James Whitcomb Riley Poems

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James Whitcomb Riley
James Whitcomb Riley (Greenfield, Indiana, October 7, 1849 - July 22, 1916) was an American writer and poet. Known as the "Hoosier Poet" and the "Children's Poet," he started his career in 1875 writing newspaper verse in Indiana dialect for the Indianapolis Journal. His verse tended to be humorous or sentimental, and of the approximately one-thousand poems that Riley published, over half are in dialect. Claiming that “simple sentiments that come from the heart” were the secret of his success, Riley satisfied the public with down-to-earth verse that was "heart high." Although Riley was a bestselling author in the early 1900s and earned a steady income from royalties, he also traveled and gave public readings of his poetry. His favorite authors were Robert Burns and Charles Dickens, and Riley himself befriended bestselling Indiana authors such as Booth Tarkington, George Ade and Meredith Nicholson. Many of his works were illustrated by the popular illustrator Howard Chandler Christy. Tomb of James Whitcomb Riley at Crown Hill Cemetery in IndianapolisRiley loved children, but he never had any of his own; he also never married. For the last twenty-three years of his life he lived on Lockerbie Street, near downtown Indianapolis, as a paying guest of his friends Major and Mrs. Charles Holstein. Indiana honored Riley after his death in 1916 by burying him in Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis. The site of his grave is atop Strawberry Hill, the highest point in Indianapolis, offering a spectacular view of the city. Although Riley's poetry has fallen out of popularity, a few of his poems, such as Little Orphant Annie and Lockerbie Street, continue to be taught in schools in Indiana.

a barefoot boy
A barefoot boy! I mark him at his play --
For May is here once more, and so is he, --
... [read poem]
in an old barn
Tons upon tons the brown-green fragrant hay
O'erbrims the mows beyond the time-warped eaves... [read poem]
the potato harvest
A high bare field, brown from the plough, and borne
Aslant from sunset; amber wastes of sky... [read poem]
the solitary woodsman
When the grey lake-water rushes
Past the dripping alder-bushes,
And the bodeful autumn... [read poem]
the great and little weavers
The great and the little weavers,
They neither rest nor sleep.
They work in the height and... [read poem]
twilight on sixth avenue at ninth street
Over the tops of the houses
Twilight and sunset meet.
The green, diaphanous dusk
... [read poem]
the salt flats
Here clove the keels of centuries ago
Where now unvisited the flats lie bare.
Here... [read poem]
the herring weir
Back to the green deeps of the outer bay
The red and amber currents glide and cringe,
... [read poem]
the frosted pane
One night came Winter noiselessly, and leaned
Against my window-pane.
In the deep stil... [read poem]
the skater
My glad feet shod with the glittering steel
I was the god of the wingèd heel.
... [read poem]
tantramar revisited
Summers and summers have come, and gone with the flight of the swallow;
Sunshine and thunder ha... [read poem]
three movements
Shakespearean fish swam the sea, far away from land;
Romantic fish swam in nets coming to the h... [read poem]
bat, bat, come under my hat
(A Modernity)

Twelve good friends
Passed under her hat,
And devil a one o... [read poem]
the iceberg
I was spawned from the glacier,
A thousand miles due north
Beyond Cape Chidley;
And t... [read poem]
the cow pasture
I see the harsh, wind-ridden, eastward hill,
By the red cattle pastured, blanched with dew;... [read poem]
philander's song
(from "The Sprightly Pilgrim")

I sat and read Anacreon.
Moved by the gay, ... [read poem]
no second troy
Why should I blame her that she filled my days
With misery, or that she would of late
Have... [read poem]
an epitaph for a husbandman
He who would start and rise
Before the crowing cocks, --
No more he lifts his eyes,... [read poem]
among school children

I walk through the long schoolroom questioning;
A kind old nun in a white hood rep... [read poem]
o earth, sufficing all our needs
O earth, sufficing all our needs, O you
With room for body and for spirit too,
How pat... [read poem]
the departing of gluskâp
It is so long ago; and men well-nigh
Forget what gladness was, and how the earth
Gave corn... [read poem]
O Child of Nations, giant-limbed,
Who stand'st among the nations now
Unheeded, unadore... [read poem]
A faint wind, blowing from World's End,
Made strange the city street.
A strange sound ... [read poem]
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