James Whitcomb Riley

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

The Ancient Printman - Poem by James Whitcomb Riley

'O Printerman of sallow face,
And look of absent guile,
Is it the 'copy' on your 'case'
That causes you to smile?
Or is it some old treasure scrap
You cull from Memory's file?

'I fain would guess its mystery--
For often I can trace
A fellow dreamer's history
Whene'er it haunts the face;
Your fancy's running riot
In a retrospective race!

'Ah, Printerman, you're straying
Afar from 'stick' and type--
Your heart has 'gone a-maying,'
And you taste old kisses, ripe
Again on lips that pucker
At your old asthmatic pipe!

'You are dreaming of old pleasures
That have faded from your view;
And the music-burdened measures
Of the laughs you listen to
Are now but angel-echoes--
O, have I spoken true?'

The ancient Printer hinted
With a motion full of grace
To where the words were printed
On a card above his 'case,'--
'I am deaf and dumb!' I left him
With a smile upon his face.


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Poem Submitted: Friday, April 9, 2010



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