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About this poet

James Whitcomb Riley was born in Greenfield, Indiana, on October 7, 1849. He left school at age sixteen and served in a variety of different jobs, including as a sign painter and with a traveling wagon show. He was the author of several books of poetry, including Home-Folks (Bowen-Merrill, 1900), The Flying Islands of the Night (Bowen-Merrill, 1892), and Pipes o’ Pan at Zekesbury (Bobbs-Merrill, 1888). He also served on the staff of two local newspapers, the Anderson Democrat and, later, the Indianapolis Journal. Riley was known as “the poet of the common people” for his frequent use of his local Indiana dialect in his work. He died in Indianapolis, Indiana, on July 22, 1916.


The Complete Works of James Whitcomb Riley (Harper and Brothers, 1916)
Home-Folks (Bowen-Merrill, 1900)
A Child-World (Bowen-Merrill, 1896)
The Flying Islands of the Night (Bowen-Merrill, 1892)
Old-Fashioned Roses (Bowen-Merrill, 1889)
Pipes o’ Pan at Zekesbury (Bobbs-Merrill, 1888)


Let us be thankful—not only because
   Since last our universal thanks were told
We have grown greater in the world’s applause,
   And fortune’s newer smiles surpass the old—

But thankful for all things that come as alms
   From out the open hand of Providence:—
The winter clouds and storms—the summer calms—
   The sleepless dread—the drowse of indolence.

Let us be thankful—thankful for the prayers
   Whose gracious answers were long, long delayed,
That they might fall upon us unawares,
   And bless us, as in greater need we prayed.

Let us be thankful for the loyal hand
   That love held out in welcome to our own,
When love and only love could understand
   The need of touches we had never known.

Let us be thankful for the longing eyes
   That gave their secret to us as they wept,
Yet in return found, with a sweet surprise,
   Love’s touch upon their lids, and, smiling, slept.

And let us, too, be thankful that the tears
   Of sorrow have not all been drained away,
That through them still, for all the coming years,
   We may look on the dead face of To-day.

This poem is in the public domain.

This poem is in the public domain.

James Whitcomb Riley

by this poet

Little Orphant Annie's come to our house to stay,
An' wash the cups an' saucers up, an' brush the crumbs away,
An' shoo the chickens off the porch, an' dust the hearth, an' sweep,
An' make the fire, an' bake the bread, an' earn her board-an'-keep;
An' all us other childern, when the supper things is done,
We set