The Little Coat

A poem by James Whitcomb Riley

Here's his ragged "roundabout";
Turn the pockets inside out:
See; his pen-knife, lost to use,
Rusted shut with apple-juice;
Here, with marbles, top and string,
Is his deadly "devil-sling,"
With its rubber, limp at last
As the sparrows of the past!
Beeswax - buckles - leather straps -
Bullets, and a box of caps, -
Not a thing of all, I guess,
But betrays some waywardness -
E'en these tickets, blue and red,
For the Bible-verses said -
Such as this his mem'ry kept -
"Jesus wept."

Here's a fishing hook-and-line,
Tangled up with wire and twine,
And dead angle-worms, and some
Slugs of lead and chewing-gum,
Blent with scents that can but come
From the oil of rhodium.
Here - a soiled, yet dainty note,
That some little sweetheart wrote,
Dotting, - "Vine grows round the stump,"
And - "My sweetest sugar lump!"
Wrapped in this - a padlock key
Where he's filed a touch-hole - see!
And some powder in a quill
Corked up with a liver pill;
And a spongy little chunk
Of "punk."

Here's the little coat - but O!
Where is he we've censured so!
Don't you hear us calling, dear?
Back! come back, and never fear. -
You may wander where you will,
Over orchard, field and hill;
You may kill the birds, or do
Anything that pleases you!
Ah, this empty coat of his!
Every tatter worth a kiss;
Every stain as pure instead
As the white stars overhead:
And the pockets - homes were they
Of the little hands that play
Now no more - but, absent, thus
Beckon us.

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