James Whitcomb Riley

(7 October 1849 - 22 July 1916 / Greenfield, Indiana)

A Noted Traveler


Even in such a scene of senseless play
The children were surprised one summer-day
By a strange man who called across the fence,
Inquiring for their father's residence;
And, being answered that this was the place,
Opened the gate, and with a radiant face,
Came in and sat down with them in the shade
And waited--till the absent father made
His noon appearance, with a warmth and zest
That told he had no ordinary guest
In this man whose low-spoken name he knew
At once, demurring as the stranger drew
A stuffy notebook out and turned and set
A big fat finger on a page and let
The writing thereon testify instead
Of further speech. And as the father read
All silently, the curious children took
Exacting inventory both of book
And man:--He wore a long-napped white fur-hat
Pulled firmly on his head, and under that
Rather long silvery hair, or iron-gray--
For he was not an old man,--anyway,
Not beyond sixty. And he wore a pair
Of square-framed spectacles--or rather there
Were two more than a pair,--the extra two
Flared at the corners, at the eyes' side-view,
In as redundant vision as the eyes
Of grasshoppers or bees or dragonflies.
Later the children heard the father say
He was 'A Noted Traveler,' and would stay
Some days with them--In which time host and guest
Discussed, alone, in deepest interest,
Some vague, mysterious matter that defied
The wistful children, loitering outside
The spare-room door. There Bud acquired a quite
New list of big words--such as 'Disunite,'
And 'Shibboleth,' and 'Aristocracy,'
And 'Juggernaut,' and 'Squatter Sovereignty,'
And 'Anti-slavery,' 'Emancipate,'
'Irrepressible conflict,' and 'The Great
Battle of Armageddon'--obviously
A pamphlet brought from Washington, D. C.,
And spread among such friends as might occur
Of like views with 'The Noted Traveler.'

Submitted: Friday, April 09, 2010

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