The Little Man In The Tinshop

A poem by James Whitcomb Riley

When I was a little boy, long ago,
And spoke of the theater as the "show,"
The first one that I went to see,
Mother's brother it was took me -
(My uncle, of course, though he seemed to be
Only a boy - I loved him so!)
And ah, how pleasant he made it all!
And the things he knew that I should know! -
The stage, the "drop," and the frescoed wall;
The sudden flash of the lights; and oh,
The orchestra, with its melody,
And the lilt and jingle and jubilee
Of "The Little Man in the Tinshop"!

For Uncle showed me the "Leader" there,
With his pale, bleak forehead and long, black hair;
Showed me the "Second," and "'Cello," and "Bass,"
And the "B-Flat," pouting and puffing his face
At the little end of the horn he blew
Silvery bubbles of music through;
And he coined me names of them, each in turn,
Some comical name that I laughed to learn,
Clean on down to the last and best, -
The lively little man, never at rest,
Who hides away at the end of the string,
And tinkers and plays on everything, -
That's "The Little Man in the Tinshop"!

Raking a drum like a rattle of hail,
Clinking a cymbal or castanet;
Chirping a twitter or sending a wail
Through a piccolo that thrills me yet;
Reeling ripples of riotous bells,
And tipsy tinkles of triangles -
Wrangled and tangled in skeins of sound
Till it seemed that my very soul spun round,
As I leaned, in a breathless joy, toward my
Radiant uncle, who snapped his eye
And said, with the courtliest wave of his hand,
"Why, that little master of all the band
Is 'The Little Man in the Tinshop'!

"And I've heard Verdi, the Wonderful,
And Paganini, and Ole Bull,
Mozart, Handel, and Mendelssohn,
And fair Parepa, whose matchless tone
Karl, her master, with magic bow,
Blent with the angels', and held her so
Tranced till the rapturous Infinite -
And I've heard arias, faint and low,
From many an operatic light
Glimmering on my swimming sight
Dimmer and dimmer, until, at last,
I still sit, holding my roses fast
For 'The Little Man in the Tinshop.'"

Oho! my Little Man, joy to you -
And yours - and theirs - your lifetime through!
Though I've heard melodies, boy and man,
Since first "the show" of my life began,
Never yet have I listened to
Sadder, madder, or gladder glees
Than your unharmonied harmonies;
For yours is the music that appeals
To all the fervor the boy's heart feels -
All his glories, his wildest cheers,
His bravest hopes, and his brightest tears;
And so, with his first bouquet, he kneels
To "The Little Man in the Tinshop."

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