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Riley Farm-Rhymes by James Whitcomb Riley

First published in 1883, this charming book includes many of James Whitcomb Riley's signature poems, including "Thoughts fer the Discuraged Farmer" and "When the Frost Is on the Punkin." Also graced by noted Brown County artist Will Vawter's folksy illustrations of farm scenes from our past, this Library of Indiana Classics edition faithfully reproduces the 1905 edition. A must-have for Riley enthusiasts everywhere, it offers a warm look at how farm life was depicted over a century ago.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780253009517
Publisher: Indiana University Press
Publication date: 04/11/2013
Series: Library of Indiana Classics Series
Pages: 192
Sales rank: 877,172
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 7.80(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

James Whitcomb Riley (1849–1916) was a best-selling American writer and poet. Known as the "Children’s Poet," he is author of several collections, including The Old Swimmin' Hole, Pipes o' Pan at Zekesbury, and Home Folks.

Will Vawter (1871–1941) was an artist, illustrator, and frequent collaborator with James Whitcomb Riley.

Read an Excerpt

Riley Farm-Rhymes

By James Whitcomb Riley

Indiana University Press

Copyright © 1905 James Whitcomb Riley
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-253-00951-7



    Little brook! Little brook!
    You have such a happy look—
    Such a very merry manner, as you swerve and curve and crook—
    And your ripples, one and one,
    Reach each other's hands and run
    Like laughing little children in the sun!
    Little brook, sing to me:
    Sing about a bumblebee
    That tumbled from a lily-bell and grumbled mumblingly,
    Because he wet the film
    Of his wings, and had to swim,
    While the water-bugs raced round and laughed at him!

    Little brook—sing a song
    Of a leaf that sailed along
    Down the golden-braided centre of your current swift and strong,
    And a dragon-fly that lit
    On the tilting rim of it,
    And rode away and wasn't scared a bit.

    And sing—how oft in glee
    Came a truant boy like me,
    Who loved to lean and listen to your lilting melody,
    Till the gurgle and refrain
    Of your music in his brain
    Wrought a happiness as keen to him as pain.

    Little brook—laugh and leap!
    Do not let the dreamer weep;
    Sing him all the songs of summer till he sink in softest sleep;
    And then sing soft and low
    Through his dreams of long ago—
    Sing back to him the rest he used to know!


    The summer winds is sniffin' round the bloomin' locus' trees;
    And the clover in the pastur is a big day fer the bees,
    And they been a-swiggin' honey, above board and on the sly,
    Tel they stutter in theyr buzzin' and stagger as they fly.
    The flicker on the fence-rail 'pears to jest spit on his wings
    And roll up his feathers, by the sassy way he sings;
    And the hoss-fly is a-whettin'-up his forelegs fer biz,
    And the off-mare is a-switchin' all of her tale they is.

    You can hear the blackbirds jawin' as they foller up the plow—
    Oh, theyr bound to git theyr brekfast, and theyr not a-carin' how;
    So they quarrel in the furries, and they quarrel on the wing—
    But theyr peaceabler in pot-pies than any other thing:
    And it's when I git my shotgun drawed up in stiddy rest,
    She's as full of tribbelation as a yeller-jacket's nest;
    And a few shots before dinner, when the sun's a-shinin' right,
    Seems to kindo'-sorto' sharpen up a feller's appetite!

    They's been a heap o' rain, but the sun's out to-day,
    And the clouds of the wet spell is all cleared away,
    And the woods is all the greener, and the grass is greener still;
    It may rain again to-morry, but I don't think it will.
    Some says the crops is ruined, and the corn's drownded out,
    And propha-sy the wheat will be a failure, without doubt;
    But the kind Providence that has never failed us yet,
    Will be on hands onc't more at the 'leventh hour, I bet!

    Does the medder-lark complane, as he swims high and dry
    Through the waves of the wind and the blue of the sky?
    Does the quail set up and whissel in a disappinted way,
    Er hang his head in silunce, and sorrow all the day?
    Is the chipmuck's health a-failin'?—Does he walk, er does he run?
    Don't the buzzards ooze around up thare jest like they've allus done?
    Is they anything the matter with the rooster's lungs er voice?
    Ort a mortul be complanin' when dumb animals rejoice?

    Then let us, one and all, be contentud with our lot;
    The June is here this morning, and the sun is shining hot.
    Oh! let us fill our harts up with the glory of the day,
    And banish ev'ry doubt and care and sorrow fur away!
    Whatever be our station, with Providence fer guide,
    Sich fine circumstances ort to make us satisfied;
    Fer the world is full of roses, and the roses full of dew,
    And the dew is full of heavenly love that drips fer me and you.


    Mylo Jones's wife" was all
    I heerd, mighty near, last Fall—
    Visitun relations down
    T'other side of Morgantown!
    Mylo Jones's wife she does
    This and that, and "those" and "thus"!—
    Can't 'bide babies in her sight—
    Ner no childern, day and night,
    Whoopin' round the premises—
    Ner no nothin' else, I guess!

    Mylo Jones's wife she 'lows
    She's the boss of her own house!—
    Mylo—consequences is—
    Stays whare things seem some like his,—
    Uses, mostly, with the stock—
    Coaxin' "Old Kate" not to balk,
    Ner kick hoss-flies' branes out, ner
    Act, I s'pose, so much like her!
    Yit the wimmern-folks tells you
    She's perfection.—Yes they do!

    Mylo's wife she says she's found
    Home hain't home with men-folks round
    When they's work like hern to do-
    Picklin' pears and butchern, too,
    And a-rendern lard, and then
    Cookin' fer a pack of men
    To come trackin' up the flore
    She's scrubbed tel she'll scrub no more!
    Yit she'd keep things clean ef they
    Made her scrub tel Jedgmunt Day!

    Mylo Jones's wife she sews
    Carpet-rags and patches clothes

    Jest year in and out!—and yit
    Whare's the livin' use of it?
    She asts Mylo that.—And he
    Gits back whare he'd ruther be,
    With his team;—jest plows—and don't
    Never sware—like some folks won't!
    Think ef he'd cut loose, I gum!
    'D he'p his heavenly chances some!

    Mylo's wife don't see no use,
    Ner no reason ner excuse
    Fer his pore relations to
    Hang round like they allus do!
    Thare 'bout onc't a year—and she
    She jest ga'nts 'em, folks tells me,
    On spiced pears!—Pass Mylo one,
    He says "No, he don't chuse none!"
    Workin'men like Mylo they
    'D ort to have meat ev'ry day!

    Dad-burn Mylo Jones's wife!
    Ruther rake a blame caseknife
    'Crost my wizzen than to see
    Sich a womern rulin' me!

    Ruther take and turn in and
    Raise a fool mule-colt by hand!
    Mylo, though—od-rot the man!—
    Jest keeps ca'm—like some folks can
    And 'lows sich as her, I s'pose,
    Is Man's he'pmeet!—Mercy knows!


    Nobody on the old farm here but Mother, me and John,
    Except, of course, the extry he'p when harvest-time comes on—
    And then, I want to say to you, we needed he'p about,
    As you'd admit, ef you'd a-seen the way the crops turned out!

    A better quarter-section ner a richer soil warn't found
    Than this-here old-home place o' ourn fer fifty miles around!—
    The house was small—but plenty-big we found it from the day
    That John—our only livin' son—packed up and went away.

    You see, we tuk sich pride in John—his mother more'n me—
    That's natchurul; but both of us was proud as proud could be;
    Fer the boy, from a little chap, was most oncommon bright,
    And seemed in work as well as play to take the same delight.

    He allus went a-whistlin' round the place, as glad at heart
    As robins up at five o'clock to git an airly start;
    And many a time 'fore daylight Mother's waked me up to say—
    "Jest listen, David!—listen!—Johnny's beat the birds to-day!"

    High-sperited from boyhood, with a most inquirin' turn,—
    He wanted to learn ever'thing on earth they was to learn:
    He'd ast more plaguy questions in a mortal-minute here
    Than his grandpap in Paradise could answer in a year!

    And read! w'y, his own mother learnt him how to read and spell;
    And "The Childern of the Abbey"—w'y, he knowed that book as well
    At fifteen as his parents!—and "The Pilgrim's Progress," too—
    Jest knuckled down, the shaver did, and read 'em through and through!

    At eighteen, Mother 'lowed the boy must have a better chance—
    That we ort to educate him, under any circumstance;
    And John he j'ined his mother, and they ding-donged and kep' on,
    Tel I sent him off to school in town, half glad that he was gone.

    But—I missed him—w'y, of course I did!—The Fall and Winter through
    I never built the kitchen-fire, er split a stick in two,
    Er fed the stock, er butchered, er swung up a gambrel-pin,
    But what I thought o' John, and wished that he was home ag'in.

    He'd come, sometimes—on Sund'ys most—and stay the Sund'y out;
    And on Thanksgivin'-Day he 'peared to like to be about:
    But a change was workin' on him—he was stiller than before,
    And didn't joke, ner laugh, ner sing and whistle any more.

    And his talk was all so proper; and I noticed, with a sigh,
    He was tryin' to raise side-whiskers, and had on a striped tie,
    And a standin'-collar, ironed up as stiff and slick as bone;
    And a breast-pin, and a watch and chain and plug-hat of his own.

    But when Spring-weather opened out, and John was to come home
    And he'p me through the season, I was glad to see him come;
    But my happiness, that evening, with the settin' sun went down,
    When he bragged of "a position" that was offered him in town.

    "But," says I, "you'll not accept it?" "W'y, of course I will," says he.—
    "This drudgin' on a farm," he says, "is not the life fer me;
    I've set my stakes up higher," he continued, light and gay,

    "And town's the place fer me, and I'm a-goin' right away!"

    And go he did!—his mother clingin' to him at the gate,
    A-pleadin' and a-cryin'; but it hadn't any weight.
    I was tranquiller, and told her 'twarn't no use to worry so,
    And onclasped her arms from round his neck round mine —and let him go!

    I felt a little bitter feelin' foolin' round about
    The aidges of my conscience; but I didn't let it out;—
    I simply retch out, trimbly-like, and tuk the boy's hand,
    And though I didn't say a word, I knowed he'd understand.

    And—well!—sence then the old home here was mighty lonesome, shore!
    With me a-workin' in the field, and Mother at the door,
    Her face ferever to'rds the town, and fadin' more and more—
    Her only son nine miles away, a-clerkin' in a store!

    The weeks and months dragged by us; and sometimes the boy would write
    A letter to his mother, sayin' that his work was light,
    And not to feel oneasy about his health a bit—
    Though his business was confinin,' he was gittin' used to it.

    And sometimes he would write and ast how I was gittin' on,
    And ef I had to pay out much fer he'p sence he was gone;
    And how the hogs was doin,' and the balance of the stock,
    And talk on fer a page er two jest like he used to talk.

    And he wrote, along 'fore harvest, that he guessed he would git home,
    Fer business would, of course, be dull in town.—But didn't come:—
    We got a postal later, sayin' when they had no trade
    They filled the time "invoicin' goods," and that was why he stayed.

    And then he quit a-writin' altogether: Not a word—
    Exceptin' what the neighbers brung who'd been to town and heard
    What store John was clerkin' in, and went round to inquire
    If they could buy their goods there less and sell their produce higher.

    And so the Summer faded out, and Autumn wore away,
    And a keener Winter never fetched around Thanksgivin'-Day!
    The night before that day of thanks I'll never quite fergit,
    The wind a-howlin' round the house—it makes me creepy yit!

    And there set me and Mother—me a-twistin' at the prongs
    Of a green scrub-ellum forestick with a vicious pair of tongs,
    And Mother sayin,' "David! David!" in a' undertone,
    As though she thought that I was thinkin' bad-words unbeknown.

    "I've dressed the turkey, David, fer to-morrow," Mother said,
    A-tryin' to wedge some pleasant subject in my stubborn head,—
    "And the mince-meat I'm a-mixin' is perfection mighty nigh;
    And the pound-cake is delicious-rich—" "Who'll eat 'em?" I-says-I.

    "The cramberries is drippin'-sweet," says Mother, runnin' on,
    P'tendin' not to hear me;—"and somehow I thought of John
    All the time they was a-jellin'—fer you know they allus was
    His favorite—he likes 'em so!" Says I, "Well, s'pose he does?"

    "Oh, nothin' much!" says Mother, with a quiet sort o' smile—
    "This gentleman behind my cheer may tell you after while!"
    And as I turnt and looked around, some one riz up and leant
    And putt his arms round Mother's neck, and laughed in low content.

    "It's me," he says—"your fool-boy John, come back to shake your hand;
    Set down with you, and talk with you, and make you understand
    How dearer yit than all the world is this old home that we
    Will spend Thanksgivin' in fer life—jest Mother, you and me!"

    * * *

    Nobody on the old farm here but Mother, me and John,
    Except, of course, the extry he'p, when harvest-time comes on;
    And then, I want to say to you, we need sich he'p about,
    As you'd admit, ef you could see the way the crops turns out!


Excerpted from Riley Farm-Rhymes by James Whitcomb Riley. Copyright © 1905 James Whitcomb Riley. Excerpted by permission of Indiana University Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Brook-Song, The,
Canary at the Farm, A,
Clover, The,
Country Pathway, A,
Griggsby's Station,
How John Quit the Farm,
Knee-Deep in June,
"Mylo Jones's Wife",
Old-Fashioned Roses,
Old Man's Nursery Rhyme,
Old October,
Old Winters on the Farm,
Orchard Lands of Long Ago, The,
September Dark,
Song of Long Ago, A,
Tale of the Airly Days, A,
Thoughts Fer the Discuraged Farmer,
Tree-Toad, The,
Up and Down Old Brandywine,
Wet-Weather Talk,
When Early March Seems Middle May,
When the Frost is on the Punkin,
When the Green Gits Back in the Trees,
Where the Children Used to Play,
Wortermelon Time,

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