Saturday, October 6, 2012

Let's hear it for autumn and also for James Whitcomb Riley

My new cyberfriend LightExpectations blogged about autumn today. This post is for her, and it is also for Jeannelle of Iowa, but I don’t know whether she still reads my blog.

It is also for all you city people who never lived on a farm, and all you highly educated folks out there who probably think you’re better than everybody else but still could learn a thing or two.

The following poem by James Whitcomb Riley, which hearkens back to a simpler time and a more agrarian society, may be just what the doctor ordered:

When the Frost is on the Punkin
by James Whitcomb Riley (1849 - 1916)

When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock,
And you hear the kyouck and gobble of the struttin’ turkey-cock,
And the clackin’ of the guineys, and the cluckin’ of the hens,
And the rooster’s hallylooyer as he tiptoes on the fence;
O, it’s then the time a feller is a-feelin’ at his best,
With the risin’ sun to greet him from a night of peaceful rest,
As he leaves the house, bareheaded, and goes out to feed the stock,
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock.

They’s something kindo’ harty-like about the atmusfere
When the heat of summer’s over and the coolin’ fall is here —
Of course we miss the flowers, and the blossoms on the trees,
And the mumble of the hummin’-birds and buzzin’ of the bees;
But the air’s so appetizin’; and the landscape through the haze
Of a crisp and sunny morning of the airly autumn days
Is a pictur’ that no painter has the colorin’ to mock —
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock.

The husky, rusty russel of the tossels of the corn,
And the raspin’ of the tangled leaves as golden as the morn;
The stubble in the furries — kindo’ lonesome-like, but still
A-preachin’ sermuns to us of the barns they growed to fill;
The strawstack in the medder, and the reaper in the shed;
The hosses in theyr stalls below — the clover overhead! —
O, it sets my hart a-clickin’ like the tickin’ of a clock,
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock.

Then your apples all is gethered, and the ones a feller keeps
Is poured around the cellar-floor in red and yaller heaps;
And your cider-makin’s over, and your wimmern-folks is through
With theyr mince and apple-butter, and theyr souse and sausage too!...
I don’t know how to tell it — but ef such a thing could be
As the angels wantin’ boardin', and they’d call around on me —
I’d want to ’commodate ’em — all the whole-indurin’ flock —
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock.

If I had to pick my favorite part of that poem besides the frost and the punkin and the fodder and the shock, it would have to be the rooster’s hallylooyer.

According to that Wikipedia article, Riley’s chief legacy was “his influence in fostering the creation of a midwestern cultural identity and his contributions to the Golden Age of Indiana Literature.” I don’t know about you but I didn’t even know there was such a thing as Indiana Literature, let alone a whole Golden Age of It. It seems we all can still learn a thing or two.

James Whitcomb Riley was not a great poet, but he is an interesting one. Back in the day, we had to read the poem above in school and also his “Little Orphant Annie” with the end of each stanza warning that the Gobble-uns’ll git you ef you don’t watch out!” -- I thought you might like it as Halloween approaches.

If you feel you just can’t get enough of James Whitcomb Riley, here is a link to 449 of his poems (he wrote more than a thousand, the majority in dialect) that should prove you wrong.


  1. Love it! Thank you! :) I'm going to print that one out, and post it where I'll see it everyday this Autumn. Maybe by the time Christmas comes, I'll have memorized a new poem!

  2. Light, one of those 449 poems of Riley's I found is about Spring:

    When the Green Gits Back in the Trees

    ...and if you like poems in general, here are a bunch of my own (but you have to wade through some deathless prose first):

    Chapter 33 of Billy Ray Barnwell Here

  3. i finnally blogged my two punkins 213 pounds and 186 pounds

  4. Never heard of him before but I enjoyed the poem. The pinc-nez spectacles he is wearing in the postage stamp do not suggest a rustic man. Why don't you get some? They will make you look more sophisticated in the local Piggly Wiggly.

  5. the frost 21 degrees this morning was on the pumkin, remaining tomatoes, beans, and sqish

  6. Thanks for the links. Never read "When the Green..." before ~ love it! And I'll start wading through your deathless prose :)