Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Autumn poetry

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 blossums 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. 

When the Frost is on the Pumpkin
James Whitcomb Riley was never married and never had children, was an indifferent student who would never have a good word for a teacher, a drunk, and a wildly successful writer of sentimental poetry for children.     

My mother read me his poems when I was a child; I remember the spooky ones best:

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

His poems lent themselves to impassioned readings, and that was how Riley lived for years; he made a fortune off travelling around reading his poetry.  Hugely popular in his time, he’s now regarded as a minor poet, more noted for his effect on American culture and reflection of American history than for his work itself.

*landscape photo by Huw Williams (Huwmanbeing) (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons, of The Hoosier National Forest near Patoka Lake in southwestern Orange County, Indiana.
*haunted house image from the Children's Museum of Indianapolis
*postcard image from CardCow.com