James Whitcomb Riley

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

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When The Frost Is On The Punkin


When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock
And you hear the kyouck and gobble of the struttin' turkey cock
And the clackin' of the guineys, and the cluckin' of the hens
And the rooster's hallylooyer as he tiptoes on the fence
O, it's then's the times a feller is a-feelin' at his best
With the risin' sun to greet him from a night of peaceful rest
As he leaves the house, bareheaded, and goes out to feed the stock
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock

They's something kindo' harty-like about the atmusfere
When the heat of summer's over and the coolin' fall is here
Of course we miss the flowers, and the blossums on the trees
And the mumble of the hummin'-birds and buzzin' of the bees
But the air's so appetizin'; and the landscape through the haze
Of a crisp and sunny morning of the airly autumn days
Is a pictur' that no painter has the colorin' to mock
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock.

The husky, rusty russel of the tossels of the corn,
And the raspin' of the tangled leaves, as golden as the morn;
The stubble in the furries kindo' lonesome-like, but still
A-preachin' sermuns to us of the barns they growed to fill;
The strawstack in the medder, and the reaper in the shed;
The hosses in theyr stalls below the clover over-head!
O, it sets my hart a-clickin' like the tickin' of a clock,
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock!

Then your apples all is gethered, and the ones a feller keeps
Is poured around the celler-floor in red and yeller heaps;
And your cider-makin' 's over, and your wimmern-folks is through
With their mince and apple butter, and theyr souse and saussage, too!
I don't know how to tell it but ef sich a thing could be
As the Angels wantin' boardin', and they'd call around on me
I'd want to 'commodate 'em all the whole-indurin' flock
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock!

Submitted: Tuesday, December 31, 2002
Edited: Thursday, September 15, 2011

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  • Veteran Poet - 2,680 Points Terry Craddock (9/15/2014 5:57:00 PM)

    Brilliant in pastoral perception and description, embodies the contentment of another time, when physical labour and hard work, blessed the skilled tireless hands which reaped the blessing of the bounty of land; well used and cared for, in a dependence and connection of understanding nature with gratitude and love. There was a special taste in eating home grown produce produced in full ripeness and a peace and harmony attained in the completion of work well done. (Report) Reply

  • Bronze Star - 6,138 Points Frank Avon (9/15/2014 1:10:00 PM)

    Dialect poems attempt to capture the uniqueness of American English: sometimes they do. See also Paul Laurence Dunbar. Somehow they appeal to us, even when we don't know why - though critics and scholars reject them, even satirize them. My favorite still is Langston Hughes Mother to Son. Just a hint of dialect, but just right. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 857 Points Liliana ~el (9/15/2013 12:10:00 PM)

    Awesome! Truly! Reminds me of those days way back when we'd go apple picking, get apple cider and cinnamon apple donuts, occasionally glazed...warm gleaming peaceful days... (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Meera Panigrahi (9/15/2012 11:08:00 AM)

    A heady kind of effect as you can feel and see and taste the country air and sights. There is the energy of activity and a warm and healthy presence of th e poet. The rhyme scheme is perfect and the country images vivid. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 294 Points Ramesh T A (9/15/2010 2:46:00 AM)

    Winter ends all the charms of spring, summer and autumn! The poems says all with the line 'When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock! ' in a beautifully repetitive way! (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 0 Points Herman Chiu (9/15/2009 8:00:00 PM)

    Wow! What an autumn tribute!
    It's almost fall, and I will look for every one of these things happening around me as they come.
    Talk about down to earth, traditional poetry...
    The rhythm and rhyme really got me into the poem, which led me to begin visualizing a perfect, crisp, red and yellow autumn. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Mimi Brown (9/15/2009 7:07:00 AM)

    There is a phrase in Amish country, 'Plain and Fancy' This poem is it. Plain for the dialectic phrasing of the words and Fancy for the beautiful images they produce. How many people have heard the phrase 'When the frost is on the punkin.' and did not know it came from one of the greatest American poets of the 19th century. This poem is part of our heritage. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Kevin Straw (9/15/2009 5:44:00 AM)

    Terrific stuff! You will not find a better line in English nature poetry than: 'The husky, rusty russel of the tossels of the corn, /And the raspin' of the tangled leaves, as golden as the morn...' I looked up 'tossel' and indeed there is a red tinge to a tossel. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Jesse Rudolph (9/15/2008 11:05:00 PM)

    I like it, but i dont know why its in the top muckity muck. Popularity maybe. Its good writing, but ive seen better on this site recently. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 156 Points Marilyn Lott (9/15/2007 6:50:00 AM)

    Oh how I love this man's style! Takes a little time to read through
    but it is well worth it. My dad read his poems to my brother and me
    as children so I'm well aware of Mr. Riley's poetry. A delicious tribute
    to autumn! (Report) Reply

Read all 16 comments »

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