By Eugene Field
(1850 - 1895)
 
 
Dibdin’s Ghost
 
 
DEAR wife, last midnight, whilst I read
  The tomes you so despise,
A spectre rose beside the bed,
  And spake in this true wise:
“From Canaan’s beatific coast
  I ’ve come to visit thee,
For I am Frognall Dibdin’s ghost,”
  Says Dibdin’s ghost to me.
 
I bade him welcome, and we twain
  Discussed with buoyant hearts
The various things that appertain
  To bibliomaniac arts.
“Since you are fresh from t’other side,
  Pray tell me of that host
That treasured books before they died,”
  Says I to Dibdin’s ghost.
 
“They ’ve entered into perfect rest;
  For in the life they ’ve won
There are no auctions to molest,
  No creditors to dun.
Their heavenly rapture has no bounds
  Beside that jasper sea;
It is a joy unknown to Lowndes,”
  Says Dibdin’s ghost to me.
 
Much I rejoiced to hear him speak
  Of biblio-bliss above,
For I am one of those who seek
  What bibliomaniacs love.
“But tell me, for I long to hear
  What doth concern me most,
Are wives admitted to that sphere?”
  Says I to Dibdin’s ghost.
 
“The women folk are few up there;
  For ’t were not fair, you know,
That they our heavenly joy should share
  Who vex us here below.
The few are those who have been kind
  To husbands such as we;
They knew our fads, and did n’t mind,”
  Says Dibdin’s ghost to me.
 
“But what of those who scold at us
  When we would read in bed?
Or, wanting victuals, make a fuss
  If we buy books instead?
And what of those who ’ve dusted not
  Our motley pride and boast,—
Shall they profane that sacred spot?”
  Says I to Dibdin’s ghost.
 
“Oh, no! they tread that other path,
  Which leads where torments roll,
And worms, yes, bookworms, vent their wrath
  Upon the guilty soul.
Untouched of bibliomaniac grace,
  That saveth such as we,
They wallow in that dreadful place,”
  Says Dibdin’s ghost to me.
 
“To my dear wife will I recite
  What things I ’ve heard you say;
She ’ll let me read the books by night
  She ’s let me buy by day.
For we together by and by
  Would join that heavenly host;
She ’s earned a rest as well as I,”
  Says I to Dibdin’s ghost.
 
 
Echoes from the Sabine Farm
 
 
TO THE FOUNTAIN OF BANDUSIA

O FOUNTAIN of Bandusia!
  Whence crystal waters flow,
With garlands gay and wine I ’ll pay
  The sacrifice I owe;
A sportive kid with budding horns
  I have, whose crimson blood
Anon shall dye and sanctify
  Thy cool and babbling flood.
 
O fountain of Bandusia!
  The Dog-star’s hateful spell
No evil brings into the springs
  That from thy bosom well;
Here oxen, wearied by the plow,
  The roving cattle here
Hasten in quest of certain rest,
  And quaff thy gracious cheer.
 
O fountain of Bandusia!
  Ennobled shalt thou be,
For I shall sing the joys that spring
  Beneath yon ilex-tree.
Yes, fountain of Bandusia,
  Posterity shall know
The cooling brooks that from thy nooks
  Singing and dancing go.
 
TO LEUCONÖE
I

WHAT end the gods may have ordained for me,
And what for thee,
  Seek not to learn, Leuconöe,—we may not know.
Chaldean tables cannot bring us rest.
’T is for the best
  To bear in patience what may come, or weal or woe.
 
If for more winters our poor lot is cast,
Or this the last,
  Which on the crumbling rocks has dashed Etruscan seas,
Strain clear the wine; this life is short, at best.
Take hope with zest,
  And, trusting not To-morrow, snatch To-day for ease!
 
TO LEUCONÖE
II

SEEK not, Leuconöe, 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!
 
 
Garden and Cradle
 
 
WHEN our babe he goeth walking in his garden,
  Around his tinkling feet the sunbeams play;
    The posies they are good to him,
    And bow them as they should to him,
  As fareth he upon his kingly way;
    And birdlings of the wood to him
  Make music, gentle music, all the day,
When our babe he goeth walking in his garden.
 
When our babe he goeth swinging in his cradle,
  Then the night it looketh ever sweetly down;
    The little stars are kind to him,
    The moon she hath a mind to him,
  And layeth on his head a golden crown;
    And singeth then the wind to him
  A song, the gentle song of Bethle’m town,
When our babe he goeth swinging in his cradle.
 
 
In the Firelight
 
 
THE FIRE upon the hearth is low,
  And there is stillness everywhere,
  And, like winged spirits, here and there
The firelight shadows fluttering go.
And as the shadows round me creep,
  A childish treble breaks the gloom,
  And softly from a further room
Comes: “Now I lay me down to sleep.”
 
And, somehow, with that little prayer
  And that sweet treble in my ears,
  My thought goes back to distant years,
And lingers with a dear one there;
And as I hear my child’s amen,
  My mother’s faith comes back to me,—
  Crouched at her side I seem to be,
And mother holds my hands again.
 
Oh for an hour in that dear place,
  Oh for the peace of that dear time,
  Oh for that childish trust sublime,
Oh for a glimpse of mother’s face!
Yet, as the shadows round me creep,
  I do not seem to be alone—
  Sweet magic of that treble tone
And “Now I lay me down to sleep!”
 
 
Little Boy Blue
 
 
THE LITTLE toy dog is covered with dust,
  But sturdy and stanch he stands;
And the little toy soldier is red with rust,
  And his musket moulds in his hands.
Time was when the little toy dog was new,
  And the soldier was passing fair;
And that was the time when our Little Boy Blue
  Kissed them and put them there.
 
“Now, don’t you go till I come,” he said,
  “And don’t you make any noise!”
So, toddling off to his trundle-bed,
  He dreamt of the pretty toys;
And, as he was dreaming, an angel song
  Awakened our Little Boy Blue—
Oh! the years are many, the years are long,
  But the little toy friends are true!
 
Ay, faithful to Little Boy Blue they stand,
  Each in the same old place,
A waiting the touch of a little hand,
  The smile of a little face;
And they wonder, as waiting the long years through
  In the dust of that little chair,
What has become of our Little Boy Blue,
  Since he kissed them and put them there.
 
 
Nightfall in Dordrecht
 
 
THE MILL goes toiling slowly around
  With steady and solemn creak,
And my little one hears in the kindly sound
  The voice of the old mill speak.
While round and round those big white wings
  Grimly and ghostlike creep,
My little one hears that the old mill sings
  “Sleep, little tulip, sleep!”
 
The sails are reefed and the nets are drawn,
  And, over his pot of beer,
The fisher, against the morrow’s dawn,
  Lustily maketh cheer.
He mocks at the winds that caper along
  From the far-off clamorous deep,—
But we—we love their lullaby song
  Of “Sleep, little tulip, sleep!”
 
Old dog Fritz in slumber sound
  Groans of the stony mart:
To-morrow how proudly he ’ll trot you round,
  Hitched to our new milk-cart!
And you shall help me blanket the kine
  And fold the gentle sheep,
And set the herring a-soak in brine,—
  But now, little tulip, sleep!
 
A Dream-One comes to button the eyes
  That wearily droop and blink,
While the old mill buffets the frowning skies
  And scolds at the stars that wink;
Over your face the misty wings
  Of that beautiful Dream-One sweep,
And rocking your cradle she softly sings
  “Sleep, little tulip, sleep!”
 
 
Our Two Opinions
 
 
US two wuz boys when we fell out,—
  Nigh to the age uv my youngest now;
Don’t rec’lect what ’t wuz about,
  Some small deeff’rence, I ’ll allow.
Lived next neighbors twenty years,
  A-hatin’ each other, me ’nd Jim,—
He havin’ his opinyin uv me,
  ’Nd I havin’ my opinyin uv him.
 
Grew up together ’nd would n’t speak,
  Courted sisters, ’nd marr’d ’em, too;
’Tended same meetin’-house oncet a week,
  A-hatin’ each other through ’nd through!
But when Abe Linkern asked the West
  F’r soldiers, we answered,—me ’nd Jim,—
He havin’ his opinyin uv me,
  ’Nd I havin’ my opinyin uv him.
 
But down in Tennessee one night
  Ther’ wuz sound uv firin’ fur away,
’Nd the sergeant allowed ther’ ’d be a fight
  With the Johnnie Rebs some time nex’ day;
’Nd as I wuz thinkin’ uv Lizzie ’nd home
  Jim stood afore me, long ’nd slim,—
He havin’ his opinyin uv me,
  ’Nd I havin’ my opinyin uv him.
 
Seemed like we knew there wuz goin’ to be
  Serious trouble f’r me ’nd him;
Us two shuck hands, did Jim ’nd me,
  But never a word from me or Jim!
He went his way ’nd I went mine,
  ’Nd into the battle’s roar went we,—
I havin’ my opinyin uv Jim,
  ’Nd he havin’ his opinyin uv me.
 
Jim never come back from the war again,
  But I hain’t forgot that last, last night
When, waitin’ f’r orders, us two men
  Made up ’nd shuck hands, afore the fight.
’Nd, after it all, it ’ssoothin’ to know
  That here I be ’nd yonder ’s Jim,—
He havin’ his opinyin uv me,
  ’Nd I havin’ my opinyin uv him.
 
 
The Bibliomaniac’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 Dinkey-Bird
 
 
IN an ocean, ’way out yonder
  (As all sapient people know,)
Is the land of Wonder-wander,
  Whither children love to go:
It ’s their playing, romping, swinging,
  That give great joy to me
While the Dinkey-Bird goes singing
  In the amfalula tree!
 
There the gum-drops grow like cherries,
  And taffy’s thick as peas,—
Caramels you pick like berries
  When, and where, and how you please;
Big red sugar-plums are clinging
  To the cliffs beside that sea
Where the Dinkey-Bird is singing
  In the amfalula tree.
 
So when children shout and scamper
  And make merry all the day,
When there ’s naught to put a damper
  To the ardor of their play;
When I hear their laughter ringing,
  Then I ’m sure as sure can be
That the Dinkey-Bird is singing
  In the amfalula tree.
 
For the Dinkey-Bird’s bravuras
  And staccatos are so sweet,—
His roulades, appoggiaturas,
  And robustos so complete,
That the youth of every nation—
  Be they near or far away—
Have especial delectation
  In that gladsome roundelay.
 
Their eyes grow bright and brighter,
  Their lungs begin to crow,
Their hearts get light and lighter,
  And their cheeks are all aglow;
For an echo cometh bringing
  The news to all and me,
That the Dinkey-Bird is singing
  In the amfalula tree.
 
I ’m sure you like to go there
  To see your feathered friend,—
And so many goodies grow there
  You would like to comprehend!
Speed, little dreams, your winging
  To that land across the sea
Where the Dinkey-Bird is singing
  In the amfalula tree!
 
 
The Lyttel Boy
 
 
SOME time there ben a lyttel boy
  That wolde not renne and play,
And helpless like that little tyke
  Ben allwais in the way.
“Goe, make you merrie with the rest,”
  His weary moder cried;
But with a frown he catcht her gown
  And hong untill her side.
 
That boy did love his moder well,
  Which spake him faire, I ween;
He loved to stand and hold her hand
  And ken her with his een;
His cosset bleated in the croft,
  His toys unheeded lay,—
He wolde not goe, but, tarrying soe,
  Ben allwais in the way.
 
Godde loveth children and doth gird
  His throne with soche as these,
And he doth smile in plaisaunce while
  They cluster at his knees;
And some time, when he looked on earth
  And watched the bairns at play,
He kenned with joy a lyttel boy
  Ben allwais in the way.
 
And then a moder felt her heart
  How that it ben to-torne,
She kissed eche day till she ben gray
  The shoon he use to worn;
No bairn let hold untill her gown
  Nor played upon the floore,—
Godde’s was the joy; a lyttel boy
  Ben in the way no more!
 
 
Wynken, Blynken, and Nod
 
 
WYNKEN, Blynken, and Nod one night
  Sailed off in a wooden shoe,—
Sailed on a river of crystal light
  Into a sea of dew.
“Where are you going, and what do you wish?”
  The old moon asked the three.
“We have come to fish for the herring-fish
  That live in this beautiful sea;
  Nets of silver and gold have we,”
        Said Wynken,
        Blynken,
        And Nod.
 
The old moon laughed and sang a song,
  As they rocked in the wooden shoe;
And the wind that sped them all night long
  Ruffled the waves of dew;
The little stars were the herring-fish
  That lived in the beautiful sea.
“Now cast your nets wherever you wish,
  Never afeard are we!”
  So cried the stars to the fishermen three,
        Wynken,
        Blynken,
        And Nod.
 
All night long their nets they threw
  To the stars in the twinkling foam,—
Then down from the skies came the wooden shoe,
  Bringing the fishermen home:
’T was all so pretty a sail, it seemed
  As if it could not be;
And some folk thought ’twas a dream they ’d dreamed
  Of sailing that beautiful sea;
  But I shall name you the fishermen three:
        Wynken,
        Blynken,
        And Nod.
 
Wynken and Blynken are two little eyes,
  And Nod is a little head,
And the wooden shoe that sailed the skies
  Is a wee one’s trundle-bed;
So shut your eyes while Mother sings
  Of wonderful sights that be,
And you shall see the beautiful things
  As you rock on the misty sea
  Where the old shoe rocked the fishermen three,—
        Wynken,
        Blynken,
        And Nod.
 
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