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Posts Tagged ‘James Whitcomb Riley’

Friends, my heart is half aweary
Of its happiness to-night;
Though your songs are gay and cheery,
And your spirits feather-light,
There’s a ghostly music haunting
Still the heart of every guest
And a voiceless chorus chanting
That the Old Times were the best. 

Chorus: 

All about is bright and pleasant
With the sound of song and jest,
Yet a feeling’s ever present
That the Old Times were the best.

 

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O touch me with your hands –
………………….For pity’s sake!
My brow throbs ever on with such an ache
As only your cool touch may take away;
………………….And so, I pray
You, touch me with your hands!

Touch – touch me with your hands –
…………………..Smooth back the hair
You once caressed, and kissed, and called so fair
That I did dream its gold would wear away,
…………………..And lo, to-day –
O touch me with your hands!

Just touch me with your hands,
…………………..And let them pass
My weary eyelids with the old caress,
And lull me till I sleep. Then go your way,
…………………..That Death may say:
He touched her with his hands.

 

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“Rain and rain! and rain and rain!”
Yesterday we muttered
Grimly as the grim refrain
That the thunders uttered;
All the heavens under cloud –
All the sunshine sleeping;
All the grasses limply bowed
With their weight of weeping. 

Sigh and sigh! and sigh and sigh!
Never end of sighing;
Rain and rain for our reply –
Hopes half drowned and dying;
Peering through the window-pane,
Naught but endless raining –
Endless sighing, and, as vain,
Endlessly complaining. 

Shine and shine! and shine and shine!
Ah! to-day the splendor! –
All this glory yours and mine –
God! but God is tender!
We to sigh instead of sing,
Yesterday in sorrow,
While the Lord was fashioning
This for our Tomorrow!

 

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A thoughtful brow and face – of sallow hue,
But warm with welcome, as we find him there,
Throned in his old misnomered “easy chair,”
Scrawling a “leader,” or a book-review’
Or staring through the roof for something new
With which to life a wretched rival’s hair,
Or blow some petty clique in empty air
And snap the party-ligaments in two.
A man he is deserving well of thee, –
So be compassionate – yea, pay thy dues,
Nor pamper him with thy spring poetry,
But haul him wood, or something he can use;
And promptly act, not tarry long when he
Gnaweth is pen and glareth rabidly.

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In the Orchard-Days, when you
Children look like blossoms, too,
Bessie, with her jaunty ways
And trim poise of head and face,
Must have looked superior
Even to the blossoms, – for
Little Winnie once averred
Bessie looked just like the bird
Tilted on the topmost spray
Of the apple boughs in May.
With the redbreast, and the strong
Clear, sweet warble of his song  –
“I don’t know their name,” Win said –
“I ist maked a name instead.” –
So forever afterwards
We called robins “Bessie-birds.”

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O heart of mine, we shouldn’t
Worry so!
What we’ve missed of calm we couldn’t
Have you know!
What we’ve met of stormy pain
And of sorrow’s driving rain,
We can better meet again,
If it blow!

We have erred in that dark hour
We have known,
When our tears fell with the shower,
All alone! –
Were not shine and shower blent
As the gracious Master meant? –
Let us temper our content
With His own.

For, we know not every morrow
Can be sad;
So, forgetting all the sorrow
We have had,
Let us fold away our fears,
And put by our foolish tears,
And through all the coming years
Just be glad.

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An old sweetheart of mine! – Is this her presence here with me,
Or but a vain creation of a lover’s memory?
A fair, illusive vision that would vanish into air
Dared I even touch the silence with the whisper of a prayer?

Nay, let me then believe in all the blended false and true –
The semblance of the old love and the substance of the new, –
The then of changeless sunny days, the now of shower and shine –
But Love forever smiling – as that old sweetheart of mine.

This ever-restful sense of home, though shouts ring in the hall.
The easy chair – the old book-shelves and prints along the wall;
The rare Habanas in their box, or gaunt church-warden-stem
That often wags, above the jar, derisively at them.

As one who cons at evening o’er an album, all alone,
And muses on the faces of the friends that he has known,
So I turn the leaves of Fancy, till, in shadowy, design,
I find the smiling features of an old sweetheart of mine.

The lamplight seems to glimmer with a flicker of surprise,
As I turn it low – to rest me of the dazzle in my eyes,
And light my pipe in silence, save a sigh that seems to yoke
Its fate with my tobacco and to vanish with the smoke.

‘Tis a fragrant retrospection, – for the loving thoughts that start
Into being are like perfume from the blossom of the heart;
And to dream the old dreams over is a luxury divine –
When my truant fancies wander with that old sweetheart of mine.

Though I hear beneath my study, like a fluttering of wings,
The voices of my children and the mother as she sings –
I feel no twinge of conscience to deny me any theme
When Care has cast her anchor in the harbor of a dream –

In fact, to speak in earnest, I believe it adds a charm
To spice the good a trifle with a little dust of harm, –
For I find an extra flavor in Memory’s mellow wine
That makes me drink the deeper to that old sweetheart of mine.

O Childhood-days enchanted! O the magic of the Spring! –
With all green boughs to blossom white, and all bluebirds to sing!
When all the air, to toss and quaff, made life a jubilee
And changed the children’s song and laugh to shrieks of ecstasy.

With eyes half closed in clouds that ooze from lips that taste, as well,
The peppermint and cinnamon, I hear the old School bell,
And from “Recess” romp in again from “Blackman’s” broken line,
To smile, behind my “lesson,” at that old sweetheart of mine.

A face of lily beauty, with a form of airy grace,
Floats out of my tobacco as the Genii from the vase;
And I thrill beneath the glances of a pair of azure eyes
As glowing as the summer and as tender as the skies.

I can see the pink sunbonnet and the little checkered dress
She wore when first I kissed her and she answered the caress
With the written declaration that, “as surely as the vine
Grew ’round the stump,” she loved me – that old sweetheart of mine.

Again I made her presents, in a really helpless way, –
The big “Rhode Island Greening” – I was hungry, too, that day! –
But I follow her from Spelling, with her hand behind her – so –
And I slip the apple in it – and the Teacher doesn’t know!

I give my treasures to her – all, – my pencil – blue-and-red; –
And, if little girls played marbles, mine should all be hers, instead!
But she gave me her photograph, and printed “Ever Thine”
Across the back – in blue-and-red – that old sweetheart of mine!

And again I feel the pressure of her slender little hand,
As we used to talk together of the future we had planned, –
When I should be a poet, and with nothing else to do
But write the tender verses that she set her music to…

When we should live together in a cozy little cot
Hid in a nest of roses, with a fairy garden-spot,
Where the vines were ever fruited, and the weather ever fine,
And the birds were ever singing for that old sweetheart of mine.

When I should be her lover forever and a day,
And she my faithful sweetheart till the golden hair was gray;
And we should be so happy that when either’s lips were dumb
They would not smile in Heaven till the other’s kiss had come.

But, ah! my dream is broken by a step upon the stair,
And the door is softly opened, and – my wife is standing there:
Yet with eagerness and rapture all my visions I resign, –
To greet the living presence of that old sweetheart of mine.

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ouorxtg

 

Thou dread, uncanny thing,
With fuzzy breast and leathern wing,
In mad, zigzagging flight,
Notching the dusk, and buffeting
The black cheeks of the night,
……With grim delight!

What witch’s hand unhasps
Thy keen claw-cornered wings
From under the barn roof, and flings
Thee forth, with chattering gasps,
……To scud the air,
And nip the ladybug, and tear
Her children’s hearts out unaware?

The glowworm’s glimmer, and the bright,
Sad pulsings of the firefly’s light,
Are banquet lights to thee.
O less than bird, and worse than beast,
Thou Devil’s self, or brat, at least,
Grate not they teeth at me!

——————————–

photo by Bartek Ambrozik at
http://www.rgbstock.com/photo/oUoRxTG/Bats

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The chiming seas may clang; and Tubal Cain
May clink his tinkling metals as he may;
Or Pan may sit and pipe his breath away;
Or Orpheus wake his most entrancing strain
Till not a note of melody remain! –
But thou, O cricket, with thy roundelay,
Shalt laugh them all to scorn!  So wilt thou, pray
Trill me thy glad song o’er and o’er again:
I shall not weary; there is purest worth
In thy sweet prattle, since it sings the lone
Heart home again.  Thy warbling hath no dearth
Of childish memories – no harsher tone
Than we might listen to in gentlest mirth,
Thou poor plebeian minstrel of the hearth.

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She will not smile;
She will not stir;
I marvel while
I look on her.
……The lips are chilly
……And will not speak;
The ghost of a lily
……In either cheek.

Her hair – ah me!
Her hair – her hair!
How helplessly
My hands go there!
……But my caresses
……Meet not hers,
O golden tresses
……That thread my tears!

I kiss the eyes
On either lid,
Where her love lies
Forever hid.
……I cease my weeping
……And smile and say:
I will be sleeping
……Thus, some day!

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