To begin ...

As the twentieth century fades out
the nineteenth begins
it is as if nothing happened
though those who lived it thought
that everything was happening
enough to name a world for & a time
to hold it in your hand
unlimited.......the last delusion
like the perfect mask of death

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Outsider Poems, A Mini-Anthology in Progress (12): Eugene Field, from The Complete Tribune Primer

Probably written 1881-83


The Man has a Baby. The Baby is Three weeks Old. Its Mamma Died two Years ago. Poor little Baby! Do you not Feel Sorry for It?


The Mud is in the Street. The Lady has on a pair of Red Stockings. She is Trying to Cross the Street. Let us all give Three cheers for the Mud.


This is a gun. Is the Gun loaded? Really, I do not know. Let us Find out. Put the Gun on the table, and you, Susie, blow down one barrel, while you, Charlie, blow down the other. Bang! Yes, it was loaded. Run quick, Jennie, and pick up Susie's head and Charlie's lower Jaw before the Nasty Blood gets over the New carpet.


Oh, how nice and Black the Coal-Hod is! Run, children, Run quick and put your Little Fat hands in it. Mercy me, your Hands are as Black as the Coal-Hod now! Hark! Mamma is Coming. She will spank you when she Finds your Hands so Dirty. Better go and Rub the Black Dirt off on the Wall Paper before she Comes.


The Rat is Gnawing at the Baby's Ear. The Baby is in the cradle, and is so Little it cannot Help itself. Oh, how Piteously it is Crying! The Rat does not care a Cent, and keeps Eating away at the Baby's Ear. When it gets this Ear eaten off it will Crawl over the Baby's neck and eat the other Ear. Where is the Baby's Mamma? She is Down in the Back Yard Talking over the fence to the neighbors about her New Dress. You must Tell your Mamma never to Leave you Alone in the Cradle, or a Rat may Eat off your Poor little Ears.


The Cat is Asleep on the Rug. Step on her Tail and See if she will Wake up. Oh, no; She will not wake. She is a heavy Sleeper. Perhaps if you Were to saw her Tail off with the Carving knife you might Attract hr attention. Suppose you try.


Oh, what a Bad Mamma to Leave Little Esther allAlone in the Dark Room. No wonder Esther is Crying. She is afraid a Big Bugaboo will come down the Chimney and Eat her up. Bugaboos like to Eat little Children. Did you ever see a Bugaboo with its Big Fire Eyes and Cold Teeth all over Blood? The next Time Mamma leaves you Alone in a Dark room, perhaps One will Come to Eat you.


The Well is very Dark and Deep. There is Nice Cool Water in the Well. If you Lean way Over the Side, maybe you will Fall in the Well and down in the Dear Water. We will Give you some Candy if you will Try. There is a Sweet Little Birdie in the bottom of the Well. Your Mamma would be Surprised to find you in the Well, would she not?


See the Wasp. He has pretty yellow Stripes around his Body, and a Darning Needle in his Tail. If you Will Pat the Wasp upon the Tail, we will Give You a Nice Picture Book.


This is an Hired girl. She has Something in her Hand. It is a Can, and there is Coal Oil inside. The Hired Girl is going to Light a Fire in the Kitchen Stove. She has been Disappointed in Love, and Desires to Die. She will Put some of the Oil in the Stove, and Light it with a Match. In about half a Minute she will be Twanging a Gold Harp among the Elect in Heaven.


Who is this Creature with Long Hair and a Wild Eye? He is a poet. He writes Poems on Spring and Women's Eyes and Strange, unreal Things of that Kind. He is always Wishing he was Dead, but he wouldn't Let anybody Kill him if he could Get away. A mighty good Sausage Stuffer was Spoiled when the Man became a Poet. He would Look well Standing under a Descending Pile Driver.


Here is a Sewing Machine. It was Made for little Children to Play with. Put your Feet on the Treadle and Make the Wheels go round Fast.See how the Thread unwinds and the Needle bobs up and down! This is Lots of Fun. Do not Deny baby the privilege of Putting his Fat little Finger under the Needle. It will Make pretty holes in the Finger and give Baby something to occupy his Attention for a Long time.


Here lies the body of Mary Ann,
Who rests in the bosom of Abraham.
It's all very nice for Mary Ann,
But it's mighty tough on Abraham.

EDITOR’S NOTE. Passed along to me by Alan Sondheim, together with other nineteenth-century possibilities. If I wasn’t able to use Field in Poems for the Millennium, volume three, Sondheim’s appraisal still sticks with me: “There is - and you must know this - Eugene Field as well, at the end of the 19th century - an odd anti-romantic. I've retyped several pieces and sent them to Poetics a while ago. They're from The Complete Tribune Primer, Boston, 1901 - the work is gathered from columns for the Denver Tribune around 1881. He wrote Winkyn, Blinkyn, and Nod. This work deserves a much wider audience.” Sondheim’s appraisal too with relation to the better known non/sense writings of Edward Lear: “Lear is everywhere - Field isn't and has much more of an edge.” (J.R.)


sroden said...

these are incredible! remind me a bit of robert walser, not in form at all, but in images. great stuff.

Henry Lawson Poems said...

Very visual, wonderfully written.