.
And though I'm stooped and silver-haired,
Let me with laughter make the hearth gay,
So by the gods I may be spared
Each year to hear: "Pop, Happy Birthday.
Robert William Service |
I like to think that when I fall,
A rain-drop in Death's shoreless sea,
This shelf of books along the wall,
Beside my bed, will mourn for me.
Aye, my taste is queer.
Some of my bards you may disdain.
Shakespeare and Milton are not here;
Shelly and Keats you seek in vain.
Wordsworth, Tennyson, Browning too,
Remarkably are not in view.
Who are they? Omar first you see,
With Vine and Rose and Nightingale,
Voicing my pet philosphy
Of Wine and Song.
Then Reading Gaol,
Where Fate a gruesome pattern makes,
And dawn-light shudders as it wakes.
The Ancient Mariner is next,
With eerie and terrific text;
The Burns, with pawky human touch -
Poor devil! I have loved him much.
And now a gay quartette behold:
Bret Harte and Eugene Field are here;
And Henly, chanting brave and bold,
And Chesteron, in praise of Beer.
Lastly come valiant Singers three;
To whom this strident Day belongs:
Kipling, to whom I bow the knee,
Masefield, with rugged sailor songs.
And to my lyric troupe I add
With greatful heart - The Shropshire Lad.
Behold my minstrels, just eleven.
For half my life I've loved them well.
And though I have no hope of Heaven,
And more than Highland fear of Hell,
May I be damned if on this shelf
ye find a rhyme I made myself.
Eugene Field |
I'd not complain of Sister Jane, for she was good and kind,
Combining with rare comeliness distinctive gifts of mind;
Nay, I'll admit it were most fit that, worn by social cares,
She'd crave a change from parlor life to that below the stairs,
And that, eschewing needlework and music, she should take
Herself to the substantial art of manufacturing cake.
At breakfast, then, it would befall that Sister Jane would say:
"Mother, if you have got the things, I'll make some cake to-day!"
Poor mother'd cast a timid glance at father, like as not--
For father hinted sister's cooking cost a frightful lot--
But neither she nor he presumed to signify dissent,
Accepting it for gospel truth that what she wanted went!
No matter what the rest of 'em might chance to have in hand,
The whole machinery of the house came to a sudden stand;
The pots were hustled off the stove, the fire built up anew,
With every damper set just so to heat the oven through;
The kitchen-table was relieved of everything, to make
That ample space which Jane required when she compounded cake.
And, oh! the bustling here and there, the flying to and fro;
The click of forks that whipped the eggs to lather white as snow--
And what a wealth of sugar melted swiftly out of sight--
And butter? Mother said such waste would ruin father, quite!
But Sister Jane preserved a mien no pleading could confound
As she utilized the raisins and the citron by the pound.
Oh, hours of chaos, tumult, heat, vexatious din, and whirl!
Of deep humiliation for the sullen hired-girl;
Of grief for mother, hating to see things wasted so,
And of fortune for that little boy who pined to taste that dough!
It looked so sweet and yellow--sure, to taste it were no sin--
But, oh! how sister scolded if he stuck his finger in!
The chances were as ten to one, before the job was through,
That sister'd think of something else she'd great deal rather do!
So, then, she'd softly steal away, as Arabs in the night,
Leaving the girl and ma to finish up as best they might;
These tactics (artful Sister Jane) enabled her to take
Or shift the credit or the blame of that too-treacherous cake!
And yet, unhappy is the man who has no Sister Jane--
For he who has no sister seems to me to live in vain.
I never had a sister--may be that is why today
I'm wizened and dyspeptic, instead of blithe and gay;
A boy who's only forty should be full of romp and mirth,
But I (because I'm sisterless) am the oldest man on earth!
Had I a little sister--oh, how happy I should be!
I'd never let her cast her eyes on any chap but me;
I'd love her and I'd cherish her for better and for worse--
I'd buy her gowns and bonnets, and sing her praise in verse;
And--yes, what's more and vastly more--I tell you what I'd do:
I'd let her make her wondrous cake, and I would eat it, too!
I have a high opinion of the sisters, as you see--
Another fellow's sister is so very dear to me!
I love to work anear her when she's making over frocks,
When she patches little trousers or darns prosaic socks;
But I draw the line at one thing--yes, I don my hat and take
A three hours' walk when she is moved to try her hand at cake!
Eugene Field |
Prudence Mears hath an old blue plate
Hid away in an oaken chest,
And a Franklin platter of ancient date
Beareth Amandy Baker's crest;
What times soever I've been their guest,
Says I to myself in an undertone:
"Of womenfolk, it must be confessed,
These do I love, and these alone.
Well, again, in the Nutmeg State,
Dorothy Pratt is richly blest
With a relic of art and a land effete--
A pitcher of glass that's cut, not pressed.
And a Washington teapot is possessed
Down in Pelham by Marthy Stone--
Think ye now that I say in jest
"These do I love, and these alone?"
Were Hepsy Higgins inclined to mate,
Or Dorcas Eastman prone to invest
In Cupid's bonds, they could find their fate
In the bootless bard of Crockery Quest.
For they've heaps of trumpery--so have the rest
Of those spinsters whose ware I'd like to own;
You can see why I say with such certain zest,
"These do I love, and these alone.
Eugene Field |
When in the halcyon days of old, I was a little tyke,
I used to fish in pickerel ponds for minnows and the like;
And oh, the bitter sadness with which my soul was fraught
When I rambled home at nightfall with the puny string I'd caught!
And, oh, the indignation and the valor I'd display
When I claimed that all the biggest fish I'd caught had got away!
Sometimes it was the rusty hooks, sometimes the fragile lines,
And many times the treacherous reeds would foil my just designs;
But whether hooks or lines or reeds were actually to blame,
I kept right on at losing all the monsters just the same--
I never lost a little fish--yes, I am free to say
It always was the biggest fish I caught that got away.
And so it was, when later on, I felt ambition pass
From callow minnow joys to nobler greed for pike and bass;
I found it quite convenient, when the beauties wouldn't bite
And I returned all bootless from the watery chase at night,
To feign a cheery aspect and recount in accents gay
How the biggest fish that I had caught had somehow got away.
And really, fish look bigger than they are before they are before they're
When the pole is bent into a bow and the slender line is taut,
When a fellow feels his heart rise up like a doughnut in his throat
And he lunges in a frenzy up and down the leaky boat!
Oh, you who've been a-fishing will indorse me when I say
That it always is the biggest fish you catch that gets away!
'T 'is even so in other things--yes, in our greedy eyes
The biggest boon is some elusive, never-captured prize;
We angle for the honors and the sweets of human life--
Like fishermen we brave the seas that roll in endless strife;
And then at last, when all is done and we are spent and gray,
We own the biggest fish we've caught are those that got away.
I would not have it otherwise; 't is better there should be
Much bigger fish than I have caught a-swimming in the sea;
For now some worthier one than I may angle for that game--
May by his arts entice, entrap, and comprehend the same;
Which, having done, perchance he'll bless the man who's proud to say
That the biggest fish he ever caught were those that got away.
Eugene Field |
The little French doll was a dear little doll
Tricked out in the sweetest of dresses;
Her eyes were of hue
A most delicate blue
And dark as the night were her tresses;
Her dear little mouth was fluted and red,
And this little French doll was so very well bred
That whenever accosted her little mouth said
The stockinet doll, with one arm and one leg,
Had once been a handsome young fellow;
But now he appeared
Rather frowzy and bleared
In his torn regimentals of yellow;
Yet his heart gave a curious thump as he lay
In the little toy cart near the window one day
And heard the sweet voice of that French dolly say:
He listened so long and he listened so hard
That anon he grew ever so tender,
For it's everywhere known
That the feminine tone
Gets away with all masculine gender!
He up and he wooed her with soldierly zest
But all she'd reply to the love he professed
Were these plaintive words (which perhaps you have guessed):
Her mother - a sweet little lady of five -
Vouchsafed her parental protection,
And although stockinet
Wasn't blue-blooded, yet
She really could make no objection!
So soldier and dolly were wedded one day,
And a moment ago, as I journeyed that way,
I'm sure that I heard a wee baby voice say:
Eugene Field |
Thar showed up out'n Denver in the spring uv '81
A man who'd worked with Dana on the Noo York Sun.
His name wuz Cantell Whoppers, 'nd he wuz a sight ter view
Ez he walked inter the orfice 'nd inquired fer work ter do.
Thar warn't no places vacant then,--fer be it understood,
That wuz the time when talent flourished at that altitood;
But thar the stranger lingered, tellin' Raymond 'nd the rest
Uv what perdigious wonders he could do when at his best,
Till finally he stated (quite by chance) that he hed done
A heap uv work with Dana on the Noo York Sun.
Wall, that wuz quite another thing; we owned that ary cuss
Who'd worked f'r Mr.
Dana must be good enough fer us!
And so we tuk the stranger's word 'nd nipped him while we could,
For if we didn't take him we knew John Arkins would;
And Cooper, too, wuz mouzin' round fer enterprise 'nd brains,
Whenever them commodities blew in across the plains.
At any rate we nailed him, which made ol' Cooper swear
And Arkins tear out handfuls uv his copious curly hair;
But we set back and cackled, 'nd bed a power uv fun
With our man who'd worked with Dana on the Noo York Sun.
It made our eyes hang on our cheeks 'nd lower jaws ter drop,
Ter hear that feller tellin' how ol' Dana run his shop:
It seems that Dana wuz the biggest man you ever saw,--
He lived on human bein's, 'nd preferred to eat 'em raw!
If he hed Democratic drugs ter take, before he took 'em,
As good old allopathic laws prescribe, he allus shook 'em.
The man that could set down 'nd write like Dany never grew,
And the sum of human knowledge wuzn't half what Dana knew;
The consequence appeared to be that nearly every one
Concurred with Mr.
Dana of the Noo York Sun.
This feller, Cantell Whoppers, never brought an item in,--
He spent his time at Perrin's shakin' poker dice f'r gin.
Whatever the assignment, he wuz allus sure to shirk,
He wuz very long on likker and all-fired short on work!
If any other cuss had played the tricks he dared ter play,
The daisies would be bloomin' over his remains to-day;
But somehow folks respected him and stood him to the last,
Considerin' his superior connections in the past.
So, when he bilked at poker, not a sucker drew a gun
On the man who 'd worked with Dana on the Noo York Sun.
Wall, Dana came ter Denver in the fall uv '83.
A very different party from the man we thought ter see,--
A nice 'nd clean old gentleman, so dignerfied 'nd calm,
You bet yer life he never did no human bein' harm!
A certain hearty manner 'nd a fulness uv the vest
Betokened that his sperrits 'nd his victuals wuz the best;
His face wuz so benevolent, his smile so sweet 'nd kind,
That they seemed to be the reflex uv an honest, healthy mind;
And God had set upon his head a crown uv silver hair
In promise uv the golden crown He meaneth him to wear.
So, uv us boys that met him out'n Denver, there wuz none
But fell in love with Dana uv the Noo York Sun.
But when he came to Denver in that fall uv '83,
His old friend Cantell Whoppers disappeared upon a spree;
The very thought uv seein' Dana worked upon him so
(They hadn't been together fer a year or two, you know),
That he borrered all the stuff he could and started on a bat,
And, strange as it may seem, we didn't see him after that.
So, when ol' Dana hove in sight, we couldn't understand
Why he didn't seem to notice that his crony wa'n't on hand;
No casual allusion, not a question, no, not one,
For the man who'd "worked with Dana on the Noo York Sun!"
We broke it gently to him, but he didn't seem surprised,
Thar wuz no big burst uv passion as we fellers had surmised.
He said that Whoppers wuz a man he 'd never heerd about,
But he mought have carried papers on a Jarsey City route;
And then he recollected hearin' Mr.
That he'd fired a man named Whoppers fur bein' drunk one day,
Which, with more likker underneath than money in his vest,
Had started on a freight-train fur the great 'nd boundin' West,
But further information or statistics he had none
Uv the man who'd "worked with Dana on the Noo York Sun.
We dropped the matter quietly 'nd never made no fuss,--
When we get played for suckers, why, that's a horse on us!--
But every now 'nd then we Denver fellers have to laff
To hear some other paper boast uv havin' on its staff
A man who's "worked with Dana," 'nd then we fellers wink
And pull our hats down on our eyes 'nd set around 'nd think.
It seems like Dana couldn't be as smart as people say,
If he educates so many folks 'nd lets 'em get away;
And, as for us, in future we'll be very apt to shun
The man who "worked with Dana on the Noo York Sun.
But bless ye, Mr.
Dana! may you live a thousan' years,
To sort o' keep things lively in this vale of human tears;
An' may I live a thousan', too,--a thousan' less a day,
For I shouldn't like to be on earth to hear you'd passed away.
And when it comes your time to go you'll need no Latin chaff
Nor biographic data put in your epitaph;
But one straight line of English and of truth will let folks know
The homage 'nd the gratitude 'nd reverence they owe;
You'll need no epitaph but this: "Here sleeps the man who run
That best 'nd brightest paper, the Noo York Sun.
Eugene Field |
(A BALLAD IN THE ANGLO-SAXON TONGUE)
When to the dreary greenwood gloam
Winfreda's husband strode that day,
The fair Winfreda bode at home
To toil the weary time away;
"While thou art gone to hunt," said she,
"I'll brew a goodly sop for thee.
Lo, from a further, gloomy wood,
A hungry wolf all bristling hied
And on the cottage threshold stood
And saw the dame at work inside;
And, as he saw the pleasing sight,
He licked his fangs so sharp and white.
Now when Winfreda saw the beast,
Straight at the grinning wolf she ran,
And, not affrighted in the least,
She hit him with her cooking pan,
And as she thwacked him on the head--
"Scat! scat!" the fair Winfreda said.
The hills gave answer to their din--
The brook in fear beheld the sight.
And all that bloody field within
Wore token of Winfreda's might.
The wolf was very loath to stay--
But, oh! he could not get away.
Winfreda swept him o'er the wold
And choked him till his gums were blue,
And till, beneath her iron hold,
His tongue hung out a yard or two,
And with his hair the riven ground
Was strewn for many leagues around.
They fought a weary time that day,
And seas of purple blood were shed,
Till by Winfreda's cunning lay
That awful wolf all limp and dead;
Winfreda saw him reel and drop--
Then back she went to brewing sop.
So when the husband came at night
From bootless chase, cold, gaunt, and grim,
Great was that Saxon lord's delight
To find the sop dished up for him;
And as he ate, Winfreda told
How she had laid the wolf out cold.
The good Winfreda of those days
Is only "pretty Birdie" now--
Sickly her soul and weak her ways--
And she, to whom we Saxons bow,
Leaps on a bench and screams with fright
If but a mouse creeps into sight.
Eugene Field |
Have you ever heard of the Sugar-Plum Tree?
'T is a marvel of great renown!
It blooms on the shore of the Lollipop sea
In the garden of Shut-Eye Town;
The fruit that it bears is so wondrously sweet
(As those who have tasted it say)
That good little children have only to eat
Of that fruit to be happy next day.
When you 've got to the tree, you would have a hard time
To capture the fruit which I sing;
The tree is so tall that no person could climb
To the boughs where the sugar-plums swing!
But up in that tree sits a chocolate cat,
And a gingerbread dog prowls below---
And this is the way you contrive to get at
Those sugar-plums tempting you so:
You say but the word to that gingerbread dog
And he barks with such terrible zest
That the chocolate cat is at once all agog,
As her swelling proportions attest.
And the chocolate cat goes cavorting around
From this leafy limb unto that,
And the sugar-plums tumble, of course, to the ground---
Hurrah for that chocolate cat!
There are marshmallows, gumdrops, and peppermint canes,
With stripings of scarlet or gold,
And you carry away of the treasure that rains
As much as your apron can hold!
So come, little child, cuddle closer to me
In your dainty white nightcap and gown,
And I 'll rock you away to that Sugar-Plum Tree
In the garden of Shut-Eye Town.
Eugene Field |
Full many a sinful notion
Conceived of foreign powers
Has come across the ocean
To harm this land of ours;
And heresies called fashions
Have modesty effaced,
And baleful, morbid passions
Corrupt our native taste.
O tempora! O mores!
What profanations these
That seek to dim the glories
Of apple-pie and cheese!
I'm glad my education
Enables me to stand
Against the vile temptation
Held out on every hand;
Eschewing all the tittles
With vanity replete,
I'm loyal to the victuals
Our grandsires used to eat!
I'm glad I've got three willing boys
To hang around and tease
Their mother for the filling joys
Of apple-pie and cheese!
Your flavored creams and ices
And your dainty angel-food
Are mighty fine devices
To regale the dainty dude;
Your terrapin and oysters,
With wine to wash 'em down,
Are just the thing for roisters
When painting of the town;
No flippant, sugared notion
Shall my appetite appease,
Or bate my soul's devotion
To apple-pie and cheese!
The pie my Julia makes me
(God bless her Yankee ways!)
On memory's pinions takes me
To dear Green Mountain days;
And seems like I see Mother
Lean on the window-sill,
A-handin' me and brother
What she knows 'll keep us still;
And these feelings are so grateful,
Says I, "Julia, if you please,
I'll take another plateful
Of that apple-pie and cheese!"
And cheese! No alien it, sir,
That's brought across the sea,--
No Dutch antique, nor Switzer,
Nor glutinous de Brie;
There's nothing I abhor so
As mawmets of this ilk--
Give me the harmless morceau
That's made of true-blue milk!
No matter what conditions
Dyspeptic come to feaze,
The best of all physicians
Is apple-pie and cheese!
Though ribalds may decry 'em,
For these twin boons we stand,
Partaking thrice per diem
Of their fulness out of hand;
No enervating fashion
Shall cheat us of our right
To gratify our passion
With a mouthful at a bite!
We'll cut it square or bias,
Or any way we please,
And faith shall justify us
When we carve our pie and cheese!
De gustibus, 't is stated,
Non disputandum est.
Which meaneth, when translated,
That all is for the best.
So let the foolish choose 'em
The vapid sweets of sin,
I will not disabuse 'em
Of the heresy they're in;
But I, when I undress me
Each night, upon my knees
Will ask the Lord to bless me
With apple-pie and cheese!