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Friday, November 28, 2014

Little Orphan Annie

Frances Kent. Richmond, early 1900s

     Despite the fact that she had only a grade school education acquired in Spotsylvania in the early 1890s (supplemented by a course in business later), my grandmother had  a life-long love of history, literature and poetry that transcended her modest upbringing. Even into old age she enjoyed reading such heavy tomes as Winston Churchill's History of the English Speaking Peoples. I remember her ability to quote reams of poetry she learned by heart as a young girl, and as a lad I would sit by her rocking chair, transfixed by her ability to still recall without difficulty the poems she had learned seventy years earlier.
     One of the poems she used to recite (and also my mother, who had learned it from my grandmother, complete with her inflections and dramatic phrasing) was Little Orphan Annie, written by James Whitcomb Riley in 1885. The Annie of whom Riley wrote was a real child, Mary Alice Smith, who lived in the Riley household.
     For my modern readers, who may not be able to appreciate the terrifying effect the recitation of this poem by my grandmother and mother had on me at a very tender age, I present this poetic artifact from a bygone era. Read it alone in a dark room by candle light. If you dare.

Little Orphan Annie

Little Orphan Annie's come to our house to stay, 

To wash the cups and saucers up, and brush the crumbs away. 

Shoo the chickens off the porch, brush the hearth and sweep, 

Make the fire, bake the bread, and earn her board and keep.

And when the day is over, and all the things are done,

We'd sit around the kitchen fire, and have the mostest fun!

A-listening to the witch-tales, that Annie tells about. 

And the goblins will get you, if you don't watch out!

Once there was a little boy who wouldn't say his prayers

And when he went to bed one night a way upstairs;

His mama heard him holler, and his daddy heard him bawl, 

And when they turned the covers down, he wasn't there at all!

They searched him in the rafters, and in the closet press, 

They searched him in the chimney flue, and everywhere I guess, 

But all they ever found of him was his pants and roundabout. 

And the goblins will get you, if you don't watch out!

Once there was a little girl, who'd always laugh and grin, 

And make fun of everyone, all her blood and kin.

Once when there was company, and old folks were there, 

She mocked them, and shocked them, and said she didn't care!

And just when she was about to turn, and run and hide, 

There was two great, big black things, standing by her side!

They snatched her through the ceiling, 'fore she knowed what she's about. 

And the goblins will get you, if you don't watch out!

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