Spotlight: National Poetry Month

EUGENE FIELD: Buena Park’s Master of Verse for Children

“Uptown Update” blog recently reported that the stately red brick mansion at 800 West Buena has been purchased by Haymarket Books. That news coupled with the fact that Eugene-FieldApril is National Poetry Month brought to mind the famous poet Eugene Field who once lived in Buena Park. Field rented a house for his wife Julia and their large family near Clarendon and Hutchinson St. His landlord was his friend Robert A. Waller (the developer of Buena Park). While Field was also a prose writer and a newspaperman, his star ascended because of his poetry. He wrote poems only for children and thus was nicknamed the Children’s Poet. He is best known for “Little Boy Blue” and “Wynken, Blynken, and Nod.”

Eugene Field was born in 1850 in St. Louis. His father was attorney Roswell Martin Field who was famous for his pro bono representation of the slave Dred Scott. After the death of Field’s mother Frances in 1856 Eugene and his only brother were sent to Amherst, Massachusetts to be raised by a cousin. Eugene dropped out of both Williams and Knox colleges before winding up at the University of Missouri. Eventually he found work as a journalist and edited and wrote for daily papers in St. Louis, Kansas City and Denver. He had a knack for composing funny pieces that were cleverly written in a gossipy style. In 1883 he accepted a job with the Chicago Daily News and there wrote the humor column: “Sharps and Flats.”

In 1895, Eugene Fields died at age forty-five in his Buena Park home of a heart attack. The impact of his poetry on the public had been so great that many of his poems were set to music with commercial success. Others were accompanied by Maxfield Parrish paintings. The original Fields home in St. Louis is now a museum. In Chicago a statue of the Dream Lady from his poem “Rock-a-by-Lady” was built in 1922 in the Lincoln Park Zoo. There is a park named to memorialize him in the Albany Park neighborhood and another in Oak Park. Elementary schools throughout the Midwest are named for Eugene Field.

Love-Songs of Childhood is a collection of Eugene Field poems that was published in 1894. Included in the book is a poem set in Buena Park. The first two stanzas appear below with the permission of Compass Rose Cultural Crossroads, Inc.

The Delectable Ballad of Waller Lot

By Eugene Field

Up yonder in Buena Park

There is a famous spot,

In Legend and in history

Yclept the Waller Lot.

 

There children play in daytime

And lovers stroll by dark,

For ’t is the goodliest trysting-place

In all Buena Park.

 

To finish reading the poem, go here.

 

Walter Vatter, BPN Cub Reporter

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Author: bikeuptown46

I am currently the Communications Director for the Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters which represents 33,000 union men and women in three states who swing a hammer for a living. I publsih a magazine, a couple of email newsletters and two websites. I also do videos, webinars, advertisng and public relations. As an avid cyclist I ride a three-wheeled trike 5 to 6 days per week 52 weeks per year which adds up to between 5,000 and 6,000 miles year-round, including daily commutes along Chicago's lakefront ... polar vortexes included. I have never missed a day of work because of Chicago's weather. I am an activist who serves humanitarian and political causes: To advocate for the Sudanese in Illinois who have fled Southern Sudan and Darfur is one of my most rewarding experiences. I work with my son Sean on Sudan presentations at churches and community groups with my Sudanese friends on the problems facing them in Darfur, South Sudan and the United States. My son Sean and I work together on the Abolition Institute which seeks to end slavery in the west African nation of Mauritania. My photography chronicles Chicago's lakefront through my daily rides. My photo website is http://genetenner.com/ I just self-published my first photo-book on the history of my Chicago neighborhood: Sweet Home Buena Park. I live about one-half mile north of Wrigley Field in the Buena Park neighborhood.

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