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James Whitcomb Riley

Posted on Thursday, June 29th, 2017

Dave!I am not much for nostalgia or wishing I could return to bygone days, but I do love me some history. Studying world history is a byproduct of my world religions studies, and it always surprises me just how much I don't know about what's gone on in the world.

Take, for instance, James Whitcomb Riley.

I ran across a book by the guy this morning... The Complete Works of James Whitcomb Riley, Volume VII. "Volume SEVEN?" I thought. How is it that a prolific author with seven volumes of works like this could be somebody I never heard of?

I kept digging and ultimately found out there were SIXTEEN TOTAL VOLUMES...

The Volumes of James Whitcomb Riley

I opened one up, was terribly unimpressed with what I scanned, and decided I would not need to be reading any of his works. But I did note his name on my iPhone so that I could look him up when I got home.

Which is now.

Turns out, I do know of him. I just didn't know I knew.

Ever heard of The Duck Test? — "When I see a bird that walks like a duck and swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, I call that bird a duck."

TOTALLY THIS GUY!

Ever heard of Little Orphan Annie? It's based on a poem called Little Orphant Annie?

TOTALLY THIS GUY!

According to his Wikipedia page, James Whitcomb Riley was a literary giant back in the 1890's and remained hugely popular until his death in 1916. From Wikipedia:

Although Riley was wealthy from his books, he was able to triple his annual income by touring. He found the lure hard to resist and decided to return to the lecture circuit in 1892. He hired William C. Glass to assist Henry Eitel in managing his affairs. While Eitel handled the finances, Glass worked to organize his lecture tours. Glass worked closely with Riley's publishers to have his tours coincide with the release of new books, and ensured his tours were geographically varied enough to maintain his popularity in all regions of the nation. He was careful not to book busy schedules; Riley only performed four times a week and the tours were short, lasting only three months.

So, essentially, James Whitcomb Riley was a rock star before there were rock stars...

In 1895 Riley made his last tour, making stops in most of the major cities in the United States. Advertised as his final performances, there was incredible demand for tickets and Riley performed before his largest audiences during the tour. He and Sherley continued a show very similar to those that he and Nye had done. Riley often lamented the lack of change in the program, but found when he tried to introduce new material, or left out any of his most popular poems, the crowds would demand encores until he agreed to recite their favorites.

And what, pray-tell, qualifies as one of those favorites? Here ya go...

O the days gone by! O the days gone by!
The apples in the orchard, and the pathway through the rye;
The chirrup of the robin, and the whistle of the quail
As he piped across the meadows sweet as any nightingale;
When the bloom was on the clover, and the blue was in the sky,
And my happy heart brimmed over in the days gone by.

In the days gone by, when my naked feet were tripped
By the honey-suckle’s tangles where the water-lilies dipped,
And the ripples of the river lipped the moss along the brink
Where the placid-eyed and lazy-footed cattle came to drink,
And the tilting snipe stood fearless of the truant’s wayward cry
And the splashing of the swimmer, in the days gone by.

O the days gone by! O the days gone by!
The music of the laughing lip, the luster of the eye;
The childish faith in fairies, and Aladdin’s magic ring—
The simple, soul-reposing, glad belief in everything,—
When life was like a story, holding neither sob nor sigh,
In the golden olden glory of the days gone by.

Well, he's no Walt Whitman, but okay.

I guess if they didn't have a Nintendo back then, this was as good as it got.

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Categories: Books, DaveLife 2017Click To It: Permalink
   

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