James Whitcomb Riley

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

Tom Johnson's Quit - Poem by James Whitcomb Riley

A passel o' the boys last night--
An' me amongst 'em--kindo got
To talkin' Temper'nce left an' right,
An' workin' up 'blue-ribbon,' _hot_;
An' while we was a-countin' jes'
How many bed gone into hit
An' signed the pledge, some feller says,--
'Tom Johnson's quit!'

We laughed, of course--'cause Tom, you know,
_He's_ spiled more whisky, boy an' man,
And seed more trouble, high an' low,
Than any chap but Tom could stand:
And so, says I '_He's_ too nigh dead.
Far Temper'nce to benefit!'
The feller sighed agin, and said--
'Tom Johnson's quit!'

We all _liked_ Tom, an' that was why
We sorto simmered down agin,
And ast the feller ser'ously
Ef he wa'n't tryin' to draw us in:
He shuck his head--tuck off his hat--
Helt up his hand an' opened hit,
An' says, says he, 'I'll _swear_ to that--
Tom Johnson's quit!'

Well, we was stumpt, an' tickled too,--
Because we knowed ef Tom _had_ signed
Ther wa'n't no man 'at wore the 'blue'
'At was more honester inclined:
An' then and there we kindo riz,--
The hull dern gang of us 'at bit--
An' th'owed our hats and let 'er whizz,--
'_Tom Johnson's quit!_'

I've heerd 'em holler when the balls
Was buzzin' 'round us wus 'n bees,
An' when the ole flag on the walls
Was flappin' o'er the enemy's,
I've heerd a-many a wild 'hooray'
'At made my heart git up an' git--
But Lord!--to hear 'em shout that way!--
'_Tom Johnson's quit!_'

But when we saw the chap 'at fetched
The news wa'n't jinin' in the cheer,
But stood there solemn-like, an' reched
An' kindo wiped away a tear,
We someway sorto' stilled agin,
And listened--I kin hear him yit,
His voice a-wobblin' with his chin,--
'Tom Johnson's quit--

'I hain't a-givin' you no game--
I wisht I was!... An hour ago,
This operator--what's his name--
The one 'at works at night, you know?--
Went out to flag that Ten Express,
And sees a man in front of hit
Th'ow up his hands an' stagger--yes,--
_Tom Johnson's quit_.'

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Poem Submitted: Friday, April 9, 2010

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