"Where we celebrate the child in us all"

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RILEY'S CHILDREN'S POETRY:   Little Orphant Annie, The Raggedy Man, Nine Little Goblins, A Nonsense Rhyme, A Fire at Night, Almost Beyond Endurance, A Boy's Mother, Farmer Whipple, The Fishin' Party, Hoosier Deutsch Lullaby, The Impetuous Resolve, A Life Lesson, and Wrangdillion.                

Illustrations from the turn of the 19th Century by Will Vawter


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'
An' make the fire, an' bake the bread, an' earn her board-
An' all us other childern, when the supper-things is done,
We set around the kitchen fire an' has the mostest fun,
A-listenin' to the witch-tales 'at Annie tells about,
An' the Gobble-uns 'at gits you
Ef you

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
An' they seeked him in the rafter-room, an' cubby-hole, an'
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

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'
They wuz two great big Black Things a-standin' by her side,
An' they snatched her through the ceilin' 'for 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 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' cherish 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



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'4 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' apple6 down fer me -
An' 'nother 'n' too, fer 'Lizabuth Ann -
An' 'nuther '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!
Nene 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', rite 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 'Lizabeth 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' thru 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 nice Raggedy Man!"
I'm ist go' to be a nice Raggedy Man!
Raggedy! Raggedy! Raggedy Man!


They all climbed up on a high board-fence -
Nine little goblins, with green-glass eyes -
Nine little goblins that had no sense,
And couldn't tell coppers2 from cold mince pies3;
And they all climbed up on a fence, and sat -
And I asked them what they were staring at.

And the first one said, as he scratched his head
With a queer little arm that reached out of his ear
And rasped its claws in his hair so red -
"This is what this little arm is fer!"
And he scratched and stared, and the next one said,
"How on earth do you scratch your head?" And he laughed like
the screech of a rusty hinge -
Laughed and laughed till his face grew black;
And when he choked, with a final twinge
Of his stifling laughter, he thumped his back
With a fist that grew on the end of his tail
Till the breath came back to his lips so pale.

And the third little goblin leered round at me -
And there were no lids on his eyes at all, -
And he clucked one eye, and he says, says he,
"What is the style of your socks this fall?"
And he clapped his heels - and I sighed to see
That he had hands where his feet should be.

Then a bald-faced goblin, gray and grim,
Bowed his head, and I saw him slip
His eyebrows off, as I looked at him,
And paste them over his upper lip;
And then he moaned in remorseful pain -
"Would - Ah, would I'd me brows again!"

And then the whole of the goblin band
Rocked on the fence-top to and fro,
And clung, in a long row, hand in hand,
Singing the songs that they used to know -
Singing the songs that their grandsires sung
In the goo-goo days of the goblin-tongue.

And ever they kept their green-glass eyes
Fixed on me with a stony stare -
Till my own grew glazed with a dread surmise,
And my hat whooped up on my lifted hair,
And I felt the heart in my breast snap to,
As you've heard the lid of a snuff-box4 do.

And they sang: "You're asleep! There is no board-fence
And never a goblin with green-glass eyes! -
'Tis only a vision the mind invents
After a supper of cold mince pies. -
And you're doomed to dream this way," they said, -
"And you shan't wake up till you're clean plum5 dead!"


And what will we sing?
Some little crinkety-crankety thing
That rhymes and chimes,
And skips, sometimes,
As though wound up with a kink in
the spring.

And chunkety-plung!
Sing the song that the bullfrog sung, -
A song of the soul
Of a mad tadpole
That met his fate in a leaky bowl;
And it's O for the first false wiggle he
In a sea of pale pink lemonade!
And its O for the thirst
Within him pent,
And the hopes that burst
As his reason went -
When his strong arm failed and his
strength was spent!

Sing, O sing
Of the things that cling,
And the claws that clutch and the
fangs that sting -
Till the tadpole's tongue
And his tail upflung
Quavered and failed with a song
O the dank despair in the
rank morass,
Where the crawfish crouch in
the cringing grass,
And the long limp rune of the loon wails on
For the mad, sad soul
Of a bad tadpole
Forever lost and gone!

And now we'll see
What the last of the lay shall be,
As the dismal tip of the tune, O
Swoons away and the long tail
And it's O and alack!
For the tangled legs
And the spangled back
Of the green grig's eggs,
And the unstrung strain
Of the strange refrain
That the winds wind up like a strand
of rain!

And its O,
For the ears wreathed low,
Like a laurel-wreath on the lifted brow
Of the frog that chants of the why and
And the wherefore too, and the
thus and so
Of the wail he weaves in a woof
of woe!
Twangle, then, with your wrangling
The tinkling links of a thousand
And clang the pang of a maddening
Till the Echo, hid in a land unknown,
Shall leap as he hears, and hoot
and hoo
Like the wretched wraith of a


Fire! Fire! Ring! and Ring!
Hear the old bell bang and ding!
Fire! Fire! 'way at night, -
Can't you hear? - I thin you might! -
Can't hear them-air clangin' bells? -
W'y, I can't hear nothin' else!
Fire! Ain't you 'wake at last! -
Hear them horses poundin' past -
Hear that ladder-wagon grind
Round the corner! - and behind,
Hear the horse-cart, turnin' short
And the horses slip and snort
As the engines clank-and-jar
Jolts the whole street, near and far,
Fire! Fire! Fire! Fire!
Can't you h'ist2 that winder higher?
La! they've all got past like "scat!"...
Night's as black as my old hat -
And it's rainin', too, at that!...
Wonder where their old fire's at!

1. The poem of a child's excitement as a horse-drawn fire
truck goes by.
2. "hoist" or "lift"


I ain't a-goin' to cry no more, no more!
I'm got ear-ache, an' Ma can't make
It quit a-tall;
An' Carlo bite my rubber-ball
An' puncture it; an' Sis she take
An' poke' my knife down through the stable-floor
An' loozed it - blame it all!
But I ain't goin' to cry no more, no more!

An' Aunt Mame wrote she's comin',
an she can't -
Folks is come there! - An I don't care
She is my Aunt!
An' my eyes stings; an' I'm
Ist coughin' all the time,
An' hurts me so; an' where my side's so sore
Grampa felt where, an' he
Says `Mayby it's pleurasy!"
But I ain't goin' to cry no more, no more!

An' I clumbed up an' nen failed off the fence,
An' Herbert he ist laugh at me!
An my fi'-cents
It sticked in my tin bank, an' I ist store
Purt' nigh my thumbnail off,
a-tryin to get
It out - nen smash it! - An' it's in there yit!
But I ain't goin' to cry no more, no more!

Oo! I'm so wickud! - An' my breath's so hot -
Ist like I run an' don't res' none
But ist run on when I ought to not;
Yes, an' my chin
An' lip's all warpy, an' teeth's so fast,
An' 's a place in my throat I can't swaller past -
An' they all hurt so!
An' oh, my-oh!
I'm a-startin' ag'in -
I'm a-startin ag'in, but I won't, fer shore! -
I ist ain't goin' to cry no more, no more!


My mother she's so good to me,
Ef I was good as I could be,
I couldn't be as good - no, sir! -
Can't any boy be good as her!

She loves me when I'm glad er sad;
She loves me when I'm good er bad;
An', what's a funniest thing, she says
She loves me when she punishes.

I don't like her to punish me, -
That don't hurt, - but it hurts to see
Her cryin', - Nen I cry; an' nen
We both cry an' be good again.

She loves me when she cuts an' sews
My little cloak an' Sund'y clothes;
An' when my Pa comes home to tea,
She loves him most as much as me.

She laughs an' tells him all I said,
An' grabs me up an' pats my head;
An' I hug her, an' hug my Pa
An' love him purt' nigh as much as Ma.


It's a mystery to see me - a man o' fifty-four,
Who's lived a cross old bachelor fer thirty year' and more -
A-lookin' glad and smilin'! And they's none o' you can say
That you can guess the reason why I feel so good to-day!

I must tell you all about it! But I'll have to deviate
A little in beginnin', so's to set the matter straight
As to how it comes to happen that I never took a wife -
Kindo' "crawfish" from the present to the Springtime of my

I was brought up in the country: Of a family of five -
Three brothers and a sister - I'm the only one alive, -
Fer they all died little babies; and 'twas one o' Mother's
You know, to want a daughter; so she took a girl to raise.

The sweetest little thing she was, with rosy cheeks, and fat
We was little chunks o' shavers then about as high as that!
But someway we sort o' suited-like! and Mother she'd declare
She never laid her eyes on a more lovin' pair

Than we was! So we growed up side by side fer thirteen year',
And every hour of it she growed to me more dear! -
W'y, even Father's dyin', as he did, I do believe
Warn't more affectin' to me than it was to see her grieve!

I was then a lad o' twenty; and I felt a flash o' pride
In thinkin' all depended on me now to pervide
Fer mother and fer Mary; and I went about the place
With sleeves rolled up - and workin', with a mighty smilin'
face, -

Fer somepin' else was workin'! but not a word I said
Of a certain sort o' notion that was runnin' through my head,
"Some day I'd maybe marry, and brother's love was one
Thing - a lover's was another!" was the way the notion run!

I remember onc't in harvest, when the "cradle-in'" was done,
(When the harvest of my summers mounted up to twenty-one),
I was ridin' home with Mary at the closin' o' the day -
A-chawin' straws and thinkin', in a lover's lazy way! And
Mary's cheeks was burnin' like the sunset down the lane:
I noticed she was thinkin', too, and ast her to explain.
Well - when she turned and kissed me, with her arms around me
- law!
I'd a bigger load o' Heaven than I had a load o' straw!

I don't p'tend to larnin', but I'll tell you what's a fac',
They's a mighty truthful sayin' somers in a' almanac -
Er somers - 'bout "puore happiness"- perhaps some folks'll
At the idy - "only lastin' jest two seconds and half." -

But it's jest as true as preachin'! - fer that was a sister's
And a sister's lovin' confidence a-tellin' to me this: -
"She was happy, bein' promised to the son o' Farmer Brown."
And my feelin's stuck a pardnership with sunset and went

I don't know how I acted, and I don't know what I said, -
Fer my heart seemed jest a-turnin' to an ice-cold lump o'
And the hosses kind o' glimmered before me in the road,
And the lines fell from my fingers - And that was all I
knowed -

Fer - well, I don't know how long - They's a dim rememberence
Of a sound o' snortin' horses, and a stake-and-ridered fence
A-whizzin' past, and wheat-sheaves a-dancin' in the air,
And Mary screamin' "Murder!" and a-runnin' up to where

I was layin' by the roadside, and the wagon upside down
A-leanin' on the gate-post, with the wheels a-whirlin' roun'!
And I tried to raise and meet her, but I couldn't, with a
Sort o' notion comin' to me that I had a broken leg.

Well, the women nussed me through it; but many a time I'd
As I'd keep a-gettin' better instid o' goin' to die,
And wonder what was left me worth livin' fer below,
When the girl I loved was married to another, don't you know!

And my thoughts was as rebellious as the folks was good and
When Brown and Mary married - Railly must 'a' been my mind
Was kind o' out o' kilter! - fer I hated Brown, you see,
Worse's pizen - and the feller whittled crutches out fer me -

And done a thousand little ac's o' kindness and respec' -
And me a-wishin' all the time that I could break his neck!
My relief was like a mourner's when the funeral is done
When they moved to Illinois in the Fall o' Forty-one.

Then I went to work in airnest - I had nothin' much in view
But to drownd out rickollections - and it kep' me busy, too!
But I slowly thrived and prospered, tel Mother used to say
She expected yit to see me a wealthy man some day.

Then I'd think how little money was, compared to happiness -
And who'd be left to use it when I died I couldn't guess!
But I've still kep' speculatin' and a-gainin' year by year,
Tel I'm payin' half the taxes in the county, might near!

Well! - A year ago er better, a letter comes to hand
Astin' how'd I'd like to dicker fer some Illinois land -
"The feller that had owned it," it went ahead to state,
"Had jest deceased, insolvent, leavin' chance to speculate,"

And then it closed by sayin' that I'd better come and see." -
I'd never been West, anyhow - a'most too wild fer me,
I'd allus had a notion; but a lawyer here in town
Said I'd find myself mistakend when I come to look around.

So I bids good-by to Mother, and I jumps aboard the train,
A-thinkin' what I'd bring her when I come back home again -
And ef she'd had an idy what the present was to be,
I think it's more'n likely she'd 'a'went along with me!

Cars is awful tejus ridin', fer all they go so fast!
But finally they called out my stoppin'-place at last:
And that night, at the tavern, I dreamp' I was a train
O' cars, and skeered at somepin', runnin' down a country

Well, in the morning airly - after huntin' up the man -
The lawyer who was wantin' to swap a piece o' land -
We started fer the country; and I ast the history
Of the farm - its former owner - and so forth, etcetery!

And - well - it was interestin' - I su'prised him, I suppose,
By the loud and frequent manner in which I blowed my nose! -
But his su'prise was greater, and it made him wonder more,
When I kissed and hugged the widder when she met us at the
door! -

It was Mary:...They's a feelin' a-hidin' down in here -
Of course I can't explain it, ner ever make it clear. -
It was with us in that meetin', I don't want you to fergit!
And it makes me kind o' nervous when I think about it yit!

I bought that farm, and deeded it, afore I left the town,
With 'title clear to mansions in the skies," to Mary Brown!
And fu'thermore, I took her and the childern - fer you see,
They'd never seed their Grandma - and I fetched 'em home with

So now you've got an idy why a man o' fifty-four,
Who's lived a cross old bachelor fer thirty year' and more
Is a-lookin' glad and smilin'! - And I've jest come into town
To git a pair o' license fer to marry Mary Brown."



Wunst we went a-fishin' - Me
An' my Pa an' Ma, all three
When they wuz a picnic, 'way
Out to Hanch's Woods, one day.

An' they wuz a crick out there,
Where the fishes is, an' where
Little boys `taint big an' strong
Better have their folks along!

My Pa he ist fished an' fished!
An' my Ma she said she wished
Me an' her was home; an' Pa
Said he wished so worse'n Ma.

Pa said ef you talk, er say
Anything, er sneeze, er play
Hain't no fish, alive er dead,
Ever go' to bite! he said.

Purt' nigh dark in town when we
Got back home; an' Ma, says she,
Now she'll have a fish for shore!
An' she buyed one at the store.

Nen at supper Pa he won't
Eat no fish, an' says, he don't
Like 'em - An' he pounded me
When I choked!...Ma, didn't he?


Leedle dutch baby haff gome to town!
Jabber and jump till der day goes down;
Jabber unt schpluter, unt blubber unt phizz
Vot a dutch baby dees lannsman is!
I dink dose mout vas leedle too vide
Obber you laugh fon dot also-side;
Haff got blenty of deemple unt vrown?
Hey, leedle dutchman gome to town.

Leedle dutch baby, I dink me proud
Obber your fader can schquall dot loud
Ven he vos leedle dutch baby like you,
Unt yoost don'd gare like he always do;
Guess ven dey vean id on beer you bet
Dots der reason he don'd vean'd yet -
Vot you said off he drink you down,
Hey, leedle dutchman gome to town.

Leedle dutch baby, yoost schquall avay -
Schquall fon breakfast till gisterday:
Better you all-time gry unt shoud
Dan schmile me vonce fon der coffin oud!
Vot I gare off you keek my nose
Downside-up, mit you heels unt toes -
Downside-up, or sideup-down
Hey! leedle dutchman gome to town.


When little Dickie Swope's a man,
He's going to be a sailor;
And little Hamey Tincher, he's
A'going to be a Tailor;
Bud Mitchell, he's a'going to be
A stylish Carriage-Maker;
And when I grow a great big man
I'm going to be a Baker.
And Dick will buy his sailor-suit
Of Hame; and Hame will take it
And buy as fine a double rig
As ever Bud can make it;
And then all three'll drive round for me,
And we'll drive off together
Slinging pie-crust along the road
Forever and forever.


There! little girl; don't cry!
They have broken your doll, I know;
And your tea-set blue,
And your play-house too;
And 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 schoolgirl 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!


Dexery-Tethery! down in the dike,
Under the ooze and the slime,
Nestles the wraith of a reticent Gryke,
Blubbering bubbles of rhyme;
Though the reeds touch him and tickle his teeth -
Though the Graigroll and the Cheest
Pluck at the leaves of his laureate-wreath,
Nothing affects him the least.

He sinks to the dregs in the dead o' the night,
And he shuffles the shadows about
As he gathers the stars in a nest of delight
And sets there and hatches them out:
The Zhederrill peers from his wtery mine
In scorn with the Will-o'-the-wisp,
As he twinkles his eyes in a whisper of shine
That ends in a luminous lisp.

The Morning is born like a baby of gold,
And it lies in a spasm of pink,
And rallies the Cheest for the horrible cold
He has dragged to the willowy brink,
The Gryke blots his tears with a scrap of his grief,
And growls at the wary Graigroll
As he twunkers a tune on a Tiljicum leaf
And hums like a telegraph pole.