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    James Whitcomb Riley (1849-1916)

                  DEAD LEAVES


    AS though a gipsy maiden with dim look,
        Sat crooning by the roadside of the year,
        So, Autumn, in thy strangeness, thou art here
    To read dark fortunes for us from the book
    Of fate; thou flingest in the crinkled brook
        The trembling maple's gold, and frosty-clear
        Thy mocking laughter thrills the atmosphere,
    And drifting on its current calls the rook
    To other lands. As one who wades, alone,
        Deep in the dusk, and hears the minor talk
    Of distant melody, and finds the tone,
        In some wierd way compelling him to stalk
    The paths of childhood over,—so I moan,
        And like a troubled sleeper, groping, walk.


    THE frightened herds of clouds across the sky
        Trample the sunshine down, and chase the day
        Into the dusky forest-lands of gray
    And somber twilight. Far, and faint, and high
    The wild goose trails his harrow, with a cry
        Sad as the wail of some poor castaway
        Who sees a vessel drifting far astray
    Of his last hope, and lays him down to die.
    The children, riotous from school, grow bold
        And quarrel with the wind, whose angry gust
    Plucks off the summer hat, and flaps the fold
        Of many a crimson cloak, and twirls the dust
    In spiral shapes grotesque, and dims the gold
        Of gleaming tresses with the blur of rust.


    FUNEREAL Darkness, drear and desolate,
        Muffles the world. The moaning of the wind
        Is piteous with sobs of saddest kind;
    And laughter is a phantom at the gate
    Of memory. The long-neglected grate
        Within sprouts into flame and lights the mind
        With hopes and wishes long ago refined
    To ashes,—long departed friends await
        Our words of welcome: and our lips are dumb
    And powerless to greet the ones that press
        Old kisses there. The baby beats its drum,
    And fancy marches to the dear caress
        Of mother-arms, and all the gleeful hum
    Of home intrudes upon our loneliness.


The above poem can be found in:
  • Riley, James Whitcomb. The Complete Poetical Works of James Whitcomb Riley. Indianapolis, IN: Indiana University Press, 1993.