Neglected now is the old guitar
And moldering into decay;
Fretted with many a rift and scar
That the dull dust hides away,
While the spider spins a silver star
In its silent lips to-day.

The keys hold only nerveless strings–
The sinews of brave old airs
Are pulseless now; and the scarf that clings
So closely here declares
A sad regret in its ravelings
And the faded hue it wears.

But the old guitar, with a lenient grace,
Has cherished a smile for me;
And its features hint of a fairer face
That comes with a memory
Of a flower-and-perfume-haunted place
And a moonlit balcony.

Music sweeter than words confess,
Or the minstrel’s powers invent,
Thrilled here once at the light caress
Of the fairy hands that lent
This excuse for the kiss I press
On the dear old instrument.

The rose of pearl with the jeweled stem
Still blooms; and the tiny sets
In the circle all are here; the gem
In the keys, and the silver frets;
But the dainty fingers that danced o’er them–
Alas for the heart’s regrets!–

Alas for the loosened strings to-day,
And the wounds of rift and scar
On a worn old heart, with its roundelay
Enthralled with a stronger bar
That Fate weaves on, through a dull decay
Like that of the old guitar!

Analysis, meaning and summary of James Whitcomb Riley's poem The Old Guitar

2 Comments

  1. John H Conley Jr says:

    I was pleasently surprised to find this site”and a poem about the Guitsr. I to am a poet from Indiana.
    I am a fan of Mr Riely. I wrote a book called:::
    ;;;Cowboys-Farmersand Friends.
    If you want to know more I can be reached at——————www.conleysgeneralstore.com
    Thank You
    And I hope you will keep My Reilys poem on the web forever. John

  2. andre fritze says:

    the narrator remembers the guitar that they hold in their hands & remembers a love past a kiss is pressed upon it as the narrator regrets a past love, lost, & we are led to wonder about this, whether it ended in hurt the wounds of rift & scar.

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