James Whitcomb Riley

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

When Old Jack Died - Poem by James Whitcomb Riley


When old Jack died, we staid from school (they said,
At home, we needn't go that day), and none
Of us ate any breakfast--only one,
And that was Papa--and his eyes were red
When he came round where we were, by the shed
Where Jack was lying, half way in the sun
And half way in the shade. When we begun
To cry out loud, Pa turned and dropped his head
And went away; and Mamma, she went back
Into the kitchen. Then, for a long while,
All to ourselves, like, we stood there and cried.
We thought so many good things of Old Jack,
And funny things--although we didn't smile--We
couldn't only cry when Old Jack died.


When Old Jack died, it seemed a human friend
Had suddenly gone from us; that some face
That we had loved to fondle and embrace
From babyhood, no more would condescend
To smile on us forever. We might bend
With tearful eyes above him, interlace
Our chubby fingers o'er him, romp and race,
Plead with him, call and coax--aye, we might send
The old halloo up for him, whistle, hist,
(If sobs had let us) or, as wildly vain,
Snapped thumbs, called 'speak,' and he had not replied;
We might have gone down on our knees and kissed
The tousled ears, and yet they must remain
Deaf, motionless, we knew--when Old Jack died.


When Old Jack died, it seemed to us, some way,
That all the other dogs in town were pained
With our bereavement, and some that were chained,
Even, unslipped their collars on that day
To visit Jack in state, as though to pay
A last, sad tribute there, while neighbors craned
Their heads above the high board fence, and deigned
To sigh 'Poor dog!' remembering how they
Had cuffed him, when alive, perchance, because,
For love of them he leaped to lick their hands--
Now, that he could not, were they satisfied?
We children thought that, as we crossed his paws,
And o'er his grave, 'way down the bottom-lands,
Wrote 'Our First Love Lies Here,' when Old Jack died.

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Poem Submitted: Friday, April 9, 2010

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