James Whitcomb Riley

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

Dead Leaves


DAWN

As though a gipsy maiden with dim look,
Sat crooning by the roadside of the year,
So, Autumn, in thy strangeness, thou art here
To read dark fortunes for us from the book
Of fate; thou flingest in the crinkled brook
The trembling maple's gold, and frosty-clear
Thy mocking laughter thrills the atmosphere,
And drifting on its current calls the rook
To other lands. As one who wades, alone,
Deep in the dusk, and hears the minor talk
Of distant melody, and finds the tone,
In some wierd way compelling him to stalk
The paths of childhood over,--so I moan,
And like a troubled sleeper, groping, walk.

DUSK

The frightened herds of clouds across the sky
Trample the sunshine down, and chase the day
Into the dusky forest-lands of gray
And somber twilight. Far, and faint, and high
The wild goose trails his harrow, with a cry
Sad as the wail of some poor castaway
Who sees a vessel drifting far astray
Of his last hope, and lays him down to die.
The children, riotous from school, grow bold
And quarrel with the wind, whose angry gust
Plucks off the summer hat, and flaps the fold
Of many a crimson cloak, and twirls the dust
In spiral shapes grotesque, and dims the gold
Of gleaming tresses with the blur of rust.

NIGHT

Funereal Darkness, drear and desolate,
Muffles the world. The moaning of the wind
Is piteous with sobs of saddest kind;
And laughter is a phantom at the gate
Of memory. The long-neglected grate
Within sprouts into flame and lights the mind
With hopes and wishes long ago refined
To ashes,--long departed friends await
Our words of welcome: and our lips are dumb
And powerless to greet the ones that press
Old kisses there. The baby beats its drum,
And fancy marches to the dear caress
Of mother-arms, and all the gleeful hum
Of home intrudes upon our loneliness.

Submitted: Friday, April 09, 2010

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