Saturday, October 25, 2014

A portmanteau post

[Editor’s note. According to, a portmanteau word is a word composed of parts of two or more words, such as chortle (from chuckle and snort) and motel (from motor and hotel) . The term was first used by Lewis Carroll to describe many of the unusual words in his Through the Looking-Glass (1871), particularly in the poem “Jabberwocky.” Other authors who have experimented with such words are James Joyce and Gerard Manley Hopkins. Since this post combines parts of two previous posts of mine (one from October 2013 and one from October 2012) , I have dubbed it a portmanteau post. --RWP]

Here is part of Burt’s Pumpkin Patch in Dawsonville, Georgia, which Mrs. RWP and I visited when Bob and Linda (my stepbrother and his wife) visited Georgia last year:

This post is 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 one of the great poets, but he is an interesting one nonetheless. Back in the day, we had to read that poem in school and also his “Little Orphant Annie” with the warning at the end of each stanza 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.

*here’s a shout-out to Pam Doyle, otherwise known as Hilltophomesteader, who (a) lives somewhere in southwestern Washington state and (b) has gone on record as really liking James Whitcomb Riley. Hi, Pam!


  1. This is a good poem but not a patch on Jabberwockey.
    I learnt it at school and taught it to my niece. her favourite bit was.
    "Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
    The frumious Bandersnatch!”

    Just stunning writing and writing that a five year old can relate to.

  2. PS. is Idaho mid-west. Literacy was not high on the agenda in Spokane.

  3. Adrian, I understand your first comment, but I am confused by your P.S.

    My post mentioned that James Whitcomb Riley was from INDIANA, which definitely IS in the midwest, not from IDAHO, which definitely IS NOT in the midwest. In fact, Idaho is a Rocky Mountain or Western (not MIDwestern) state. Part of Idaho's western border is contiguous with Washington, where Spokane is. But why did you mention Spokane? Hilltophomesteader (Pam Doyle), whom I mentioned in the post, lives in southWESTtern Washington, about as far from Spokane as one can get and remain in Washington, as Spokane is in EASTern Washington. Please explain. Am I missing something?

  4. Like Adrian, I prefer Jabberwocky. I grew up with it, and love it still. And would like a vorpal sword.

  5. Elephant's Child and also Adrian again, since both of you mentioned that you prefer "Jabberwocky," I fear that I have unintentionally misled you (and perhaps other readers as well). "When The Frost Is On the Punkin" is not an example of portmanteau poetry -- not at all. It is an example of American midwestern rural dialect in a mid-nineteenth century autumn, but there's not a single portmanteau word in it. I did not mean for readers to compare Jabberwocky to Riley's poem. It's the POST, not the poem, that is portmanteau because it was put together from two other posts. Sorry for the confusion. Now go gyre and gimble in the wabe.

  6. I did know what you meant. And still prefer Jabberwocky.

  7. People! We needn't compare! Some days are Jabberwock days and SOME days are James Whitcomb Riley days!!! It's like choosing between coffee and don't choose, you just let yourself have plenty of BOTH! Coffolate, or chocolee...And now that everyone knows who I am and where to find me, we'll gather inside around the cookstove for a James Whitcomb Riley reading or served, of course!

  8. Was it intentional that the postage stamp showing James Whitcomb Riley would sit directly adjacent to the sidebar picture of you as a little boy? The resemblance is uncanny.

  9. Yorkshire Pudding, I never noticed before, but we do seem to have the same ears. Come to think of it, I do look quite distinguished wearing pince-nez as well.

  10. I'm looking forward to reading JWR over the next several days. I am a fan of his, but haven't read anything by him in a long time. I'll enjoy re-familiarizing myself. :)

  11. Greetings, my kind friend,

    Yes, my absence may or may not have been noted. Apologies for such a lengthy absence. However, life-changing adjustments made it so.

    I find that old style poetic writing most intriguing.

    Thanks for this and time for brunch, methinks.


  12. I'm late here, but better that than never methinks. I remember your pumpkin patch pictures from last year, they are so impressive. We have a couple of big ones left ourselves plus a variety of smaller squashes. I'll be sick of the sight of them soon I tell you. I like some elements of the poem, but for the most part it is not my bag, it does however fit with the post perfectly.

  13. I like all these pumpkins. I tried pumpkin soup but did not like it much, but I am partial to pumpkin bread and last week Trader Joe’s was giving samples of their pumpkin ice cream – delish! Thanks for coming to my blog – but – who is Valerie? That is a pretty name, but not mine.

  14. Vagabonde, thanks for commenting. My social faux pas regarding your name was due to my poor eyesight; I apparently can't distinguish a period from a comma any more. While reading through the comments on your Archibald Smith Plantation post, I thought someone had revealed your named by saying, "Thank you, Valerie." I went back there just now and saw that Valerie-Jael had said, "Great post, very enjoyable. Thanks for sharing. Valerie" -- that is, she had signed her name at the end of her comment. She was not addressing you. Such is life as one ages.

    If you like, you may refer to me as Maurice or Pierre for the next couple of months.