poem index

sign up to receive a new poem-a-day in your inbox

About this poet

Eugene Field was born in St. Louis, Missouri, on September 2, 1850. His father was Roswell Martin Field, an attorney who once represented Dred Scott, an African American man known for the 1857 U. S. Supreme Court case in which he sued for his freedom. Many believe the denial of Scott's bid by the court prompted the U. S. Civil War. After Field's mother, Frances, died in 1856, he and his brother, Roswell, were sent to Amherst, Massachusetts, to live with Mary Field, their aunt. 

Field attended Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts; Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois; and the University of Missouri in Columbia, but left without graduating. In 1873 he began working at the St. Louis Journal. His humorous column "Funny Fancies" gained popularity among readers and in 1880, he moved to Denver, Colorado, where he worked as managing editor of the Denver Tribune and continued to pen a column. According to the Denver Public Library, "Eugene was known throughout Denver for his practical jokes. His office at the Denver Tribune included a chair with a false bottom. An unsuspecting person would attempt to sit in the chair and fall to the floor instead."

In 1883, Field moved to Chicago, Illinois, to write a column for the Chicago Daily News. Throughout his career, his columns would occasionally feature his light verse for children, and he became known as the "Poet of Childhood." His poems were published in collections including The Tribune Primer (Henry A. Dickerman & Son, 1900) and A Little Book of Western Verse (Charles Scribner's Sons, 1903). 

Field died on November 4, 1895, in Chicago, Illinois. 

The Duel

The gingham dog and the calico cat
Side by side on the table sat;
'T was half-past twelve, and (what do you think!)
Nor one nor t' other had slept a wink!
      The old Dutch clock and the Chinese plate
      Appeared to know as sure as fate
There was going to be a terrible spat.
            (I was n't there; I simply state
            What was told to me by the Chinese plate!
)

The gingham dog went "Bow-wow-wow!"
And the calico cat replied "Mee-ow!"
The air was littered, an hour or so,
With bits of gingham and calico,
      While the old Dutch clock in the chimney-place
      Up with its hands before its face,
For it always dreaded a family row!
            (Now mind: I'm only telling you
            What the old Dutch clock declares is true!
)

The Chinese plate looked very blue,
And wailed, "Oh, dear! what shall we do!"
But the gingham dog and the calico cat
Wallowed this way and tumbled that,
      Employing every tooth and claw
      In the awfullest way you ever saw—
And, oh! how the gingham and calico flew!
            (Don't fancy I exaggerate—
            I got my news from the Chinese plate!
)

Next morning, where the two had sat
They found no trace of dog or cat;
And some folks think unto this day
That burglars stole that pair away!
      But the truth about the cat and pup
      Is this: they ate each other up!
Now what do you really think of that!
            (The old Dutch clock it told me so,
            And that is how I came to know.
)

This poem is in the public domain.

This poem is in the public domain.

Eugene Field

Eugene Field

Eugene Field was born in St. Louis, Missouri on September 2, 1850. Known for his humorous newspaper columns, he also wrote light verse for children. 

by this poet

poem

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

poem
I am an advertiser great!
In letters bold
poem
The sky is dark and the hills are white
As the storm-king speeds from the north to-night,
And this is the song the storm-king sings,
As over the world his cloak he flings:
  "Sleep, sleep, little one, sleep;"
He rustles his wings and gruffly sings:
  "