August 16, 2012

Field: sing Nature's song, untouched of art

Eugene Field had a fairly eclectic career as a poet, composing many humorous works as well as more serious verses. He worried, however, how poetry was bundled, packaged, and sold for mass consumption. His poem "In Praise of Truth and Simplicity in Song" is dated August 16, 1886 and specifically fears the natural calling for the poet will be superseded by the overwrought:

Oh, for the honest, blithesome times
    Of bosky Sherwood long ago,
When Allen trolled his amorous rhymes
    And Robin twanged his crafty bow;
When Little John and Friar Tuck
    Traversed the greenwood far and near,
Feasting on many a royal buck
    Washed down with brown October beer!

Beside their purling sylvan rills,
    What knew these yeomen bold and free
Of envious cares and grewsome ills
    That now, sweet friend, vex you and me?
Theirs but to roam the leafy glade,
    Beshrewing sheriffs, lords, and priests,
To loll supine beneath the shade,
    Regaling monarchs with their feasts.

The murrain seize these ribald times
    When there is such a lust for gold
That poets fashion all their rhymes,
    Like varlet tradesfolk, to be sold!
Not so did Allen when he troll'd
    His ballads in that merry glade;
Nay, in those courteous days of old
    The minstrel spurned the tricks of trade!

So, joyous friend, when you and I
    Sing to the world our chosen theme,
Let's do as do the birds that fly
    Careless o'er woodland, wold, and stream:
Sing Nature's song, untouched of art—
    Sing of the forest, brook, and plain;
And, hearing it, each human heart
    Will vibrate with the sweet refrain.

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