The Little Boy And His Shadow

A poem by Madison Julius Cawein

There's something now that no one knows,
That never seems to mind me
Where is it that my shadow goes
That often walks behind me?
Where does it go when I come home;
For often I'm without it;
It's queer and very worrisome,
I'd like to know about it.

When I go out on sunny days,
Why, there it is beside me:
And there it skips and there it plays,
And from it I can't hide me.
I cannot run away from it,
It runs as fast as Fido;
And if I stand or if I sit
It stands and sits as I do.

But if I run into a square
Where trees stand or a dwelling,
Why, then it's gone! I wonder where!
Who knows? It's hard as spelling.
And then it never says a word;
It's surely in a trance, or
Just deaf and dumb and never heard;
If not, why don't it answer?

And in the moonlight, when I walk,
Why, then it walks before me
And mimics me, but will not talk,
But rather seems t' ignore me.
And I have noticed that at noon
I walk on it, it's smaller,
But in the night-time, by the moon,
It's often ten times taller.

But at the door, both day and night,
It never fails to leave me,
That is, unless there is a light
By which it may perceive me.
Why don't it go to bed with me?
Why don't it lie beside me?
It seems to lack in courtesy,
And often can't abide me.

Why should it come to skip and run
Without a word or comment,
And stay with me in moon and sun,
Then quit me in a moment?
Why don't it come in-doors and play?
I'm sure that it is able,
Why don't it stay with me all day,
And eat with me at table?

But that's the way it is, you see,
When one is least expecting
It leaves or comes quite suddenly
From where there's no detecting.
Sometimes it's short; sometimes it's long;
Sometimes it's just a glimmer;
It acts so queer I know it's wrong,
And puzzling as my primer.

For, sometimes, when by candlelight
I go to bed, it quivers
Upon the stairs, out of the night,
And scares me into shivers.
From ghostly corners, humped and gnarled,
It leaps, or down the ceiling,
Crabbed, crookéd-kneed and knuckle-snarled,
Goes gesturing and reeling.

But where it goes when I'm in bed
And fast asleep and dreaming
No one can tell me. Mother said
That I beat all for scheming
And bothering her with questions: that
She wished I was as quiet
As is my shadow or the cat:
Dear knows! she'd profit by it.

My father said he'd come to find
That it is most bewild'rin';
He had no doubt it changed its mind
As frequently as children.
"I can't, " he said, "tell where it goes,
Or stays, when gone, denied you;
Unless it goes, as I suppose,
And lives and hides inside you."

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