Classic and Contemporary Poetry
THE HAPPY LITTLE CRIPPLE, by JAMES WHITCOMB RILEY Poet's Biography
First Line: I'm thist a little crippled boy, an' never goin' to grow
Last Line: "they's nary angel 'bout the place with ""curv'ture of the spine""!"
Alternate Author Name(s): Johnson Of Boone, Benj. F.
Subject(s): Children; Happiness; Physical Disabilities; Childhood; Joy; Delight; Handicapped; Handicaps; Physically Challenged; Cripples
I'M thist a little crippled boy, an' never goin' to grow
An' git a great big man at all! -- 'cause Aunty told me so.
When I was thist a baby onc't I falled out of the bed
An' got "The Curv'ture of the Spine" -- 'at's what the Doctor said.
I never had no Mother nen -- fer my Pa runned away
An' dassn't come back here no more -- 'cause he was drunk one day
An' stobbed a man in thish-ere town, an' couldn't pay his fine!
An' nen my Ma she died -- an' I got "Curv'ture of the Spine"!
I'm nine years old! An' you can't guess how much I weight, I bet! --
Last birthday I weighed thirty-three! -- An' I weight thirty yet!
I'm awful little fer my size -- I'm purt' nigh littler nan
Some babies is! -- an' neighbers all calls me "The Little Man"!
An' Doc one time he laughed an' said: "I s'pect, first think you know,
You'll have a little spike-tail coat an' travel with a show!"
An' nen I laughed -- till I looked round an' Aunty was a-cryin' --
Sometimes she acts like that, 'cause I got "Curv'ture of the Spine"!
I set -- while Aunty's washin' -- on my little long-leg stool,
An' watch the little boys an' girls a-skippin' by to school;
An' I peck on the winder, an' holler out an' say:
"Who wants to fight The Little Man 'at dares you all to-day?"
An' nen the boys climbs on the fence, an' little girls peeks through,
An' they all says: "'Cause you're so big, you think we're 'feard o' you!"
An' nen they yell, an' shake their fist at me, like I shake mine --
They're thist in fun, you know, 'cause I got "Curv'-ture of the Spine"!
At evening, when the ironin' 's done, an' Aunty's fixed the fire,
An' filled an' lit the lamp, an' trimmed the wick an' turned it higher,
An' fetched the wood all in fer night, an' locked the kitchen door,
An' stuffed the old crack where the wind blows in up through the floor --
She sets the kittle on the coals, an' biles an' makes the tea,
An' fries the liver an' the mush, an' cooks a egg fer me;
An' sometimes -- when I cough so hard -- her elderberry wine
Don't go so bad fer little boys with "Curv'ture of the Spine"!
An' nen when she putts me to bed -- an' 'fore she does she's got
My blanket-nighty, 'at she maked, all good an' warm an' hot,
Hunged on the rocker by the fire -- she sings me hymns, an' tells
Me 'bout The Good Man -- yes, an' Elves, an' Old Enchanter spells;
An' tells me more -- an' more -- an' more! -- tel I'm asleep, purt' nigh --
Only I thist set up ag'in an' kiss her when she cry,
A-tellin' on 'bout some boy's Angel-mother -- an' it's mine! . . .
My Ma's a Angel -- but I'm got "The Curv'ture of the Spine"!
But Aunty's all so childish-like on my account, you see,
I'm most afeard she'll be took down -- an' 'at's what bothers me! --
'Cause ef my good old Aunty ever would git sick an' die,
I don't know what she'd do in Heaven -- till I come, by an' by: --
Fer she's so ust to all my ways, an' ever'thing, you know,
An' no one there like me, to nurse an' worry over so! --
'Cause all the little childerns there's so straight an' strong an' fine,
They's nary angel 'bout the place with "Curv'ture of the Spine"!
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