Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE OLD MAN AND JIM, by JAMES WHITCOMB RILEY



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THE OLD MAN AND JIM, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Old man never had much to say
Last Line: "take keer of yourse'f!"
Alternate Author Name(s): Johnson Of Boone, Benj. F.
Subject(s): Death; Old Age; Soldiers; War; Dead, The


OLD man never had much to say --
'Ceptin' to Jim, --
And Jim was the wildest boy he had,
And the old man jes' wrapped up in him!
Never heerd him speak but once
Er twice in my life, -- and first time was
When the army broke out, and Jim he went,
The old man backin' him, fer three months;
And all 'at I heerd the old man say
Was jes' as we turned to start away, --
"Well, good-bye, Jim:
Take keer of yourse'f!"

'Peared like he was more satisfied
Jes' lookin' at Jim
And likin' him all to hisse'f-like, see? --
'Cause he was jes' wrapped up in him!
And over and over I mind the day
The old man come and stood round in the way
While we was drillin', a-watchin' Jim;
And down at the deepot a heerin' him say, --
"Well, good-bye, Jim:
Take keer of yourse'f!"

Never was nothin' about the farm
Disting'ished Jim;
Neighbors all ust to wonder why
The old man 'peared wrapped up in him:
But when Cap. Biggler, he writ back
'At Jim was the bravest boy we had
In the whole dern rigiment, white er black,
And his fightin' good as his farmin' bad, --
'At he had led, with a bullet clean
Bored through his thigh, and carried the flag
Through the bloodiest battle you ever seen, --
The old man wound up a letter to him
At Cap. read to us, 'at said, -- " Tell Jim
Good-bye;
And take keer of hisse'f!"

Jim come home jes' long enough
To take the whim
'At he'd like to go back in the calvery --
And the old man jes' wrapped up in him!
Jim 'lowed 'at he'd had sich luck afore,
Guessed he'd tackle her three years more.
And the old man give him a colt he'd raised,
And follered him over to Camp Ben Wade,
And laid around for a week er so,
Watchin' Jim on dress-parade;
'Tel finally he rid away,
And last he heerd was the old man say, --
"Well, good-bye, Jim
Take keer of yourse'f"

Tuk the papers, the old man did,
A-watchin' fer Jim,
Fully believin' he'd make his mark
Some way -- jes' wrapped up in him!
And many a time the word 'ud come
'At stirred him up like the tap of a drum:
At Petersburg fer instunce, where
Jim rid right into their cannons there,
And tuk 'era, and p'inted 'era t' other way,
And socked it home to the boys in gray,
As they skooted fer timber, and on and on --
Jim a lieutenant,--and one arm gone, --
And the old man's words in his mind all day, --
"Well, good-bye, Jim:
Take keer of yourse'f!"

Think of a private, now, perhaps,
We'll say like Jim,
'At's clumb clean up to the shoulder-straps --
And the old man jes' wrapped up in him!
Think of him -- with the war plum' through,
And the glorious old Red-White-and-Blue
A-laughin' the news down over Jim,
And the old man, bendin' over him --
The surgeon turnin' away with tears
'At hadn't leaked fer years and years,
As the hand of the dyin' boy clung to
His Father's, the old voice in his ears, --
"Well, good-bye, Jim:
Take keer of yourse'f!"




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