James Whitcomb Riley

by Edgar A. Guest

Written July 22,1916, when the world lost its “Poet of Childhood”.

James Whitcomb Riley

James Whitcomb Riley

There must be great rejoicin’ on the Golden Shore to-day,
An’ the big an’ little angels must be feelin’ mighty gay:
Could we look beyond the curtain now I fancy we should see
Old Aunt Mary waitin’, smilin’ for the coming that’s to be,
An’ Little Orphant Annie an’ the whole excited pack
Dancin’ up an’ down an’ shoutin’: “Mr. Riley’s comin’ back!”

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There’s a heap of real sadness in this good old world to-day;
There are lumpy throats this morning now that Riley’s gone away;
There’s a voice now stilled forever that in sweetness only spoke
An’ whispered words of courage with a faith that never broke.
There is much of joy and laughter that we mortals here will lack,
But the angels must be happy now that Riley’s comin’ back.

The world was getting’ dreary, there was too much sigh an’ frown
In this vale o’ mortal strivin’, so God sent Jim Riley down,
An’ He said: “Go there an’ cheer ‘em in your good old-fashioned way,
With your songs of tender sweetness, but don’t make your plans to stay.
Coz you’re needed up in Heaven. I am lendin’ you to men
Just to help ‘em with your music, but I’ll want you back again.”

An’ Riley came, an’ mortals heard the music of his voice
An’ they caught his songs o’ beauty an’ they started to rejoice;
An’ they leaned on him in sorrow, an’ they shared with him their joys,
An’ they walked with him the pathways that they knew when they were boys.
But the heavenly angels missed him, missed his tender, gentle knack
Of makin’ people happy, an’ they wanted Riley back.

There must be great rejoicin’ on the streets of Heaven to-day
An’ all the angel children must be troopin’ down the way,
Singin’ heavenly songs of welcome an’ preparin’ now to greet
The soul that God had tinctured with an everlasting sweet;
The world is robed in sadness an’ is draped in sombre black’
But joy must reign in Heaven now that Riley’s comin’ back.

Collected verse of Edgar A. Guest copyright 1934

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