November 6, 2012

Henry on Field: he found his kingdom

O. Henry had been working for the Daily Post in Houston, Texas for only about three weeks when he heard of the death of his friend and fellow author Eugene Field. Originally, he called his column "Tales of the Town" before changing it to "Some Postscripts." Most were short, humorous vignettes. On November 6, 1895, two days after Field's death, however, he offered this poetic tribute:

No gift his genius might have had,
   Of titles high in church or State,

Could charm him as the one he bore
   Of children's poet laureate.

He smiling pressed aside the bays
   And laurel garlands that he won,

And bowed his head for baby hands
   To place a daisy wreath upon.

He found his kingdom in the ways
   Of little ones he loved so well;

For them he tuned his lyre and sang
   Sweet simple songs of magic spell.

Oh, greater feat to storm the gates
   Of children's pure and cleanly hearts,

Than to subdue a warring world
   By stratagems and doubtful arts!

So, when he laid him down to sleep
   And earthly honors seemed so poor;

Methinks he clung to little hands
   The latest, for the love they bore.

A tribute paid by chanting choirs
   And pealing organs rises high;

But soft and clear, somewhere he hears
   Through all, a child's low lullaby.

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