Little Orphant Annie…a scarey poem for Halloween!

a vintage halloween imageCome Halloween, I always think of my favorite spooky story from childhood. This time of year, it plays in my head over and over almost like a broken record.  My dad probably recited it so many times that he was sick of it, but I’ve never tired of this poem!

I have taken it from The Best-Loved Poems of James Whitcomb Riley.  Copyrights given in my copy of this book of poems range from 1883 to 1934.  Riley was known as “The Children’s Poet” or “The Hoosier Poet,”  and his poems were popular in the United States until about the mid-twentieth century.

First published on November 5, 1885, this poem was very popular in its day, and spawned the concept of the more familiar Little Orphan Annie that we know from stage, screen and comic strips.  The poem was based on a real person, Mary Alice “Allie” Smith.  Smith was a real girl–an orphan–who lived in the Riley home when he was a child.  It wasn’t until the 1920’s that Johnny Gruelle morphed the character into the rag dolls and other Little Orphan Annie’s of popular culture.

Riley wrote in a rather heavy dialect, which I have taken the liberty of toning down for re-sharing this poem.  In my opinion, the intentional misspellings and contractions are rather hard on a modern reader’s eye.  In his time, he was loved for his onomatopoeia, alliteration and phonetic intensifiers.

Amazingly, there is a public domain audio recording by James Whitcomb Riley himself.  This “phonograph recording” was made in 1912.  It’s 101 years old.  Enjoy!  Little Orphant Annie recited by James Whitcomb Riley

James Whitcomb Riley poem

Little Orphant Annie

by James Whitcomb Riley

(gently abridged for the modern reader by Jacquelyn Holmes Burns)

Little Orphant Annie’s come to our house to stay,

And wash the cups and saucers up, and brush the crumbs away,

And shoo the chickens off the porch, and dust the hearth, and sweep,

And make the fire, and bake the bread and earn her board and keep;

And all us other children, when the supper-things is done,

We set around the kitchen fire and has the most-est fun

A-listening to the witch-tales that Annie tells about,

And the Goblins that gets you

If you

Don’t

Watch

Out!

*  *  *  *  *

"An' the Gobble-uns'll git you ef you don't watch out!"

Once they was a little boy who wouldn’t say his prayers,

So when he went to bed a night, way upstairs,

His mamma heard him holler, and his daddy heard him bawl,

And when they turned the covers down, he wasn’t there at all!

And they seeked him in the rafter-room and cubbyhole and press,

And they seeked him up the chimney-flue, and everywheres, I guess

But all they every found was just his pants around about–

And the Goblins’ll get you

If you

Don’t

Watch

Out!

*  *  *  *  *

Once there was a little boy, who wouldn't say his prayers

"But all they ever found was thist his pants an'round about..."

And one time a little girl would always laugh and grin,

And make fun of everyone–all her blood and kin;

And once, when there was company and old folks was there,

She mocked them and shocked them and said she didn’t care!

And just as she kicked her heels and turned to run and hide,

There was two great big Black Things a-standing by here side,

And they snatched her through the ceiling ‘fore she knowed what she’s about!

And the Goblins’ll get you

If you

Don’t

Watch

Out!

*  *  *  *  *

spooky picture

"An' little Orphant Annie says when the blaze is blue, An' the lamp-wick sputters, an' the wind goes woo-oo!"

And little Orphant Annie says when the blaze is blue,

And the lamp-wick sputters, and the wind goes woo-oo!

And you gear the crickets quit, and the moon is gray,

And the lightning bugs in dew is all squenched away–

You better mind your parents and your teachers fond and dear,

And cherish them that loves you and dry the orphan’s tear,

And help the poor and needy ones that clusters all about,

Or the Goblins’ll get you

If you

Don’t

Watch

Out!

Retro halloween cat with bats

Little Orphant Annie

by James Whitcomb Riley

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 was a little boy wouldn't say his prayers,--
So 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 wasn'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 was 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 was 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 was 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!

– See more at: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15240#sthash.wfQEDmno.dpuf

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