Classic and Contemporary Poetry
THE STRANGE YOUNG MAN, by JAMES WHITCOMB RILEY Poet's Biography
First Line: Twas a strange young man of the dreamy times
Last Line: "namely, that he is a strange young man!"
Alternate Author Name(s): Johnson Of Boone, Benj. F.
Subject(s): Strangers; Youth
'TWAS a strange young man of the dreamy times
When bards made money, and bankers rhymes;
And drones made honey -- and bees made naught;
And the bad sung hymns, and the good-folk fought;
And the merchants lurked in the shade all day
And pitched horseshoes in a listless way!
When the ticket-man at the station knew
If your trunk would go if you checked it through,
And if 2:30 meant half-past two,
And what in-the-name-of-the-land to do
If a man got left when he oughtn't to:
When the cabman wept as he took your fare,
And the street-car driver led in prayer --
And the cuss with the dyed mustache was there
That rode in town on a "jumper"-sled,
And got whipped twice for the things he said
To fellows that told him his hair was red.
And the strange young man (of which and whom
Our pencil offers to deign presume
To treat of now, in the days like these
When young men dress as they please to please)
Went round in a coat of pale pink-blue,
And a snow-white vest of a crimson hue,
And trousers purple, and gaiters gray --
All cut, as the French or the Dutch would say, --
La -- macht nichts aus, oder -- decollete, --
Strange not only in dress, but in
The dimples he wore in cheek and chin --
All nailed over with scraps of tin,
Where he hadn't been shaved as he'd ought o' been; --
And his crape cravat, and the shape of that,
And the ear-tab over his diamond-pin.
And his friends all wondered, and used to say, --
"What a strange young man! Ah me! Hooray!
How sad he seems in his wild delight!
And how tickled indeed when he weeps outright!
What a comical man when he writhes in pain;
And how grieved he grows when he's glad again!"
And marveling still to remark new facts,
They said, "How slender and slim he acts!
And isn't it odd for a man to wear
A thumb-stall over his nose, and pare
His finger-nails with a carving-knife,
And talk of prunes to the landlord's wife?
It is patent to us -- and, indeed, no doubt,
Though as safely sealed as an oystercan, --
Our interest in him must needs leak out, --
Namely, that he is a strange young man!"
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