Monday, October 29, 2007

Lady Button-Eyes by Eugene Field

Lady Button-Eyes

When the busy day is done,
And my weary little one
Rocketh gently to and fro;
When the night winds softly blow,
And the crickets in the glen
Chirp and chirp and chirp again;
When upon the haunted green
Fairies dance around their queen -
Then from yonder misty skies
Cometh Lady Button-Eyes.

Through the murk and mist and gloam
To our quiet, cozy home,
Where to singing, sweet and low,
Rocks a cradle to and fro;
Where the clock's dull monotone
Telleth of the day that's done;
Where the moonbeams hover o'er
Playthings sleeping on the floor -
Where my weary wee one lies
Cometh Lady Button-Eyes.

Cometh like a fleeting ghost
From some distant eerie coast;
Never footfall can you hear
As that spirit fareth near -
Never whisper, never word
From that shadow-queen is heard.
In ethereal raiment dight,
From the realm of fay and sprite
In the depth of yonder skies
Cometh Lady Button-Eyes.

Layeth she her hands upon
My dear weary little one,
And those white hands overspread
Like a veil the curly head,
Seem to fondle and caress
Every little silken tress;
Then she smooths the eyelids down
Over those two eyes of brown -
In such soothing, tender wise
Cometh Lady Button-Eyes.

Dearest, feel upon your brow
That caressing magic now;
For the crickets in the glen
Chirp and chirp and chirp again,
While upon the haunted green
Fairies dance around their queen,
And the moonbeams hover o'er
Playthings sleeping on the floor -
Hush, my sweet! from yonder skies
Cometh Lady Button-Eyes!
--Eugene Field

I find this poem vaguely disturbing. It's a nice poem about the magic that happens as a child falls asleep and the fairy queen comes and gives her dreams. That sort of poem should make a nice little lullaby, and not a spooky Halloween offering. But the fairy queen has button eyes. Why? She's got all sorts of ethereal loveliness, and white hands, and a floaty dress, and then something as incongruent as button eyes. Maybe the child for whom it was written had a fairy queen doll with button eyes. Maybe the buttons are more elegant than the flat thing with four holes and an X of thread that I'm envisioning. I don't know. It just throws the whole thing slightly off kilter for me. Lady Button-Eyes is a slightly sinister character, and the child is falling into that sort of deep sleep where you can't move, and you can't scream, and there's nothing you can do but watch in horror as this freakish woman with button eyes comes and caresses your face and hair and sends images into your brain. It's the stuff of nightmares.

I'm not sure if you will find this poem as disturbing as I did. I think that a large part of my reaction comes from reading Neil Gaiman's book Coraline. Here's a complete review, but I'll sum up what's in this very creepy book. A little girl moves into a new apartment, and stumbles into a parallel shadow world where her parents have white hands and buttons sewn over their eyes. They want her to stay with them forever and pay more attention to her than her real parents, but they want to sew buttons over her eyes too. As she tries to resist, things get very weird. I didn't really like the book as much as several reviewers, and wouldn't necessarily recommend it unless you like to be weirded out and left vaguely uneasy ever after.

1 comment:

  1. I really liked this poem. The button eyes reminded me of Coraline, too. I thought Coraline was absolutely fantastic. I would recommend it to anyone over 8 or so for some scary Halloween reading.