Forgiveness Friday: James W. Riley about Happy Boys

Nothing Like a fresh diaper to make a brother coo.

The smiling face of a happy boy

   With it’s enchanted key

Is now unlocking in memory

My store of heartiest joy.

And my lost life again to-day,

In pleasant colors all aglow,

From rainbow tints, to pure white


Is a panorama sliding away.

The whistled air of a simple tune

Eddies and whirls my thoughts


As fairy balloons of thistle-down

Sail through the air of June.

Oh happy boy with untaught grace!

What is there in the world to give

That can buy one hour of the life

you live

Or the trivial cause of your smiling face!

If James Whitcomb Riley is not on your list of sweet guys (besides Twain) that came from the midwest, you might want to rearrange your post-it notes and move Riley to the top.

I’m fairly biased because my grandmother grew up next door to his house in Indianapolis and was one of the neighborhood children that he taught his poems to and shared readings with back, back in the day.

In turn, my father learned how to read Riley’s poems from his mother with intonations that were intended by the author himself, well, golly, are we talking a century ago? Yup. ’bout that!

The good news is that my father is en route to visit me here in Iowa, today’s windstorm has passed and I’m almost done mopping the floors.

The sad news is that a friend of my father’s, a best friend really, died last weekend. They were coworkers who taught at Allegheny College in Meadville Pennsylvania. They taught them to, of all things, speak! Jim taught speech, and my father theatre.

So, part of our visit will include looking up a particular poem that my father will be reading at Jim’s memorial service.

I do appreciate boys with untaught grace. What a lovely turn of words, yes?