When Riley Writes
by James Newton Matthews

When Riley writes a sudden thrill
Of joy or grief is wont to fill
     Our lifted lids to overflow,
     With visions of the Long-Ago,
And old dead loves that haunt us still.

In every note we catch the thrill
Of wildbirds on some Hoosier hill,
     Or in the pawpaw-lands below,
                                           When Riley writes.

Through him the dear old times distill
Their honey-dews of song, until
     Their sweetness sets our hearts aglow,—
     We know him well, and well we know
A master’s hand is at the quill,
     Or in the pawpaw-lands below,
                                           When Riley writes.

August 22nd 1887

Copied from On Prairie Winds: The Letters of J. N. Matthews & J. W. Riley, ed. Timothy Taylor
and JD Eident (JD Eident Publisher, 2015), page 163. (Printed by Lulu).

This poem was published in Matthews book, published posthumously in 1911, The Lute of Life.


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