James Whitcomb Riley (7 October 1849 - 22 July 1916 / Greenfield, Indiana)
The Nine Little Goblins
They all climbed up on a high board-fence--
Nine little Goblins, with green-glass eyes--
Nine little Goblins that had no sense,
And couldn't tell coppers from cold mince pies;
And they all climbed up on the fence, and sat--
And I asked them what they were staring at.
And the first one said, as he scratched his head
With a queer little arm that reached out of his ear
And rasped its claws in his hair so red--
'This is what this little arm is fer!'
And he scratched and stared, and the next one said,
'How on earth do _you_ scratch your head?'
And he laughed like the screech of a rusty hinge--
Laughed and laughed till his face grew black;
And when he choked, with a final twinge
Of his stifling laughter, he thumped his back
With a fist that grew on the end of his tail
Till the breath came back to his lips so pale.
And the third little Goblin leered round at me--
And there were no lids on his eyes at all--
And he clucked one eye, and he says, says he,
'What is the style of your socks this fall?'
And he clapped his heels--and I sighed to see
That he had hands where his feet should be.
Then a bald-faced Goblin, gray and grim,
Bowed his head, and I saw him slip
His eyebrows off, as I looked at him,
And paste them over his upper lip;
And then he moaned in remorseful pain--
'Would--Ah, would I'd me brows again!'
And then the whole of the Goblin band
Rocked on the fence-top to and fro,
And clung, in a long row, hand in hand,
Singing the songs that they used to know--
Singing the songs that their grandsires sung
In the goo-goo days of the Goblin-tongue.
And ever they kept their green-glass eyes
Fixed on me with a stony stare--
Till my own grew glazed with a dread surmise,
And my hat whooped up on my lifted hair,
And I felt the heart in my breast snap to
As you've heard the lid of a snuff-box do.
And they sang 'You're asleep! There is no board-fence,
And never a Goblin with green-glass eyes!--
'Tis only a vision the mind invents
After a supper of cold mince-pies,--
And you're doomed to dream this way,' they said,--
'_And you sha'n't wake up till you're clean plum dead!_'
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