Classic and Contemporary Poetry
WHEN THE HEARSE COMES BACK, by JAMES WHITCOMB RILEY Poet's Biography
First Line: A thing 'at's 'bout as tryin' as a healthy man kin meet
Last Line: "back!"
Alternate Author Name(s): Johnson Of Boone, Benj. F.
Subject(s): Animals; Death; Funerals; Hearses; Horses; Dead, The; Burials
A THING 'at's 'bout as tryin' as a healthy man kin meet
Is some poor feller's funeral a-joggin' 'long the street:
The slow hearse and the hosses -- slow enough, to say the least,
Fer to even tax the patience of the gentleman deceased!
The low scrunch of the gravel -- and the slow grind of the wheels, --
The low, slow go of ev'ry woe 'at ev'rybody feels!
So I ruther like the contrast when I hear the whiplash crack
A quickstep fer the hosses,
Meet it goin' to'rds the cimet'ry, you'll want to drap yer eyes --
But ef the plumes don't fetch you, it'll ketch you otherwise --
You'll haf to see the caskit, though you'd ort to look away
And 'conomize and save yer sighs fer any other day!
Yer sympathizin' won't wake up the sleeper from his rest --
Yer tears won't thaw them hands o' his 'at's froze acrost his breast!
And this is why -- when airth and sky's a-gittin' blurred and black --
I like the flash and hurry
It's not 'cause I don't 'preciate it ain't no time fer jokes,
Ner 'cause I' got no common human feelin' fer the folks; --
I've went to funerals myse'f, and tuk on some, perhaps --
Fer my heart's 'bout as mal'able as any other chap's, --
I've buried father, mother -- but I'll haf to jes' git you
To "excuse me," as the feller says. -- The p'int I'm drivin' to
Is, simply, when we're plum broke down and all knocked out o' whack,
It he'ps to shape us up, like,
The idy! wadin' round here over shoe-mouth deep in woe,
When they's a graded 'pike o' joy and sunshine, don't you know!
When evening strikes the pastur', cows'll pull out fer the bars,
And skittish-like from out the night'll prance the happy stars.
And so when my time comes to die, and I've got ary friend
'At wants expressed my last request -- I'll, mebby, rickommend
To drive slow, ef they haf to, goin' 'long the out'ard track,
But I'll smile and say, "You speed 'em
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