I fully intended to do a post on Eugene Field—the “Wynken, Blynken, and Nod” guy—because I had no idea he wrote adult stuff until a friend sent me a poem he did in fake Chaucerian English and I was forced to track down the rest of his stuff.
But I’m exhausted for all sorts of reasons—feel free to read back—and I’ve decided to postpone that post to share the poem that colored my dreams last night.
Like Wynken, Blynken, and Nod, it’s about friends and boating and pleasant things enjoyed with good friends. And it’s anti-snow, which has been a bonus in my book since late November.
A Dream Of Sunshine
I’m weary of this weather and I hanker for the ways
Which people read of in the psalms and preachers paraphrase—
The grassy fields, the leafy woods, the banks where I can lie
And listen to the music of the brook that flutters by,
Or, by the pond out yonder, hear the redwing blackbird’s call
Where he makes believe he has a nest, but hasn’t one at all;
And by my side should be a friend—a trusty, genial friend,
With plenteous store of tales galore and natural leaf to lend;
Oh, how I pine and hanker for the gracious boon of spring—
For then I’m going a-fishing with John Lyle King!
How like to pigmies will appear creation, as we float
Upon the bosom of the tide in a three-by-thirteen boat—
Forgotten all vexations and all vanities shall be,
As we cast our cares to windward and our anchor to the lee;
Anon the minnow-bucket will emit batrachian sobs,
And the devil’s darning-needles shall come wooing of our bobs;
The sun shall kiss our noses and the breezes toss our hair
(This latter metaphoric–we’ve no fimbriae to spare!);
And I—transported by the bliss—shan’t do a plaguey thing
But cut the bait and string the fish for John Lyle King!
Or, if I angle, it will be for bullheads and the like,
While he shall fish for gamey bass, for pickerel, and for pike;
I really do not care a rap for all the fish that swim—
But it’s worth the wealth of Indies just to be along with him
In grassy fields, in leafy woods, beside the water-brooks,
And hear him tell of things he’s seen or read of in his books—
To hear the sweet philosophy that trickles in and out
The while he is discoursing of the things we talk about;
A fountain-head refreshing—a clear, perennial spring
Is the genial conversation of John Lyle King!
Should varying winds or shifting tides redound to our despite—
In other words, should we return all bootless home at night,
I’d back him up in anything he had a mind to say
Of mighty bass he’d left behind or lost upon the way;
I’d nod assent to every yarn involving piscine game—
I’d cross my heart and make my affidavit to the same;
For what is friendship but a scheme to help a fellow out—
And what a paltry fish or two to make such bones about!
Nay, Sentiment a mantle of sweet charity would fling
O’er perjuries committed for John Lyle King.
At night, when as the camp-fire cast a ruddy, genial flame,
He’d bring his tuneful fiddle out and play upon the same;
No diabolic engine this—no instrument of sin—
No relative at all to that lewd toy, the violin!
But a godly hoosier fiddle—a quaint archaic thing
Full of all the proper melodies our grandmas used to sing;
With ‘Bonnie Doon,’ and ‘Nellie Gray,’ and ‘Sitting on the Stile,’
‘The Heart Bowed Down,’ the ‘White Cockade,’ and ‘Charming Annie Lisle’
Our hearts would echo and the sombre empyrean ring
Beneath the wizard sorcery of John Lyle King.
The subsequent proceedings should interest me no more—
Wrapped in a woolen blanket should I calmly dream and snore;
The finny game that swims by day is my supreme delight—
And not the scaly game that flies in darkness of the night!
Let those who are so minded pursue this latter game
But not repine if they should lose a boodle in the same;
For an example to you all one paragon should serve—
He towers a very monument to valor and to nerve;
No bob-tail flush, no nine-spot high, no measly pair can wring
A groan of desperation from John Lyle King!
A truce to badinage—I hope far distant is the day
When from these scenes terrestrial our friend shall pass away!
We like to hear his cheery voice uplifted in the land,
To see his calm, benignant face, to grasp his honest hand;
We like him for his learning, his sincerity, his truth,
His gallantry to woman and his kindliness to youth,
For the lenience of his nature, for the vigor of his mind,
For the fulness of that charity he bears to all mankind—
That’s why we folks who know him best so reverently cling
(And that is why I pen these lines) to John Lyle King.
And now adieu, a fond adieu to thee, O muse of rhyme—
I do remand thee to the shades until that happier time
When fields are green, and posies gay are budding everywhere,
And there’s a smell of clover bloom upon the vernal air;
When by the pond out yonder the redwing blackbird calls,
And distant hills are wed to Spring in veils of water-falls;
When from his aqueous element the famished pickerel springs
Two hundred feet into the air for butterflies and things—
Then come again, O gracious muse, and teach me how to sing
The glory of a fishing cruise with John Lyle King!
*And if you’re wondering who the marvelous Mr. King was, he wrote a memoir called Trouting on the Brulé River, or, Lawyers’ summer-wayfaring in the northern wilderness, which was based on a journal he kept while taking a trip with a group of his fellow amateur anglers. It was published in 1879 and did pretty well, probably because the trip wasn’t quite as idyllic as Mr. Field poetized it above, and can be drily funny with moments of wincing hilarity—kind of like Mr. Field’s poetry, come to think. It’s here, if you want to read it.
Image of the man so thoroughly enjoying playing the Hardanger fiddle is courtesy of Jon-Eric Melsæter via Wikimedia Commons.
Public Domain Image of the Camp on the Brulé River originally from the Robert N. Dennis collection of stereoscopic views, housed in the New York Public Library, and was found on Wikimedia Commons.