October 15, 2011

Riley: sailing off, with never word at all

The "Hoosier Poet" James Whitcomb Riley had such difficulty getting published in his early career that he turned to gimmicks. Eventually, his first book was published by a friend named George C. Hitt, business manager of the Indianapolis Journal. When Hitt and his family set sail for Europe on October 15, 1890, Riley wrote a poem titled "The Whitheraways" for the family (he references each member of the family):

The Whitheraways!—That's what I'll have to call
You—sailing off, with never word at all
Of parting!—sailing 'way across the sea,
With never one good-bye to me—to Me!

Sailing away from me, with no farewell!—
Ah, Parker Hitt and sister Muriel—
And Rodney, too, and little Laurance—all
Sailing away—just as the leaves, this Fall!

Well, then, I too shall sail on cheerily
As now you all go sailing o'er the sea:
I've other little friends with me on shore—
Though they but make me yearn for you the more!

And so, sometime, dear little friends afar,
When this faint voice shall reach you, and you are
All just a little homesick, you must be
As brave as I am now, and think of me!

Or, haply, if your eyes, as mine, droop low,
And would be humored with a tear or so,—
Go to your Parents, Children! let them do
The crying—'twill be easier for them to!

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