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James Whitcomb Riley

(7 October 1849 - 22 July 1916 / Greenfield, Indiana)

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A Life-Lesson


There! little girl; don't cry!
They have broken your doll, I know;
And your tea-set blue,
And your play-house, too,
Are things of the long ago;
But childish troubles will soon pass by. --
There! little girl; don't cry!

There! little girl; don't cry!
They have broken your slate, I know;
And the glad, wild ways
Of your schoolgirl days
Are things of the long ago;
But life and love will soon come by. --
There! little girl; don't cry!

There! little girl; don't cry!
They have broken your heart I know;
And the rainbow gleams
Of your youthful dreams
Are things of the long ago;
But Heaven holds all for which you sigh. --
There! little girl; don't cry!

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003

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  • Rookie - 0 Points Padma Devkota (12/23/2013 8:54:00 PM)

    There was a song that went something like this: Now there's bubble gum/ All over your hair/ Your sling shot is broken/ But you mustn't care /... For cowboys never cry! I'm trying to recall the whole song. This poem reminds me of this song. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 87 Points Liliana ~el (12/23/2013 8:50:00 AM)

    Interesting poem, seems like she has a tough life, constantly told that her pain will pass and that the future holds better (Report) Reply

  • Bronze Star - 5,623 Points * Sunprincess * (12/22/2013 7:21:00 PM)

    I like the concluding lines...

    ~And the rainbow gleams
    Of your youthful dreams
    Are things of the long ago;
    But Heaven holds all for which you sigh. - (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Dan Consoer (8/29/2012 10:04:00 PM)

    Do some silly people really think this is a poem about heaven? It's a poem about little lies, and big. And it ends with a lie about heaven. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 67 Points Rekha Mandagere (12/22/2011 9:03:00 AM)

    Life is a great lesson, the suffering starts from childhood till end of life. First the dolls and are broken by peer group and later heart is broken by persons who we love.The life is tragic as well as comic.never cry for the loss. there is hidden voice appealing us to face life boldly. Nice theme is presented with suitable objects. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Sylva Portoian (12/23/2009 4:29:00 AM)

    Thanks for sending this poem
    We can't read every written piece.
    I call it 'The Story of Every Girl'
    Pruchnicki's soulful comments
    Gave more glitter
    To this innocent eternal poem. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Michael Pruchnicki (12/22/2009 2:57:00 PM)

    Riley's 'A Life-Lesson' is not in any way a confusion of present tense or anything else for that matter. Our resident expert would do well to consult a source like Mary Kinzie's A POET'S GUIDE TO POETRY or THE NORTON INTRODUCTION TO POETRY (ed J. Paul Hunter) . Or so one would think after his most recent venture in interpreting someone else's poem.

    Read the three stanzas carefully and you will note both the repetitive nature of the phrasing and the progression from innocent childhood through the onset of puberty and on to the last stage of clear-eyed maturity, when a more experienced woman can look back and assess her life and 'the things of long ago' which have all passed by in each successive phase from childhood to the anticipation of life's end and Heaven's reward. Note also the transition from 'play-house' to 'schoolgirl days' to 'youthful dreams'- in the more general sense that dreams refer not to that unconscious state of physical rest but to the hopes for a future of love and youthful promise being fulfilled in her life! It seems to this reader that Riley has written an excellent poem using the subtle device of repetition to enhance the meaning and significance of each line and stanza. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Kevin Straw (12/22/2009 6:47:00 AM)

    There is something wrong with the tenses in the first two verses. The poet sees a little girl crying over her broken doll (in the present tense) , then says that such things are in the past. Similarly in the second verse, the poet solaces the girl with a broken slate, then says such things are “of the long ago”. The third verse is correct the broken heart comes after the dreams.

    Perhaps the first verse (and the second could be similarly amended) should read:

    There! little girl; don't cry!
    They have broken your doll, I know;
    But your tea-set blue,
    And your play-house, too,
    Will be things of the long ago;
    And childish troubles will soon pass by. -
    There! little girl; don't cry! (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 212 Points Ramesh T A (12/22/2009 1:46:00 AM)

    Don't cry for anything you have lost in the world; for, you will get everything in heaven at last! What a solace! (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Rita Shay (12/22/2008 10:11:00 PM)

    I cried when i read this poem. It was the ending that got me. So many of us are that sad little girl... (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 121 Points Marilyn Lott (6/3/2007 12:38:00 PM)

    I know who Mr. Riley is and I've loved his poems
    all my life. So wonderful to find all these great
    pieces - extraordinary work!
    Marily (Report) Reply

Read all 18 comments »

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