Classic and Contemporary Poetry
THE LITTLE COAT, by JAMES WHITCOMB RILEY Poet's Biography
First Line: Here's his ragged 'round-a-bout'
Last Line: Beckon us.
Alternate Author Name(s): Johnson Of Boone, Benj. F.
Subject(s): Absence; Children; Wandering & Wanderers; Separation; Isolation; Childhood
HERE'S his ragged "roundabout." . . .
Turn the pockets inside out:
See; his penknife, lost to use,
Rusted shut with apple-juice;
Here, with marbles, top and string,
Is his deadly "devil-sling,"
With its rubber, limp at last
As the sparrows of the past!
Beeswax -- buckles -- leather straps --
Bullets, and a box of caps, --
Not a thing of all, I guess,
But betrays some waywardness --
E'en these tickets, blue and red,
For the Bible-verses said --
Such as this his mem'ry kept, --
Here's a fishing-hook and -line,
Tangled up with wire and twine,
And dead angleworms, and some
Slugs of lead and chewing-gum,
Blent with scents that can but come
From the oil of rhodium.
Here -- a soiled, yet dainty note,
That some little sweetheart wrote,
Dotting -- "Vine grows round the stump,"
And -- "My sweetest sugar-lump!"
Wrapped in this -- a padlock key
Where he's filed a touch-hole -- see!
And some powder in a quill
Corked up with a liver pill;
And a spongy little chunk
Here's the little coat -- but O
Where is he we've censured so?
Don't you hear us calling, dear?
Back! come back, and never fear. --
You may wander where you will,
Over orchard, field and hill;
You may kill the birds, or do
Anything that pleases you!
Ah, this empty coat of his!
Every tatter worth a kiss;
Every stain as pure instead
As the white stars overhead:
And the pockets -- homes were they
Of the little hands that play
Now no more -- but, absent, thus
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