Little Orphant Annie

by JAMES WHITCOMB RILEY (1849-1916)

Little Orphant Annie

Little Orphant Annie’s come to our house to stay,
An’ wash the cups an’ saucers up, an’ brush the crumbs away,
An’ shoo the chickens off the porch, an’ dust the hearth, an’ sweep,
An’ make the fire, an’ bake the bread, an’ earn her board-an-keep;
An’ all us other childern, when the supper-things is done,
We set around the kitchen fire an’ has the mostest fun,
A-list’nin’ to the witch-tales ‘at Annie tells about,
An’ the Gobble-uns ‘at gits you
Ef you
Don’t
Watch
Out!

Onc’t they wuz a little boy wouldn’t say his prayers,—
An’ when he went to bed at night, away up-stairs,
His Mammy heerd him holler, an’ his Daddy heerd him bawl,
An’ when they turn’t the kivvers down, he wuzn’t there at all!
An’ they seeked him in the rafter-room, an’ cubby-hole, an press,
An seeked him up the chimbly-flue, an’ ever’-wheres, I guess;
But all they ever found wuz thist his pants an’ roundabout: —
An’ the Gobble-uns ‘ll git you
Ef you
Don’t
Watch
Out!

An’ one time a little girl ‘ud allus laugh an’ grin,
An’ make fun of ever’ one, an’ all her blood an’ kin;
An’  onc’t, when they was “company,” an’ ole folks wuz there,
She mocked ’em an’ shocked ’em, an’ said she didn’t care!
An’ thist as she kicked her heels, an’ turn’t to run an’ hide,
They wuz two great big Black Things a-standin’ by her side,
An’ they snatched her through the ceilin’ ‘fore she knowed
     what she’s about!
An’ the Gobble-uns ‘ll git you
Ef you
Don’t
Watch
Out!

An’ little Orphant Annie says, when the blaze is blue,
An’ the lamp-wick sputters, an’ the wind goes woo-oo!
An’ you hear the crickets quit, an’ the moon is gray,
An’ the lightnin’-bugs in dew is all squenched away,—
You better mind yer parents, an’ yer teachers fond an’ dear,
An’ churish them ‘at loves you, an’ dry the orphant’s tear,
An’ he’p the pore an’ needy ones ‘at clusters all about,
Er the Gobble-uns ‘ll git you
Ef you
Don’t
Watch
Out!

James W. Riley, known as the “Hoosier Poet” and “Children’s Poet," began his career in 1875 writing verse in the “Hoosier” dialect. After gaining negative attention for a hoax involving the discovery of a new poem, (which he wrote himself), Leonanie, by Edgar Allan Poe; his fortunes turned around with the publication of “When the Frost is on the Punkin.” His own homespun poetry became quite popular.

James W. Riley Contemporaries
John Hay
Charles E. Carryl
Eugene Field
Robert Louis Stevenson

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