Eugene Field

(2 September 1850 - 4 November 1895 / St Louis / Missouri / United States)

The Bottle And The Bird - Poem by Eugene Field

Once on a time a friend of mine prevailed on me to go
To see the dazzling splendors of a sinful ballet show,
And after we had reveled in the saltatory sights
We sought a neighboring cafe for more tangible delights;
When I demanded of my friend what viands he preferred,
He quoth: 'A large cold bottle and a small hot bird!'

Fool that I was, I did not know what anguish hidden lies
Within the morceau that allures the nostrils and the eyes!
There is a glorious candor in an honest quart of wine--
A certain inspiration which I cannot well define!
How it bubbles, how it sparkles, how its gurgling seems to say:
'Come, on a tide of rapture let me float your soul away!'

But the crispy, steaming mouthful that is spread upon your plate--
How it discounts human sapience and satirizes fate!
You wouldn't think a thing so small could cause the pains and aches
That certainly accrue to him that of that thing partakes;
To me, at least (a guileless wight!) it never once occurred
What horror was encompassed in that one small hot bird.

Oh, what a head I had on me when I awoke next day,
And what a firm conviction of intestinal decay!
What seas of mineral water and of bromide I applied
To quench those fierce volcanic fires that rioted inside!
And, oh! the thousand solemn, awful vows I plighted then
Never to tax my system with a small hot bird again!

The doctor seemed to doubt that birds could worry people so,
But, bless him! since I ate the bird, I guess I ought to know!
The acidous condition of my stomach, so he said,
Bespoke a vinous irritant that amplified my head,
And, ergo, the causation of the thing, as he inferred,
Was the large cold bottle, not the small hot bird.

Of course, I know it wasn't, and I'm sure you'll say I'm right
If ever it has been your wont to train around at night;
How sweet is retrospection when one's heart is bathed in wine,
And before its balmy breath how do the ills of life decline!
How the gracious juices drown what griefs would vex a mortal breast,
And float the flattered soul into the port of dreamless rest!

But you, O noxious, pigmy bird, whether it be you fly
Or paddle in the stagnant pools that sweltering, festering lie--
I curse you and your evil kind for that you do me wrong,
Engendering poisons that corrupt my petted muse of song;
Go, get thee hence, and nevermore discomfit me and mine--
I fain would barter all thy brood for one sweet draught of wine!

So hither come, O sportive youth! when fades the tell-tale day--
Come hither with your fillets and your wreathes of posies gay;
We shall unloose the fragrant seas of seething, frothing wine
Which now the cobwebbed glass and envious wire and corks confine,
And midst the pleasing revelry the praises shall be heard
Of the large cold bottle, _not_ the small hot bird.


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Poem Submitted: Friday, April 9, 2010



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