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"Last Christmas Was a Year Ago" by James Whitcomb Riley

The following is the complete text of James Whitcomb Riley's "Last Christmas Was a Year Ago." Our presentation of this classic holiday poem comes from The Works of James Whitcomb Riley: Vol. VIII -- Poems Here at Home (1899). The various books, short stories and poems we offer are presented free of charge with absolutely no advertising as a public service from Internet Accuracy Project.

Visit these other works by James Whitcomb Riley
"The Bear Story"
"Chairley Burke's in Town"
The Champion Checker-Player of Ameriky
"A Child's Home Long Ago"
"Christine Braibry"
A Large Collection of his Short Poems
"Das Krist Kindel"
"Dead Selves"
"Doc Sifers"
"Dot Leedle Boy"
"Down to the Capital"
"Erasmus Wilson"
"Ezra House"
"Farmer Whipple--Bachelor"
"Grandfather Squeers"
"He Called Her In"
"The Hoosier Folk-Child"
"How John Quit the Farm"
"Jack the Giant-Killer"
"Kingry's Mill"
"Little Johnts's Chris'mus"
"Little Mandy's Christmas Tree"

"Maymie's Story of Red Riding-Hood"
"Mr. What's-His-Name"
"My Philosofy"
"Mylo Jones's Wife"
"A Nest-Egg"
"A New Year's Time at Willards's"
"Old John Clevenger on Buckeyes"
"An Old Sweetheart"
"The Old Swimmin'-Hole"
"On the Banks o' Deer Crick"
"The Pathos of Applause"
Poems from "Rhymes of Childhood"
"The Preacher's Boy"
"Regardin' Terry Hut"
"The Rossville Lecture Course"
"The Runaway Boy"
"That-Air Young-Un"
"This Man Jones"
"Thoughts fer the Discuraged Farmer"
"To My Old Friend, William Leachman"
"Tradin' Joe"
"What Chris'mas Fetched the Wigginses"

To see all available titles by other authors, drop by our index of free books alphabetized by author or arranged alphabetically by title.

Potential uses for the free books, stories and prose we offer
* Rediscovering an old favorite book, story or Christmas poem.
* Bibliophiles expanding their collection of public domain ebooks at no cost.
* Teachers trying to locate a free online copy of a story or holiday poem for use in the classroom.

NOTE: We try to present these classic literary works as they originally appeared in print. As such, they sometimes contain adult themes, offensive language, typographical errors, and often utilize unconventional, older, obsolete or intentionally incorrect spelling and/or punctuation conventions.

"Last Christmas Was a Year Ago" by James Whitcomb Riley




Last Christmas was a year ago,
Says I to David, I-says-I,
"We're goin' to morning service, so
You hitch up right away: I'll try
To tell the girls jes what to do
Fer dinner.--We'll be back by two."
I didn't wait to hear what he
Would more'n like say back to me,
But banged the stable-door and flew
Back to the house, jes plumb chilled through.

Cold! Wooh! how cold it was! My-oh!
Frost flyin', and the air, you know,
"Jes sharp enough," heerd David swear,
"To shave a man and cut his hair!"
And blow and blow! and snow and snow!--
Where it had drifted 'long the fence
And 'crost the road,--some places, though,
Jes swep' clean to the gravel, so
The goin' was as bad fer sleighs
As 'twas fer wagons,--and both ways,
'Twixt snow-drifts and the bare ground, I've
Jes wundered we got through alive;
I hain't saw nothin', 'fore er sence,
'At beat it anywheres, I know--
Last Christmas was a year ago.

And David said, as we set out,
'At Christmas services was 'bout
As cold and wuthless kind o' love
To offer up as he knowed of;
And as fer him, he railly thought
'At the Good Bein' up above
Would think more of us--as He ought--
A-stayin' home on sich a day,
And thankin' of Him thataway!
And jawed on, in a' undertone,
'Bout leavin' Lide and Jane alone
There on the place, and me not there
To oversee 'em, and p'pare
The stuffin' fer the turkey, and
The sass and all, you understand.

I've allus managed David by
Jes sayin' nothin'. That was why
He'd chased Lide's beau away--'cause Lide
She'd allus take up Perry's side
When David tackled him; and so,
Last Christmas was a year ago,--
Er ruther, 'bout a week afore,--
David and Perry'd quarr'l'd about
Some tom-fool argyment, you know.
And Pap told him to "Jes git out
O' there, and not to come no more,
And, when he went, to shet the door!"
And as he passed the winder, we
Saw Perry, white as white could be,
March past, onhitch his hoss, and light
A see-gyar, and lope out o' sight,
Then Lide she come to me and cried!
And I said nothin'--was no need.
And yit, you know, that man jes got
Right out o' there's ef he'd be'n shot,
P'tendin' he must go and feed
The stock er somepin'. Then I tried
To git the pore girl pacified.

But, gittin' back to--where was we?--
Oh, yes!--where David lectered me
All way to meetin', high and low,
Last Christmas was a year ago:
Fer all the awful cold, they was
A fair attendunce; mostly, though,
The crowd was 'round the stoves, you see,
Thawin' their heels and scrougin' us.
Ef 't 'adn't be'n the old Squire
Givin' his seat to us, as in
We stomped, a-fairly perishin',
And David could 'a' got no fire,
He'd jes 'a' drapped there in his tracks:
And Squire, as I was tryin' to yit
Make room fer him, says, "No; the fac's
Is, I got to git up and git
'Ithout no preachin'. Jes got word--
Trial fer life--can't be deferred!"
And out he putt!

. . . And all way through
The sermont--and a long one, too--
I couldn't he'p but think o' Squire
And us changed round so, and admire
His gintle ways,--to give his warm
Bench up, and have to face the storm.
And when I noticed David he
Was needin' jabbin'--I thought best
To kindo' sorto' let him rest:
'Peared-like he slep' so peacefully!
And then I thought o' home, and how
And what the gyrls was doin' now,
And kindo' prayed, 'way in my breast,
And breshed away a tear er two
As David waked, and church was through,

By time we'd "howdyed" round and shuk
Hands with the neighbers, must 'a' tuck
A half-hour longer: ever' one
A-sayin' "Christmas gift!" afore
David er me--so we got none!
But David warmed up, more and more,
And got so jokey-like, and had
His sperits up, and 'peared so glad,
I whispered to him, "S'pose you ast
A passel of 'em come and eat
Their dinners with us. Gyrls's got
A full-and-plenty fer the lot
And all their kin! " So David passed
The invite round: and ever' seat
In ever' wagon-bed and sleigh
Was jes packed, as we rode away,--
The young folks, mil'd er so along,
A-strikin' up a sleighin'-song,
Tel David laughed and yelled, you know,
And jes whirped up and sent the snow
And gravel flyin' thick and fast--
Last Christmas was a year ago.
W'y, that-air seven-mil'd ja'nt we come--
Jes seven mil'd scant from church to home--
It didn't 'pear, that day, to be
Much furder railly 'n 'bout three!

But I was purty squeamish by
The time home hove in sight and I
See two vehickles standin' there
Already, So says I, "Prepare!"
All to myse'f . And presently
David he sobered; and says he,
"Hain't that-air Squire Hanch's old
Buggy," he says, "and claybank mare?"
Says I, "Le' 's git in out the cold-
Your company's nigh 'bout froze!" He says,
"Whose sleigh's that-air, a-standin' there?"
Says I, "It's no odds whose--you jes
Drive to the house and let us out,
'Cause we're jes freezin' nigh about!"

Well, David swung up to the door,
And out we piled. And first I heerd
Jane's voice, then Lide's,--I thought afore
I reached that gyrl I'd jes die, shore;
And when I reached her, wouldn't keered
Much ef I had, I was so glad,
A-kissin' her through my green veil,
And jes excitin' her so bad,
'At she broke down herse'f--and Jane,
She cried--and we all hugged again.
And David? David jes turned pale!--
Looked at the gyrls, and then at me,
Then at the open door--and then--
"Is old Squire Hanch in there?" says he.
The old Squire suddently stood in
The doorway, with a sneakin' grin.
"Is Perry Anders in there, too?"
Says David, lirnberin' all through,
As Lide and me both grabbed him, and
Perry stepped out and waved his hand
And says, "Yes, Pap." And David jes
Stooped and kissed Lide, and says, "I guess
Yer mother's much to blame as you.
Ef she kin resk him, I kin too!"

* * * * * *

The dinner we had then hain't no
Bit better 'n the one to-day
'At we'll have fer 'em! Hear some sleigh
A-jinglin' now. David, fer me,
I wish you'd jes go out and see
Ef they're in sight yit. It jes does
Me good to think, in times like these,
Lide's done so well. And David, he's
More tractabler 'n what he was,
Last Christmas was a year ago.

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