Them Old Cheery Words

A poem by James Whitcomb Riley

Pap he allus ust to say,
"Chris'mus comes but onc't a year!"
Liked to hear him that-a-way,
In his old split-bottomed cheer
By the fireplace here at night -
Wood all in, - and room all bright,
Warm and snug, and folks all here:
"Chris'mus comes but onc't a year!"

Me and 'Lize, and Warr'n and Jess
And Eldory home fer two
Weeks' vacation; and, I guess,
Old folks tickled through and through,
Same as we was, - "Home onc't more
Fer another Chris'mus - shore!"
Pap 'u'd say, and tilt his cheer, -
"Chris'mus comes but onc't a year!"

Mostly Pap was ap' to be
Ser'ous in his "daily walk,"
As he called it; giner'ly
Was no hand to joke er talk.
Fac's is, Pap had never be'n
Rugged-like at all - and then
Three years in the army had
Hepped to break him purty bad.

Never flinched! but frost and snow
Hurt his wownd in winter. But
You bet Mother knowed it, though! -
Watched his feet, and made him putt
On his flannen; and his knee,
Where it never healed up, he
Claimed was "well now - mighty near -
Chris'mus comes but onc't a year!"

"Chris'mus comes but onc't a year!"
Pap 'u'd say, and snap his eyes ...
Row o' apples sputter'n' here
Round the hearth, and me and 'Lize
Crackin' hicker'-nuts; and Warr'n
And Eldory parchin' corn;
And whole raft o' young folks here.
"Chris'mus comes but onc't a year!"

Mother tuk most comfort in
Jest a-heppin' Pap: She'd fill
His pipe fer him, er his tin
O' hard cider; er set still
And read fer him out the pile
O' newspapers putt on file
Whilse he was with Sherman - (She
Knowed the whole war-history!)

Sometimes he'd git het up some. -
"Boys," he'd say, "and you girls, too,
Chris'mus is about to come;
So, as you've a right to do,
Celebrate it! Lots has died,
Same as Him they crucified,
That you might be happy here.
Chris'mus comes but onc't a year!"

Missed his voice last Chris'mus - missed
Them old cheery words, you know.
Mother belt up tel she kissed
All of us - then had to go
And break down! And I laughs: "Here!
'Chris'mus comes but onc't a year!"
"Them's his very words," sobbed she,
"When he asked to marry me."

"Chris'mus comes but onc't a year!"
"Chris'mus comes but onc't a year!"
Over, over, still I hear,
"Chris'mus comes but onc't a year!"
Yit, like him, I'm goin' to smile
And keep cheerful all the while:
Allus Chris'mus There - And here
"Chris'mus comes but onc't a year!"

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