Monday, July 11, 2016

Monday's Poetry: "The Old Swimmin' Hole"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

I had a teacher in college who dearly loved to quote verses from memory by Hoosier poet James Whitcomb Riley, and Woody Mason passed that appreciation of the American humorist and poet on to me.

James Whitcomb Riley practiced his writing craft in post-Civil War America where created a unique panorama of America in his poems, a nostalgic look at a time that was quickly passing.  He captured America in verse in much the same way that artist Norman Rockwell would later define it with his unique paintings and magazine covers.   Both struggled to forge a lasting link to an ideal past, a time they remembered as being harmonious and innocent.

As summer drags on, I was drawn to this piece by Riley in which he looks back at the "old swimmin' hole" of his youth.  I, too, had a special place on the river where care and troubles were happily splashed away.

This would be a good day to go to the creek!

The Old Swimmin' Hole
by James Whitcomb Riley

     Oh! the old swimmin'-hole! whare the crick so still and deep

     Looked like a baby-river that was laying half asleep,

     And the gurgle of the worter round the drift jest below

     Sounded like the laugh of something we onc't ust to know

     Before we could remember anything but the eyes

     Of the angels lookin' out as we left Paradise;

     But the merry days of youth is beyond our controle,

     And it's hard to part ferever with the old swimmin'-hole.

     Oh! the old swimmin'-hole! In the happy days of yore,

     When I ust to lean above it on the old sickamore,

     Oh! it showed me a face in its warm sunny tide

     That gazed back at me so gay and glorified,

     It made me love myself, as I leaped to caress

     My shadder smilin' up at me with sich tenderness.

     But them days is past and gone, and old Time's tuck his toll

     From the old man come back to the old swimmin'-hole.

     Oh! the old swimmin'-hole! In the long, lazy days

     When the humdrum of school made so many run-a-ways,

     How plesant was the jurney down the old dusty lane,

     Whare the tracks of our bare feet was all printed so plane

     You could tell by the dent of the heel and the sole

     They was lots o' fun on hands at the old swimmin'-hole.

     But the lost joys is past! Let your tears in sorrow roll

     Like the rain that ust to dapple up the old swimmin'-hole.

     Thare the bullrushes growed, and the cattails so tall,

     And the sunshine and shadder fell over it all;

     And it mottled the worter with amber and gold

     Tel the glad lilies rocked in the ripples that rolled;

     And the snake-feeder's four gauzy wings fluttered by

     Like the ghost of a daisy dropped out of the sky,

     Or a wownded apple-blossom in the breeze's controle

     As it cut acrost some orchard to'rds the old swimmin'-hole.

     Oh! the old swimmin'-hole! When I last saw the place,

     The scenes was all changed, like the change in my face;

     The bridge of the railroad now crosses the spot

     Whare the old divin'-log lays sunk and fergot.

     And I stray down the banks whare the trees ust to be—

     But never again will theyr shade shelter me!

     And I wish in my sorrow I could strip to the soul,

     And dive off in my grave like the old swimmin'-hole.

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