Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, SPIRITS AT HOME, by JAMES WHITCOMB RILEY

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SPIRITS AT HOME, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: There was father, and mother. And emmy, and jane
Last Line: "for we live in the ghost of the old house now!"
Alternate Author Name(s): Johnson Of Boone, Benj. F.
Subject(s): Death; Family Life; Home; Spiritual Life; Dead, The; Relatives


THERE was Father, and Mother, and Emmy, and Jane,
And Lou, and Ellen, and John and me --
And Father was killed in the war, and Lou
She died of consumption, and John did too,
And Emmy she went with the pleurisy.


Father believed, in 'em all his life --
But Mother, at first, she'd shake her head --
Till after the battle of Champion Hill,
When many a flag in the winder-sill
Had crape mixed in with the white and red!

I used to doubt 'em myself till then --
But me and Mother was satisfied
When Ellen she set, and Father came
And repped "God Bless You!" and Mother's name,
And "The Flag's up here!" . . . And we all just cried.

Used to come often, after that,
And talk to us -- just as he used to do,
Pleasantest kind! And once, for John,
He said he was "lonesome, but wouldn't let on --
Fear Mother would worry, and Emmy and Lou."

But Lou was the bravest girl on earth --
For all she never was hale and strong,
She'd have her fun! -- With her voice clean lost
She'd laugh and joke us that "when she crossed
To Father, we'd all come taggin' along!"

Died -- just that way! And the raps was thick
That night, as they often since occur,
Extry loud! And when Lou got back
She said it was Father and her -- and "whack!"
She tuk the table -- and we knowed her!

John and Emmy, in five years more,
Both had went -- And it seemed like fate, --
For the old home it burnt down. -- But Jane
And me and Ellen we built again
The new house, here, on the old estate.

And a happier family I don't know
Of anywheres -- unless it's them, --
Father, with all his love for Lou,
And her there with him, and healthy, too,
And laughin', with John and little Em.

And, first we moved in the new house here,
They all dropped in for a long powwow: --
"We like your buildin', of course," Lou said, --
"But wouldn't swap with you to save your head --
For we live in the ghost of the old house now!"

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