The Complete Poetical Works (James Whitcomb Riley)



Book: The Complete Poetical Works

Author: James Whitcomb Riley

Publisher: Indiana University Press, republished in 1993

ISBN-13: 978-0253207777

ISBN-10: 0253207770

Related website: (publisher)

Language level: 1

(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)

Recommended reading level: Suitable for anyone

Rating: ***** 5 stars (EXCELLENT)

Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker

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Riley, James Whitcomb.  The Complete Poetical Works (originally published in 1932 by P. F. Collier and Son Company; reprinted in 1941 by Garden City Publishing Co. Inc.; republished in 1993 by Indiana University Press, 601 N. Madison St., Bloomington, IN  47404). Indiana’s best-known poet was James Whitcomb Riley (1849-1916) with his repertoire of more than 1,000 poems, including such all-time favorites as “Little Orphant Annie” (far and away the best-loved of all Riley characters), “The Raggedy Man,” “A Barefoot Boy,” and “When the Frost Is on the Punkin.” In his heyday Riley was famous all over the world as “the Hoosier Poet.” It has been said that while he is often called a children’s poet, he actually wrote about children for adults, delighting in emotional reminders of an irretrievable past, looking back wistfully and sentimentally upon his childhood days, turning the longings and unfulfilled dreams of youth into verse.

I picked up a copy of The Complete Poetical Works of Riley on a visit to the Riley Home in Indianapolis, IN.  There is a total of 1010 poems which, in addition to the ones mentioned earlier, also include some of my favorites like “The Old Swimmin’ Hole,” “Watermelon Time,” and  “The Days Gone By.”  A new one that I found particularly interesting was “The Old-Fashioned Bible.”  Another that I remember being read at funerals when I was young is “Away”: “I cannot say, and I will not say That he is dead—He is just away….”  And die-hard Riley (and Edmund Fitzgerald) fans must read “Rubaiyat of Doc Sifers.”  The book contains a complete Riley drama, “The Flying Island of the Night,” as well.  Two indices, one of titles and the other of first lines, finish off the volume.   For those who are really interested in Riley’s writings, there is a sixteen-volume series of his Complete Works finished in 1914.

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