James Whitcomb Riley

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

Proem


Where are they-- the Afterwhiles--
Luring us the lengthening miles
Of our lives? Where is the dawn
With the dew across the lawn
Stroked with eager feet the far
Way the hills and valleys are?
Were the sun that smites the frown
Of the eastward-gazer down?
Where the rifted wreaths of mist
O'er us, tinged with amethyst,
Round the mountain's steep defiles?
Where are the afterwhiles?

Afterwhile-- and we will go
Thither, yon, and too and fro--
From the stifling city streets
To the country's cool retreats--
From the riot to the rest
Were hearts beat the placidest:
Afterwhile, and we will fall
Under breezy trees, and loll
In the shade, with thirsty sight
Drinking deep the blue delight
Of the skies that will beguile
Us as children-- afterwhile.

Afterwhile-- and one intends
To be gentler to his friends--,
To walk with them, in the hush
Of still evenings, o'er the plush
Of home-leading fields, and stand
Long at parting, hand in hand:
One, in time, will joy to take
New resolves for some one's sake,
And wear then the look that lies
Clear and pure in other eyes--
We will soothe and reconcile
His own conscience-- afterwhile.

Afterwhile-- we have in view
A far scene to journey to--,
Where the old home is, and where
The old mother waits us there,
Peering, as the time grows late,
Down the old path to the gate--.
How we'll click the latch that locks
In the pinks and hollyhocks,
And leap up the path once more
Where she waits us at the door--!
How we'll greet the dear old smile,
And the warm tears-- afterwhile!

Ah, the endless afterwhiles--!
Leagues on leagues, and miles on miles,
In distance far withdrawn,
Stretching on, and on, and on,
Till the fancy is footsore
And faints in the dust before
The last milestone's granite face,
Hacked with: Here Beginneth Space.
O far glimmering worlds and wings,
Mystic smiles and beckonings,
Lead us through the shadowy aisles
Out into the afterwhiles.

Submitted: Friday, April 09, 2010

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