By James Whitcomb Riley
(1849 - 1916)
A Life-Lesson
THERE! little girl, don’t cry!
    They have broken your doll, I know;
      And your tea-set blue,
      And your play-house, too,
    Are things of the long ago;
      But childish troubles will soon pass by.—
          There! little girl, don’t cry!
There! little girl, don’t cry!
    They have broken your slate, I know;
      And the glad, wild ways
      Of your school-girl days
    Are things of the long ago;
      But life and love will soon come by.—
          There! little girl, don’t cry!
There! little girl, don’t cry!
    They have broken your heart, I know;
      And the rainbow gleams
      Of your youthful dreams
    Are things of the long ago;
      But Heaven holds all for which you sigh.—
          There! little girl, don’t cry!
A Man by the Name of Bolus
A MAN by the name of Bolus—(all ’at we ’ll ever know
Of the stranger’s name, I reckon—and I ’m kindo’ glad it ’s so!)—
Got off here, Christmas morning, looked ’round the town, and then
Kindo’ sized up the folks, I guess, and—went away again!
The fac’s is, this man Bolus got “run in,” Christmas-day;
The town turned out to see it, and cheered, and blocked the way;
And they dragged him ’fore the Mayor—fer he could n’t er would n’t walk—
And socked him down fer trial—though he could n’t er would n’t talk!
Drunk? They was no doubt of it!—W’y, the marshal of the town
Laughed and testified ’at he fell up-stairs ’stid o’ down!
This man by the name of Bolus?—W’y, he even drapped his jaw
And snored on through his “hearin’”—drunk as you ever saw!
One feller spit in his boot-leg, and another ’n’ drapped a small
Little chunk o’ ice down his collar,—but he did n’t wake at all!
And they all nearly split when his Honor said, in one of his witty ways,
To “chalk it down fer him, ‘Called away—be back in thirty days!’”
That ’s where this man named Bolus slid, kindo’ like in a fit,
Flat on the floor; and—drat my ears!—I hear ’em a-laughin’ yit!
Somebody fetched Doc Sifers from jest acrost the hall,—
And all Doc said was, “Morphine! We ’re too late!” and that ’s all!
That ’s how they found his name out—piece of a letter ’at read:
“Your wife has lost her reason, and little Nathan’s dead—
Come ef you kin,—fergive her—but Bolus, as fer me,
This hour I send a bullet through where my heart ort to be!”
Man by the name of Bolus!—As his revilers broke
Fer the open air, ’peared like, to me, I heard a voice ’at spoke—
Man by the name of Bolus! git up from where you lay—
Git up and smile white at ’em with your hands crossed thataway!
LET me come in where you sit weeping,—ay,
Let me, who have not any child to die,
Weep with you for the little one whose love
        I have known nothing of.
The little arms that slowly, slowly loosed
Their pressure round your neck; the hands you used
To kiss.—Such arms—such hands I never knew.
        May I not weep with you?
Fain would I be of service—say some thing,
Between the tears, that would be comforting,—
But ah! so sadder than yourselves am I,
        Who have no child to die.
From “The Flying Islands of the Night”
AY, Dwainie!—My Dwainie!
    The lurloo ever sings,
A tremor in his flossy crest
    And in his glossy wings.
And Dwainie!—My Dwainie!
    The winno-welvers call;—
But Dwainie hides in Spirkland
    And answers not at all.
The teeper twitters Dwainie!—
    The tcheucker on his spray
Teeters up and down the wind,
    And will not fly away:
And Dwainie!—My Dwainie!
    The drowsy oovers drawl;—
But Dwainie hides in Spirkland
    And answers not at all.
O Dwainie!—My Dwainie!
    The breezes hold their breath,—
The stars are pale as blossoms,
    And the night as still as death;
And Dwainie!—My Dwainie!
    The fainting echoes fall;—
But Dwainie hides in Spirkland
    And answers not at all.
Honey Dripping from the Comb
HOW slight a thing may set one’s fancy drifting
  Upon the dead sea of the Past!—A view—
Sometimes an odor—or a rooster lifting
  A far-off “Ooh! ooh-ooh!”
And suddenly we find ourselves astray
  In some wood’s-pasture of the Long Ago,—
Or idly dream again upon a day
  Of rest we used to know.
I bit an apple but a moment since,—
  A wilted apple that the worm had spurned,—
Yet hidden in the taste were happy hints
  Of good old days returned.
And so my heart, like some enraptured lute,
  Tinkles a tune so tender and complete,
God’s blessing must be resting on the fruit—
  So bitter, yet so sweet!
Ike Walton’s Prayer
I CRAVE, dear Lord,
No boundless hoard
  Of gold and gear,
    Nor jewels fine,
    Nor lands, nor kine,
Nor treasure-heaps of anything.—
    Let but a little hut be mine
Where at the hearthstone I may hear
    The cricket sing,
    And have the shine
  Of one glad woman’s eyes to make,
  For my poor sake,
    Our simple home a place divine:—
Just the wee cot—the cricket’s chirr—
Love, and the smiling face of her.
    I pray not for
    Great riches, nor
For vast estates and castle-halls:—
Give me to hear the bare footfalls
    Of children o’er
    An oaken floor
New-rinsed with sunshine, or bespread
With but the tiny coverlet
And pillow for the baby’s head;
And, pray Thou, may
The door stand open and the day
    Send ever in a gentle breeze,
    With fragrance from the locust-trees,
      And drowsy moan of doves, and blur
    Of robin-chirps, and drone of bees,
      With after-hushes of the stir
    Of intermingling sounds, and then
      The goodwife and the smile of her
    Filling the silences again—
        The cricket’s call
          And the wee cot,
        Dear Lord of all,
          Deny me not!
    I pray not that
    Men tremble at
      My power of place
        And lordly sway,—
    I only pray for simple grace
    To look my neighbor in the face
      Full honestly from day to day—
    Yield me his horny palm to hold,
        And I ’ll not pray
          For gold:—
The tanned face, garlanded with mirth,
It hath the kingliest smile on earth;
The swart brow, diamonded with sweat,
Hath never need of coronet.
          And so I reach,
            Dear Lord, to Thee,
          And do beseech
            Thou givest me
The wee cot, and the cricket’s chirr,
Love, and the glad sweet face of her.
Little Orphant Annie
LITTLE Orphant Annie ’s come to our house to stay,
An’ wash the cups and 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 children, 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
Onc’t they was a little boy would n’t say his pray’rs—
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 was n’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 was thist his pants an’ roundabout!
An’ the Gobble-uns ’ll git you
        Ef you
An’ one time a little girl ’ud allus laugh an’ grin,
An’ make fun of ever’ one, an’ all her blood-an’-kin;
An’ onc’t when they was “company,” an’ ole folks was there,
She mocked ’em an’ shocked ’em, an’ said she did n’t care!
An’ thist as she kicked her heels, an’ turn’t to run an’ hide,
They was 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
An’ little Orphant Annie says, when the blaze is blue,
An’ the lampwick 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 allsquenched away,—
You better mind yer parents, and yer teachers fond and 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
THE WINDS have talked with him confidingly;
The trees have whispered to him; and the night
Hath held him gently as a mother might,
And taught him all sad tones of melody;
The mountains have bowed to him; and the sea,
In clamorous waves, and murmurs exquisite,
Hath told him all her sorrow and delight,—
Her legends fair,—her darkest mystery.
His verse blooms like a flower, night and day;
Bees cluster round his rhymes; and twitterings
Of lark and swallow, in an endless May,
Are mingling with the tender songs he sings.
Nor shall he cease to sing—in every lay
Of Nature’s voice he sings—and will alway.
Love’s Prayer
DEAR Lord! kind Lord!
  Gracious Lord! I pray
Thou wilt look on all I love,
  Tenderly to-day!
Weed their hearts of weariness;
  Scatter every care,
Down a wake of angel wings
  Winnowing the air.
Bring unto the sorrowing
  All release from pain;
Let the lips of laughter
  Overflow again;
And with all the needy
  O divide, I pray,
This vast treasure of content
  That is mine to-day!
On the Death of Little Mahala Ashcraft
“LITTLE Haly! Little Haly!” cheeps the robin in the tree;
“Little Haly!” sighs the clover, “Little Haly!” moans the bee;
“Little Haly! Little Haly!” calls the kill-deer at twilight;
And the katydids and crickets hollers “Haly!” all the night.
The sunflowers and the hollyhawks droops over the garden fence;
The old path down the garden-walks still holds her footprints’ dents;
And the well-sweep’s swingin’ bucket seems to wait fer her to come
And start it on its wortery errant down the old bee-gum.
The bee-hives all is quiet; and the little Jersey steer,
When any one comes nigh it, acts so lone-some-like and queer;
And the little Banty chickens kindo’ cutters faint and low,
Like the hand that now was feedin’ ’em was one they did n’t know.
They ’s sorrow in the wavin’ leaves of all the apple-trees;
And sorrow in the harvest-sheaves, and sorrow in the breeze;
And sorrow in the twitter of the swallers ’round the shed;
And all the song her red-bird sings is “Little Haly’s dead!”
The medder ’pears to miss her, and the pathway through the grass,
Whare the dewdrops ust to kiss her little bare feet as she passed;
And the old pin in the gate-post seems to kindo’-sorto’ doubt
That Haly’s little sunburnt hands ’ll ever pull it out.
Did her father er her mother ever love her more ’n me,
Er her sisters er her brother prize her love more tendurly?
I question—and what answer?—only tears, and tears alone,
And ev’ry neghbor’s eyes is full o’ tear-drops as my own.
“Little Haly! Little Haly!” cheeps the robin in the tree;
“Little Haly!” sighs the clover; “Little Haly!” moans the bee;
“Little Haly! Little Haly!” calls the kill-deer at twilight,
And the katydids and crickets hollers “Haly!” all the night.
The Old Man and Jim
OLD man never had much to say—
  ’Ceptin’ to Jim,—
And Jim was the wildest boy he had,
  And the old man jes’ wrapped up in him!
Never heerd him speak but once
Er twice in my life,—and first time was
When the army broke out, and Jim he went,
The old man backin’ him, fer three months;
And all ’at I heerd the old man say
Was, jes’ as we turned to start away,—
  “Well, good-by, Jim:
  Take keer of yourse’f!”
’Peared like he was more satisfied
  Jes’ lookin’ at Jim
And likin’ him all to hisse’f-like, see?—
  ’Cause he was jes’ wrapped up in him!
And over and over I mind the day
The old man come and stood round in the way
While we was drillin’, a-watchin’ Jim;
And down at the deepot a-heerin’ him say,—
  “Well, good-by, Jim:
  Take keer of yourse’f!”
Never was nothin’ about the farm
  Disting’ished Jim;
Neighbors all ust to wonder why
  The old man ’peared wrapped up in him:
But when Cap. Biggler, he writ back
’At Jim was the bravest boy we had
In the whole dern rigiment, white er black,
And his fightin’ good as his farmin’ bad,—
’At he had led, with a bullet clean
Bored through his thigh, and carried the flag
Through the bloodiest battle you ever seen,—
The old man wound up a letter to him
’At Cap. read to us, ’at said,—“Tell Jim
  And take keer of hisse’f!”
Jim come home jes’ long enough
  To take the whim
’At he ’d like to go back in the calvery—
  And the old man jes’ wrapped up in him!
Jim ’lowed ’at he ’d had sich luck afore,
Guessed he ’d tackle her three years more.
And the old man give him a colt he ’d raised,
And follered him over to Camp Ben Wade,
And laid around fer a week er so,
Watchin’ Jim on dress-parade;
’Tel finally he rid away,
And last he heerd was the old man say,—
  “Well, good-by, Jim:
  Take keer of yourse’f!”
Tuk the papers, the old man did,
  A-watchin’ fer Jim,
Fully believin’ he ’d make his mark
Some way—jes’ wrapped up in him!
And many a time the word ’ud come
’At stirred him up like the tap of a drum:
At Petersburg, fer instunce, where
Jim rid right into their cannons there,
And tuk ’em, and p’inted ’em t’ other way,
And socked it home to the boys in gray,
As they skooted fer timber, and on and on—
Jim a lieutenant,—and one arm gone,—
And the old man’s words in his mind all day,—
  “Well, good-by, Jim:
  Take keer of yourse’f!”
Think of a private, now, perhaps,
  We ’ll say like Jim,
’At ’s clumb clean up to the shoulder-straps—
  And the old man jes’ wrapped up in him!
Think of him—with the war plum’ through,
And the glorious old Red-White-and-Blue
A-laughin’ the news down over Jim,
And the old man, bendin’ over him—
The surgeon turnin’ away with tears
’At had n’t leaked fer years and years,
As the hand of the dyin’ boy clung to
His Father’s, the old voice in his ears,—
  “Well, good-by, Jim:
  Take keer of yourse’f!”
The Way the Baby Slept
THIS is the way the baby slept:
  A mist of tresses backward thrown
By quavering sighs where kisses crept
  With yearnings she had never known:
The little hands were closely kept
  About a lily newly blown—
And God was with her. And we wept.—
And this is the way the baby slept.
The Way the Baby Woke
AND this is the way the baby woke:
  As when in deepest drops of dew
The shine and shadows sink and soak,
  The sweet eyes glimmered through and through;
And eddyings and dimples broke
  About the lips, and no one knew
Or could divine the words they spoke,—
And this is the way the baby woke.
When She Comes Home
WHEN she comes home again! A thousand ways
I fashion, to myself, the tenderness
Of my glad welcome: I shall tremble—yes;
And touch her, as when first in the old days
I touched her girlish hand, nor dared upraise
Mine eyes, such was my faint heart’s sweet distress.
Then silence: and the perfume of her dress:
The room will sway a little, and a haze
Cloy eyesight—soulsight, even—for a space;
And tears—yes; and the ache here in the throat,
To know that I so ill deserve the place
Her arms make for me; and the sobbing note
I stay with kisses, ere the tearful face
Again is hidden in the old embrace.