My favorite spooky poem

Today, in honor of Nevada Day (or, you know, Halloween as most of the Western world knows it), I’m posting a poem I loved as a child and still enjoy. I hope you like it, too.


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

Wunst they wuz a little boy wouldn’t say his prayers,–
An’ 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 wuzn’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 wuz thist his pants an’ roundabout:–
An’ the Gobble-uns ‘ll git you
      Ef you

An’ one time a little girl ‘ud allus laugh an’ grin,
An’ make fun of ever’ one, an’ all her blood-an’-kin;
An’ wunst, when they was “company,” an’ ole folks wuz 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 wuz 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

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 parunts, an’ yer teachurs 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

Do you have favorite poems from your childhood, or spooky stories that have stayed with you?

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  1. This one comes to mind. My Dad would recite it.

  2. Actually, we would beg him to read it to us.

  3. I have never seen that poem before and it wasn’t what I think of when I hear “Orphan Annie.” Does make me wonder if there’s a connection.

    As to poetry, my favorites growing up were Tiger Tiger Burning Bright (which has another name, but I can’t remember it) and The Ballad of East and West by Kipling.

    • I love Blake! “The Tyger” is a good poem.

      I know the opening of that Kipling (who doesn’t?), but I have to admit most of his poetry doesn’t resonate with me. I do like “In the Neolithic Age,” but then as a writer, I would, wouldn’t I?

      But my Totem saw the shame; from his ridgepole-shrine he came,
      And he told me in a vision of the night: —
      “There are nine and sixty ways of constructing tribal lays,
      “And every single one of them is right!”

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