1849–1916
The Hoosier Poet

Introduction

portrait

Born: Oc­to­ber 7, 1849, Green­field, In­di­a­na.

Died: Ju­ly 22, 1916, In­di­an­a­po­lis, In­di­a­na.

Buried: Crown Hill Ce­me­te­ry, In­di­an­a­po­lis, In­di­a­na.

Biography

James was the son of Reu­ben Al­ex­an­der Riley and Eliz­a­beth M. Ma­rine.

In the se­cu­lar world, he is re­mem­bered as au­thor of the 1885 po­em, Lit­tle Or­phant An­nie, which in­spired the co­mic strip Lit­tle Or­phan An­nie, by Har­old Gray (1894–1968).

Poem

To James Whitcomb Riley

On His “Book of Joyous Children”

Yours is a garden of old-fashioned flowers;
Joyous children delight to play here;
Weary men find rest in its bowers,
Watching the lingering light of day there.

Old-time tunes and young love-laughter
Ripple and run among the roses;
Memory’s echoes, murmuring after,
Fill the dusk when the long day closes.

Simple songs with a cadence olden—
These you learned in the Forest of Arden:
Friendly flowers with hearts all golden—
These you borrowed from Eden’s garden.

This is the reason why all men love you;
Truth to life is the finest art:
Other poets may soar above you—
You keep close to the human heart.

Henry Jackson Van Dyke
December 1903

Sources

Lyrics