To all the little children: — The happy ones; and sad ones;
The sober and the silent ones; the boisterous and glad ones;
The good ones — Yes, the good ones, too; and all the lovely bad ones.

Little Orphant Annie’s come to our house to stay,
An’ wash the cups an’ saucers up, an’ brush the crumbs away,
An’ shoo the chickens off the porch, an’ dust the hearth, an’ sweep,
An’ make the fire, an’ bake the bread, an’ earn her board-an’-keep;
An’ all us other childern, when the supper-things is done,
We set around the kitchen fire an’ has the mostest fun
A-list’nin’ to the witch-tales ‘at Annie tells about,
An’ the Gobble-uns ‘at gits you
Ef you

Wunst they wuz a little boy wouldn’t say his prayers,–
An’ when he went to bed at night, away up-stairs,
His Mammy heerd him holler, an’ his Daddy heerd him bawl,
An’ when they turn’t the kivvers down, he wuzn’t there at all!
An’ they seeked him in the rafter-room, an’ cubby-hole, an’ press,
An’ seeked him up the chimbly-flue, an’ ever’-wheres, I guess;
But all they ever found wuz thist his pants an’ roundabout:–
An’ the Gobble-uns ‘ll git you
Ef you

An’ one time a little girl ‘ud allus laugh an’ grin,
An’ make fun of ever’ one, an’ all her blood-an’-kin;
An’ wunst, when they was “company,” an’ ole folks wuz there,
She mocked ’em an’ shocked ’em, an’ said she didn’t care!
An’ thist as she kicked her heels, an’ turn’t to run an’ hide,
They wuz two great big Black Things a-standin’ by her side,
An’ they snatched her through the ceilin’ ‘fore she knowed what she’s about!
An’ the Gobble-uns ‘ll git you
Ef you

An’ little Orphant Annie says, when the blaze is blue,
An’ the lamp-wick sputters, an’ the wind goes woo-oo!
An’ you hear the crickets quit, an’ the moon is gray,
An’ the lightnin’-bugs in dew is all squenched away,–
You better mind yer parunts, an’ yer teachurs fond an’ dear,
An’ churish them ‘at loves you, an’ dry the orphant’s tear,
An’ he’p the pore an’ needy ones ‘at clusters all about,
Er the Gobble-uns ‘ll git you
Ef you

Analysis, meaning and summary of James Whitcomb Riley's poem Little Orphant Annie


  1. Our Mama was ill, so my 14 year-old sister, Lin, raised me as her own. She used to sing to me and taught me to read at two. One of the poems she memorized was Little Orphant Annie! She was a local heroine for having read every book in the Roseville Public Library (Children’s Department) So, all the librarians honored her with a card to the Adult Library, where she proceeded to read every science fiction book they had. They obliged her accomplishment by obtaining even more sci/fi books for general circulation. She always brought me with her, and instilled in me a similar love of all things literary. She became a schoolteacher, and a mom to two bright boys. Now we’re old, but we still love a great story!

  2. Cynthia says:

    I have printed this off for my gran children,,,my grandma knew this by heart and said this to me most often,,,I am now almost 60 and remember it well..Does well to pass it on,,love my grandma thank you

  3. Chris says:

    One of my happiest childhood memories is of my Dad reciting this to my brothers and me, always just before bedtime. It was deliciously scary (but not the stuff of nightmares), as Dad had a natural flare for drama, and, as he was from southwestern Missouri, could do the dialect well, too. Thanks for providing a wonderful website, which I intend to make a regular part of my online time.

  4. marie says:

    This was a amazing poem it really touched me it was just terrific in every single way possible I loved it so much.

  5. Scott V. Wood says:

    Comment on the above referenced title…. have just found the above titled poem, signed by James Whitcomb Riley, within old family documents. It seems to be original, and signed by Mr. Riley. However, can not find this poem referenced within his known works. Is there a web site one could possibly compare his authenticated signature with the one I have? Having direction to this site would be appreciated. Or receiving other helpful suggestions of how to properly determine if what I’ve found can be attributed to Mr. Riley, would be wonderful.

  6. robin says:

    I was feeling a little nostalgic today and had to find these poems!
    my favorite teacher, mrs.simmons, 4th grade, read these to us quite often. We all sat in amazement as she read so smoothly and with such emotion! They kept things interesting and fun, still remember like it was yesterday. Now i must find a book so i can read them to my grandchildren and hopefully make memories for them!

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