Classic and Contemporary Poetry
TO MY OLD FRIEND, WILLIAM LEACHMAN, by JAMES WHITCOMB RILEY Poet's Biography
First Line: Fer forty year and better you have been a friend to me
Last Line: Fer the name of william leachman and true manhood's jest the same!
Alternate Author Name(s): Johnson Of Boone, Benj. F.
Subject(s): Friendship; Love; Memory; Time
FER forty year and better you have been a friend to me,
Through days of sore afflictions and dire adversity,
You allus had a kind word of counsul to impart,
Which was like a healin' 'intment to the sorrow of my hart.
When I buried my first womern, William Leachman, it was you
Had the only consolation that I could listen to --
Fer I knowed you had gone through it and had rallied from the blow,
And when you said I'd do the same, I knowed you'd ort to know.
But that time I'll long remember; how I wundered here and thare --
Through the settin'-room and kitchen, and out in the open air --
And the snowflakes whirlin', whirlin', and the fields a frozen glare,
And the neghbors' sleds and wagons congergatin' ev'rywhare.
I turned my eyes to'rds heaven, but the sun was hid away;
I turned my eyes to'rds earth again, but all was cold and gray;
And the clock, like ice a-crackin', clickt the icy hours in two --
And my eyes'd never thawed out ef it hadn't been fer you!
We set thare by the smoke-house -- me and you out thare alone --
Me a-thinkin' -- you a-talkin' in a soothin' undertone --
You a-talkin' -- me a-thinkin' of the summers long ago,
And a-writin' "Marthy -- Marthy" with my finger in the snow!
William Leachman, I can see you jest as plane as I could then;
And your hand is on my shoulder, and you rouse me up again;
And I see the tears a-drippin' from your own eyes, as you say:
"Be rickonciled and bear it -- we but linger fer a day!"
At the last Old Settlers' Meetin' we went j'intly, you and me --
Your hosses and my wagon, as you wanted it to be;
And sence I can remember, from the time we've neghbored here,
In all sich friendly actions you have double-done your sheer.
It was better than the meetin', too, that nine-mile talk we had
Of the times when we first settled here and travel was so bad;
When we had to go on hoss-back, and sometimes on "Shanks's mare,"
And "blaze" a road fer them behind that had to travel thare.
And now we was a-trottin' 'long a level gravel pike,
In a big two-hoss road-wagon, jest as easy as you like --
Two of us on the front seat, and our wimmern-folks behind,
A-settin' in theyr Winsor-cheers in perfect peace of mind!
And we pinted out old landmarks, nearly faded out of sight: --
Thare they ust to rob the stage-coach; thare Gash Morgan had the fight
With the old stag-deer that pronged him -- how he battled fer his life,
And lived to prove the story by the handle of his knife.
Thare the first griss-mill was put up in the Settlement, and we
Had tuck our grindin' to it in the Fall of Forty-three --
When we tuck our rifles with us, techin' elbows all the way,
And a-stickin' right together ev'ry minute, night and day.
Thare ust to stand the tavern that they called the "Travelers' Rest,"
And thare, beyent the covered bridge, "The Counterfitters' Nest" --
Whare they claimed the house was ha'nted -- that a man was murdered thare,
And burried underneath the floor, er 'round the place somewhare.
And the old Plank-road they laid along in Fifty-one er two --
You know we talked about the times when the old road was new:
How "Uncle Sam" put down that road and never taxed the State
Was a problum, don't you rickollect, we couldn't dimonstrate?
Ways was devius, William Leachman, that me and you has past;
But as I found you true at first, I find you true at last;
And, now the time's a-comin' mighty nigh our jurney's end,
I want to throw wide open all my soul to you, my friend.
With the stren'th of all my bein', and the heat of hart and brane,
And ev'ry livin' drop of blood in artery and vane,
I love you and respect you, and I venerate your name,
Fer the name of William Leachman and True Manhood's jest the same!
Other Poems of Interest...