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Best Famous James Whitcomb Riley Poems

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by James Whitcomb Riley |


 Granny's come to our house,
 And ho! my lawzy-daisy!
All the childern round the place
 Is ist a-runnin' crazy!
Fetched a cake fer little Jake,
 And fetched a pie fer Nanny,
And fetched a pear fer all the pack
 That runs to kiss their Granny!

Lucy Ellen's in her lap,
 And Wade and Silas Walker
Both's a-ridin' on her foot,
 And 'Pollos on the rocker;
And Marthy's twins, from Aunt Marinn's,
 And little Orphant Annie,
All's a-eatin' gingerbread
 And giggle-un at Granny!

Tells us all the fairy tales
 Ever thought er wundered --
And 'bundance o' other stories --
 Bet she knows a hunderd! --
Bob's the one fer "Whittington,"
 And "Golden Locks" fer Fanny!
Hear 'em laugh and clap their hands,
 Listenin' at Granny!

"Jack the Giant-Killer" 's good;
 And "Bean-Stalk" 's another! --
So's the one of "Cinderell'"
 And her old godmother; --
That-un's best of all the rest --
 Bestest one of any, --
Where the mices scampers home
 Like we runs to Granny!

Granny's come to our house,
 Ho! my lawzy-daisy!
All the childern round the place
 Is ist a-runnin' crazy!
Fetched a cake fer little Jake,
 And fetched a pie fer Nanny,
And fetched a pear fer all the pack
 That runs to kiss their Granny!

by James Whitcomb Riley |

Our Hired Girl

 Our hired girl, she's 'Lizabuth Ann;
An' she can cook best things to eat!
She ist puts dough in our pie-pan,
An' pours in somepin' 'at's good an' sweet;
An' nen she salts it all on top
With cinnamon; an' nen she'll stop
An' stoop an' slide it, ist as slow,
In th' old cook-stove, so's 'twon't slop
An' git all spilled; nen bakes it, so
It's custard-pie, first thing you know!
An' nen she'll say,
"Clear out o' my way!
They's time fer work, an' time fer play!
Take yer dough, an' run, child, run!
Er I cain't git no cookin' done!"

When our hired girl 'tends like she's mad,
An' says folks got to walk the chalk
When she's around, er wisht they had!
I play out on our porch an' talk
To Th' Raggedy Man 'at mows our lawn;
An' he says, "Whew!" an' nen leans on
His old crook-scythe, and blinks his eyes,
An' sniffs all 'round an' says, "I swawn!
Ef my old nose don't tell me lies,
It 'pears like I smell custard-pies!"
An' nen he'll say,
"Clear out o' my way!
They's time fer work, an' time fer play!
Take yer dough, an' run, child, run!
Er she cain't git no cookin' done!"

Wunst our hired girl, when she
Got the supper, an' we all et,
An' it wuz night, an' Ma an' me
An' Pa went wher' the "Social" met,--
An' nen when we come home, an' see
A light in the kitchen door, an' we
Heerd a maccordeun, Pa says, "Lan'--
O'-Gracious! who can her beau be?"
An' I marched in, an' 'Lizabuth Ann
Wuz parchin' corn fer The Raggedy Man!
Better say,
"Clear out o' the way!
They's time fer work, an' time fer play!
Take the hint, an' run, child, run!
Er we cain't git no courtin' done!"

by James Whitcomb Riley |

The Raggedy Man

 O the Raggedy Man! He works fer Pa;
An' he's the goodest man ever you saw!
He comes to our house every day,
An' waters the horses, an' feeds 'em hay;
An' he opens the shed -- an' we all ist laugh
When he drives out our little old wobble-ly calf;
An' nen -- ef our hired girl says he can --
He milks the cow fer 'Lizabuth Ann.
-- Ain't he a' awful good Raggedy Man? Raggedy! Raggedy! Raggedy Man! W'y, The Raggedy Man -- he's ist so good, He splits the kindlin' an' chops the wood; An' nen he spades in our garden, too, An' does most things 'at boys can't do.
-- He clumbed clean up in our big tree An' shooked a' apple down fer me -- An' 'nother 'n', too, fer 'Lizabuth Ann -- An' 'nother 'n', too, fer The Raggedy Man.
-- Ain't he a' awful kind Raggedy Man? Raggedy! Raggedy! Raggedy Man! An' The Raggedy Man one time say he Pick' roast' rambos from a' orchurd-tree, An' et 'em -- all ist roast' an' hot! -- An' it's so, too! -- 'cause a corn-crib got Afire one time an' all burn' down On "The Smoot Farm," 'bout four mile from town -- On "The Smoot Farm"! Yes -- an' the hired han' 'At worked there nen 'uz The Raggedy Man! -- Ain't he the beatin'est Raggedy Man? Raggedy! Raggedy! Raggedy Man! The Raggedy Man's so good an' kind He'll be our "horsey," an' "haw" an' mind Ever'thing 'at you make him do -- An' won't run off -- 'less you want him to! I drived him wunst way down our lane An' he got skeered, when it 'menced to rain, An' ist rared up an' squealed and run Purt' nigh away! -- an' it's all in fun! Nen he skeered ag'in at a' old tin can .
Whoa! y' old runaway Raggedy Man! Raggedy! Raggedy! Raggedy Man! An' The Raggedy Man, he knows most rhymes, An' tells 'em, ef I be good, sometimes: Knows 'bout Giunts, an' Griffuns, an' Elves, An' the Squidgicum-Squees 'at swallers the'rselves: An', wite by the pump in our pasture-lot, He showed me the hole 'at the Wunks is got, 'At lives 'way deep in the ground, an' can Turn into me, er 'Lizabuth Ann! Er Ma, er Pa, er The Raggedy Man! Ain't he a funny old Raggedy Man? Raggedy! Raggedy! Raggedy Man! An' wunst, when The Raggedy Man come late, An' pigs ist root' thue the garden-gate, He 'tend like the pigs 'uz bears an' said, "Old Bear-shooter'll shoot 'em dead!" An' race' an' chase' 'em, an' they'd ist run When he pint his hoe at 'em like it's a gun An' go "Bang! -- Bang!" nen 'tend he stan' An' load up his gun ag'in! Raggedy Man! He's an old Bear-shooter Raggedy Man! Raggedy! Raggedy! Raggedy Man! An' sometimes The Raggedy Man lets on We're little prince-children, an' old King's gone To git more money, an' lef' us there -- And Robbers is ist thick ever'where; An' nen -- ef we all won't cry, fer shore -- The Raggedy Man he'll come and "'splore The Castul-halls," an' steal the "gold" -- An' steal us, too, an' grab an' hold An' pack us off to his old "Cave"! -- An' Haymow's the "cave" o' The Raggedy Man! -- Raggedy! Raggedy! Raggedy Man! The Raggedy Man -- one time, when he Wuz makin' a little bow-'n'-orry fer me, Says "When you're big like your Pa is, Air you go' to keep a fine store like his -- An' be a rich merchunt -- an' wear fine clothes? -- Er what air you go' to be, goodness knows?" An' nen he laughed at 'Lizabuth Ann, An' I says "'M go' to be a Raggedy Man! -- I'm ist go' to be a nice Raggedy Man!" Raggedy! Raggedy! Raggedy Man!

by James Whitcomb Riley |

A Barefoot Boy

 A barefoot boy! I mark him at his play --
 For May is here once more, and so is he, --
 His dusty trousers, rolled half to the knee,
And his bare ankles grimy, too, as they:
Cross-hatchings of the nettle, in array
 Of feverish stripes, hint vividly to me
 Of woody pathways winding endlessly
Along the creek, where even yesterday
He plunged his shrinking body -- gasped and shook --
 Yet called the water "warm," with never lack
Of joy.
And so, half enviously I look Upon this graceless barefoot and his track, -- His toe stubbed -- ay, his big toe-nail knocked back Like unto the clasp of an old pocketbook.

by James Whitcomb Riley |

The Bumblebee

 You better not fool with a Bumblebee! --
Ef you don't think they can sting -- you'll see!
They're lazy to look at, an' kind o' go
Buzzin' an' bummin' aroun' so slow,
An' ac' so slouchy an' all fagged out,
Danglin' their legs as they drone about
The hollyhawks 'at they can't climb in
'Ithout ist a-tumble-un out ag'in!
Wunst I watched one climb clean 'way
In a jimson-blossom, I did, one day, --
An' I ist grabbed it -- an' nen let go --
An' "Ooh-ooh! Honey! I told ye so!"
Says The Raggedy Man; an' he ist run
An' pullt out the stinger, an' don't laugh none,
An' says: "They has be'n folks, I guess,
'At thought I wuz predjudust, more er less, --
Yit I still muntain 'at a Bumblebee
Wears out his welcome too quick fer me!"

by James Whitcomb Riley |

When the Frost is on the Punkin

 When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock,
And you hear the kyouck and gobble of the struttin' turkey-cock,
And the clackin' of the guineys, and the cluckin' of the hens,
And the rooster's hallylooyer as he tiptoes on the fence;
O, it's then's the times a feller is a-feelin' at his best,
With the risin' sun to greet him from a night of peaceful rest,
As he leaves the house, bareheaded, and goes out to feed the stock,
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock.
They's something kindo' harty-like about the atmusfere When the heat of summer's over and the coolin' fall is here-- Of course we miss the flowers, and the blossums on the trees, And the mumble of the hummin'-birds and buzzin' of the bees; But the air's so appetizin'; and the landscape through the haze Of a crisp and sunny morning of the airly autumn days Is a pictur' that no painter has the colorin' to mock-- When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock.
The husky, rusty russel of the tossels of the corn, And the raspin' of the tangled leaves, as golden as the morn; The stubble in the furries--kindo' lonesome-like, but still A-preachin' sermuns to us of the barns they growed to fill; The strawstack in the medder, and the reaper in the shed; The hosses in theyr stalls below--the clover over-head!-- O, it sets my hart a-clickin' like the tickin' of a clock, When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock! Then your apples all is gethered, and the ones a feller keeps Is poured around the celler-floor in red and yeller heaps; And your cider-makin' 's over, and your wimmern-folks is through With their mince and apple-butter, and theyr souse and saussage, too! .
I don't know how to tell it--but ef sich a thing could be As the Angels wantin' boardin', and they'd call around on me-- I'd want to 'commodate 'em--all the whole-indurin' flock-- When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock!

by James Whitcomb Riley |

Little Orphant Annie


To all the little children: -- The happy ones; and sad ones;
The sober and the silent ones; the boisterous and glad ones;
The good ones -- Yes, the good ones, too; and all the lovely bad ones.
Little Orphant Annie's come to our house to stay, An' wash the cups an' saucers up, an' brush the crumbs away, An' shoo the chickens off the porch, an' dust the hearth, an' sweep, An' make the fire, an' bake the bread, an' earn her board-an'-keep; An' all us other childern, when the supper-things is done, We set around the kitchen fire an' has the mostest fun A-list'nin' to the witch-tales 'at Annie tells about, An' the Gobble-uns 'at gits you Ef you Don't Watch Out! Wunst they wuz a little boy wouldn't say his prayers,-- An' when he went to bed at night, away up-stairs, His Mammy heerd him holler, an' his Daddy heerd him bawl, An' when they turn't the kivvers down, he wuzn't there at all! An' they seeked him in the rafter-room, an' cubby-hole, an' press, An' seeked him up the chimbly-flue, an' ever'-wheres, I guess; But all they ever found wuz thist his pants an' roundabout:-- An' the Gobble-uns 'll git you Ef you Don't Watch Out! An' one time a little girl 'ud allus laugh an' grin, An' make fun of ever' one, an' all her blood-an'-kin; An' wunst, when they was "company," an' ole folks wuz there, She mocked 'em an' shocked 'em, an' said she didn't care! An' thist as she kicked her heels, an' turn't to run an' hide, They wuz two great big Black Things a-standin' by her side, An' they snatched her through the ceilin' 'fore she knowed what she's about! An' the Gobble-uns 'll git you Ef you Don't Watch Out! An' little Orphant Annie says, when the blaze is blue, An' the lamp-wick sputters, an' the wind goes woo-oo! An' you hear the crickets quit, an' the moon is gray, An' the lightnin'-bugs in dew is all squenched away,-- You better mind yer parunts, an' yer teachurs fond an' dear, An' churish them 'at loves you, an' dry the orphant's tear, An' he'p the pore an' needy ones 'at clusters all about, Er the Gobble-uns 'll git you Ef you Don't Watch Out!

by James Whitcomb Riley |

Orlie Wilde

 A goddess, with a siren's grace,--
A sun-haired girl on a craggy place
Above a bay where fish-boats lay
Drifting about like birds of prey.
Wrought was she of a painter's dream,-- Wise only as are artists wise, My artist-friend, Rolf Herschkelhiem, With deep sad eyes of oversize, And face of melancholy guise.
I pressed him that he tell to me This masterpiece's history.
He turned--REturned--and thus beguiled Me with the tale of Orlie Wilde:-- "We artists live ideally: We breed our firmest facts of air; We make our own reality-- We dream a thing and it is so.
The fairest scenes we ever see Are mirages of memory; The sweetest thoughts we ever know We plagiarize from Long Ago: And as the girl on canvas there Is marvelously rare and fair, 'Tis only inasmuch as she Is dumb and may not speak to me!" He tapped me with his mahlstick--then The picture,--and went on again: "Orlie Wilde, the fisher's child-- I see her yet, as fair and mild As ever nursling summer day Dreamed on the bosom of the bay: For I was twenty then, and went Alone and long-haired--all content With promises of sounding name And fantasies of future fame, And thoughts that now my mind discards As editor a fledgling bard's.
"At evening once I chanced to go, With pencil and portfolio, Adown the street of silver sand That winds beneath this craggy land, To make a sketch of some old scurf Of driftage, nosing through the surf A splintered mast, with knarl and strand Of rigging-rope and tattered threads Of flag and streamer and of sail That fluttered idly in the gale Or whipped themselves to sadder shreds.
The while I wrought, half listlessly, On my dismantled subject, came A sea-bird, settling on the same With plaintive moan, as though that he Had lost his mate upon the sea; And--with my melancholy trend-- It brought dim dreams half understood-- It wrought upon my morbid mood,-- I thought of my own voyagings That had no end--that have no end.
-- And, like the sea-bird, I made moan That I was loveless and alone.
And when at last with weary wings It went upon its wanderings, With upturned face I watched its flight Until this picture met my sight: A goddess, with a siren's grace,-- A sun-haired girl on a craggy place Above a bay where fish-boats lay Drifting about like birds of prey.
"In airy poise she, gazing, stood A machless form of womanhood, That brought a thought that if for me Such eyes had sought across the sea, I could have swum the widest tide That ever mariner defied, And, at the shore, could on have gone To that high crag she stood upon, To there entreat and say, 'My Sweet, Behold thy servant at thy feet.
' And to my soul I said: 'Above, There stands the idol of thy love!' "In this rapt, awed, ecstatic state I gazed--till lo! I was aware A fisherman had joined her there-- A weary man, with halting gait, Who toiled beneath a basket's weight: Her father, as I guessed, for she Had run to meet him gleefully And ta'en his burden to herself, That perched upon her shoulder's shelf So lightly that she, tripping, neared A jutting crag and disappeared; But she left the echo of a song That thrills me yet, and will as long As I have being! .
"Evenings came And went,--but each the same--the same: She watched above, and even so I stood there watching from below; Till, grown so bold at last, I sung,-- (What matter now the theme thereof!)-- It brought an answer from her tongue-- Faint as the murmur of a dove, Yet all the more the song of love.
"I turned and looked upon the bay, With palm to forehead--eyes a-blur In the sea's smile--meant but for her!-- I saw the fish-boats far away In misty distance, lightly drawn In chalk-dots on the horizon-- Looked back at her, long, wistfully;-- And, pushing off an empty skiff, I beckoned her to quit the cliff And yield me her rare company Upon a little pleasure-cruise.
-- She stood, as loathful to refuse, To muse for full a moment's time,-- Then answered back in pantomime 'She feared some danger from the sea Were she discovered thus with me.
' I motioned then to ask her if I might not join her on the cliff And back again, with graceful wave Of lifted arm, she anwer gave 'She feared some danger from the sea.
' "Impatient, piqued, impetuous, I Sprang in the boat, and flung 'Good-by' From pouted mouth with angry hand, And madly pulled away from land With lusty stroke, despite that she Held out her hands entreatingly: And when far out, with covert eye I shoreward glanced, I saw her fly In reckless haste adown the crag, Her hair a-flutter like a flag Of gold that danced across the strand In little mists of silver sand.
All curious I, pausing, tried To fancy what it all implied,-- When suddenly I found my feet Were wet; and, underneath the seat On which I sat, I heard the sound Of gurgling waters, and I found The boat aleak alarmingly.
I turned and looked upon the sea, Whose every wave seemed mocking me; I saw the fishers' sails once more-- In dimmer distance than before; I saw the sea-bird wheeling by, With foolish wish that _I_ could fly: I thought of firm earth, home and friends-- I thought of everything that tends To drive a man to frenzy and To wholly lose his own command; I thought of all my waywardness-- Thought of a mother's deep distress; Of youthful follies yet unpurged-- Sins, as the seas, about me surged-- Thought of the printer's ready pen To-morrow drowning me again;-- A million things without a name-- I thought of everything but--Fame.
"A memory yet is in my mind, So keenly clear and sharp-defined, I picture every phase and line Of life and death, and neither mine,-- While some fair seraph, golden-haired, Bends over me,--with white arms bared, That strongly plait themselves about My drowning weight and lift me out-- With joy too great for words to state Or tongue to dare articulate! "And this seraphic ocean-child And heroine was Orlie Wilde: And thus it was I came to hear Her voice's music in my ear-- Ay, thus it was Fate paved the way That I walk desolate to-day!" .
The artist paused and bowed his face Within his palms a little space, While reverently on his form I bent my gaze and marked a storm That shook his frame as wrathfully As some typhoon of agony, And fraught with sobs--the more profound For that peculiar laughing sound We hear when strong men weep.
I leant With warmest sympathy--I bent To stroke with soothing hand his brow, He murmuring--"Tis over now!-- And shall I tie the silken thread Of my frail romance?" "Yes," I said.
-- He faintly smiled; and then, with brow In kneading palm, as one in dread-- His tasseled cap pushed from his head " 'Her voice's music,' I repeat," He said,--" 'twas sweet--O passing sweet!-- Though she herself, in uttering Its melody, proved not the thing Of loveliness my dreams made meet For me--there, yearning, at her feet-- Prone at her feet--a worshiper,-- For lo! she spake a tongue," moaned he, "Unknown to me;--unknown to me As mine to her--as mine to her.

by James Whitcomb Riley |

The Rival

 If the moon smiled, she would resemble you.
You leave the same impression Of something beautiful, but annihilating.
Both of you are great light borrowers.
Her O-mouth grieves at the world; yours is unaffected, And your first gift is making stone out of everything.
I wake to a mausoleum; you are here, Ticking your fingers on the marble table, looking for cigarettes, Spiteful as a woman, but not so nervous, And dying to say something unanswerable.
The moon, too, abuses her subjects, But in the daytime she is ridiculous.
Your dissatisfactions, on the other hand, Arrive through the mailslot with loving regularity, White and blank, expansive as carbon monoxide.
No day is safe from news of you, Walking about in Africa maybe, but thinking of me.

by James Whitcomb Riley |

The Merman


Who would be
A merman bold,
Sitting alone
Singing alone
Under the sea,
With a crown of gold,
On a throne?


I would be a merman bold,
I would sit and sing the whole of the day;
I would fill the sea-halls with a voice of power;
But at night I would roam abroad and play
With the mermaids in and out of the rocks,
Dressing their hair with the white sea-flower;
And holding them back by their flowing locks
I would kiss them often under the sea,
And kiss them again till they kiss'd me
 Laughingly, laughingly;
And then we would wander away, away,
To the pale-green sea-groves straight and high,
 Chasing each other merrily.
III There would be neither moon nor star; But the wave would make music above us afar -- Low thunder and light in the magic night -- Neither moon nor star.
We would call aloud in the dreamy dells, Call to each other and whoop and cry All night, merrily, merrily.
They would pelt me with starry spangles and shells, Laughing and clapping their hands between, All night, merrily, merrily, But I would throw to them back in mine Turkis and agate and almondine; Then leaping out upon them unseen I would kiss them often under the sea, And kiss them again till they kiss'd me Laughingly, laughingly.
O, what a happy life where mine Under the hollow-hung ocean green! Soft are the moss-beds under the sea; We would live merrily, merrily.