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Selected Poetry of James Whitcomb Riley (1849-1916)


from Representative Poetry On-line
Prepared by members of the Department of English at the University of Toronto
from 1912 to the present and published by the University of Toronto Press from 1912 to 1967.
RPO Edited by Ian Lancashire
A UTEL (University of Toronto English Library) Edition
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries
© 2005, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto

Index to poems

You better mind yer parunts, an' yer teachurs fond an' dear,
An' churish 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
Don't
Watch
Out!
        (Little Orphant Annie, 41-48)
  1. A Barefoot Boy
  2. The Bumblebee
  3. Granny
  4. Little Orphant Annie
  5. The Old Swimmin' Hole
  6. Our Hired Girl
  7. The Raggedy Man
  8. Wet-weather Talk
  9. When the Frost is on the Punkin


Notes on Life and Works

Born October 7, 1849, James Whitcomb Riley gave up formal education in Greenfield Academy, Indiana, early to do art and make a living however he could, as by sign-painting, one-man stand-up comedy, and medicine shows at home and on the road. He then turned to journalism, first in Greenfield, and afterwards with the Anderson Democrat and the Indianapolis Journal from 1877 to 1885, by 1879 as its resident verse-humorist. During this period he developed his Hoosier dialect and published some of his most loved poems, first in the newspapers, and then in volumes that garnered him many faithful readers:

From 1882 until 1903, and with Bill Nye after 1886, Riley went on reading tours of the United States and received many honours, including membership in the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1911. That year, on his birthday, Indiana and New York City schools celebrated his work, an honour that was extended in 1912 to schools nation-wide. A 6-volume collection of the complete works of this kind, wise poet of everyday Americans was published in 1913. His died, after having lived for some years unmarried, ill from strokes, with friends in Lockerbie Street, Indianapolis, on July 22, 1916.

See also

Biographical information

Given name: James Whitcomb
Family name: Riley
Birth date: 7 October 1849
Death date: 22 July 1916
Nationality: American