kellyrfineman (kellyrfineman) wrote,

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Wynken, Blynken and Nod by Eugene Field — a Poetry Friday post

Eugene Field was an American journalist and author, now best-remembered as a writer of children's poems and humorous essays. One of his most famous poems for children, originally entitled "Dutch Lullaby", was written in 1899, and generations of children have since known it as Wynken, Blynken and Nod, which has been illustrated by a number of artists, including Maxfield Parrish.

Wynken, Blynken, and Nod
by Eugene Field

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,
        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 that beautiful sea---
"Now cast your nets wherever you wish---
  Never afeard are we";
  So cried the stars to the fishermen three:
        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 folks thought 't was a dream they 'd dreamed
  Of sailing that beautiful sea---
  But I shall name you the fishermen three:
        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 in the misty sea,
  Where the old shoe rocked the fishermen three:
        And Nod.

You may be asking what form this poem is in, and I will tell you that I believe it is a variation on a rondeau. A rondeau is (as fans of classical music might guess) a music-based form consisting of verse and refarin. A rondeau is usually a poem of between thirteen and fifteen lines, using only two rhyming sounds and employing a recurring refrain. A classic example is the wonderful poem by the Canadian poet, John McCrae, "In Flanders Fields". Here, the refrain is, of course, "Wynken, Blynken, and Nod". This poem, however, is significantly longer than a typical rondeau, and uses more rhyming sounds. In fact, each stanza follows its own internal pattern of ABABCDCDDR (where R is the refrain). And each stanza uses a sort of sprung rhythm akin to Gerard Manley Hopkins, with lines 1,3,5,7 & 9 having four accented beats, and lines 2,4,6 & 8 having three (as does the refrain).

Although Field wrote a number of poems for and about children (by all means check out his poem, "Little Boy Blue", which is a killer, I tell you), Field wrote in his Auto-Analysis, a pamphlet written in 1896 in wry tones in hopes of avoiding biography after his death, Field (by then a father of eight) wrote, "I do not love all children. I have tried to analyze my feelings towards children, and I think I discover that I love them in so far as I can make pets of them." Most likely Field was kidding here, as he was on the day that he dressed up as Oscar Wilde and pretended to be Wilde for hours, thereby depriving the actual touring author of the hero's welcome he expected. You can read more about that on the Denver literary tour page.

Field considered himself quite a bibliophile during life, and his final book was entitled The Love Affairs of a Bibliomaniac, described as a story or a series of sketches on the delights, adventures, and misadventures connected with bibliomania. His sister, who wrote the introduction to his final tome, wrote that he "knew, as few comparatively poor men have known, the half-pathetic, half-humorous side of that incurable mental infirmity." Those of you with a weakness for books and bookshops (and particularly with tracking down out-of-print books and first editions) will enjoy reading his poem, "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.*

*Lowndes was a renowned bibliographer in London.

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Tags: field, poetry, poetry friday, rondeau
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