O the Raggedy Man! He works fer Pa;
An’ he’s the goodest man ever you saw!
He comes to our house every day,
An’ waters the horses, an’ feeds ’em hay;
An’ he opens the shed — an’ we all ist laugh
When he drives out our little old wobble-ly calf;
An’ nen — ef our hired girl says he can —
He milks the cow fer ‘Lizabuth Ann. —
Ain’t he a’ awful good Raggedy Man?
Raggedy! Raggedy! Raggedy Man!

W’y, The Raggedy Man — he’s ist so good,
He splits the kindlin’ an’ chops the wood;
An’ nen he spades in our garden, too,
An’ does most things ‘at boys can’t do. —
He clumbed clean up in our big tree
An’ shooked a’ apple down fer me —
An’ ‘nother ‘n’, too, fer ‘Lizabuth Ann —
An’ ‘nother ‘n’, too, fer The Raggedy Man. —
Ain’t he a’ awful kind Raggedy Man?
Raggedy! Raggedy! Raggedy Man!

An’ The Raggedy Man one time say he
Pick’ roast’ rambos from a’ orchurd-tree,
An’ et ’em — all ist roast’ an’ hot! —
An’ it’s so, too! — ’cause a corn-crib got
Afire one time an’ all burn’ down
On “The Smoot Farm,” ’bout four mile from town —
On “The Smoot Farm”! Yes — an’ the hired han’
‘At worked there nen ‘uz The Raggedy Man! —
Ain’t he the beatin’est Raggedy Man?
Raggedy! Raggedy! Raggedy Man!

The Raggedy Man’s so good an’ kind
He’ll be our “horsey,” an’ “haw” an’ mind
Ever’thing ‘at you make him do —
An’ won’t run off — ‘less you want him to!
I drived him wunst way down our lane
An’ he got skeered, when it ‘menced to rain,
An’ ist rared up an’ squealed and run
Purt’ nigh away! — an’ it’s all in fun!
Nen he skeered ag’in at a’ old tin can …
Whoa! y’ old runaway Raggedy Man!
Raggedy! Raggedy! Raggedy Man!

An’ The Raggedy Man, he knows most rhymes,
An’ tells ’em, ef I be good, sometimes:
Knows ’bout Giunts, an’ Griffuns, an’ Elves,
An’ the Squidgicum-Squees ‘at swallers the’rselves:
An’, wite by the pump in our pasture-lot,
He showed me the hole ‘at the Wunks is got,
‘At lives ‘way deep in the ground, an’ can
Turn into me, er ‘Lizabuth Ann!
Er Ma, er Pa, er The Raggedy Man!
Ain’t he a funny old Raggedy Man?
Raggedy! Raggedy! Raggedy Man!

An’ wunst, when The Raggedy Man come late,
An’ pigs ist root’ thue the garden-gate,
He ‘tend like the pigs ‘uz bears an’ said,
“Old Bear-shooter’ll shoot ’em dead!”
An’ race’ an’ chase’ ’em, an’ they’d ist run
When he pint his hoe at ’em like it’s a gun
An’ go “Bang! — Bang!” nen ‘tend he stan’
An’ load up his gun ag’in! Raggedy Man!
He’s an old Bear-shooter Raggedy Man!
Raggedy! Raggedy! Raggedy Man!

An’ sometimes The Raggedy Man lets on
We’re little prince-children, an’ old King’s gone
To git more money, an’ lef’ us there —
And Robbers is ist thick ever’where;
An’ nen — ef we all won’t cry, fer shore —
The Raggedy Man he’ll come and “‘splore
The Castul-halls,” an’ steal the “gold” —
An’ steal us, too, an’ grab an’ hold
An’ pack us off to his old “Cave”! — An’
Haymow’s the “cave” o’ The Raggedy Man! —
Raggedy! Raggedy! Raggedy Man!

The Raggedy Man — one time, when he
Wuz makin’ a little bow-‘n’-orry fer me,
Says “When you’re big like your Pa is,
Air you go’ to keep a fine store like his —
An’ be a rich merchunt — an’ wear fine clothes? —
Er what air you go’ to be, goodness knows?”
An’ nen he laughed at ‘Lizabuth Ann,
An’ I says “‘M go’ to be a Raggedy Man! —
I’m ist go’ to be a nice Raggedy Man!”
Raggedy! Raggedy! Raggedy Man!

Analysis, meaning and summary of James Whitcomb Riley's poem The Raggedy Man


  1. Julie Claiborne Rutledge says:

    I named my 22 year old daughter Elizabeth Ann because of this poem. My 5th grade teacher read it to our class. Her name was Marian Clark and she taught in Orlando, FL. I’ve always loved this poem because of her. She was the best teacher I ever had.

  2. Nova McClurg says:

    I am 31 and my father read this numerous times to my brother and me during our childhood. It came from a treasury of children’s literature and was slightly shorter, but with delightful illustrations of a dusty, raggedy man with an ever-present smile. I always enjoyed hearing about the various creatures and I conjured up images of hot, breezy summers and apple trees. Yet it was not until more recent years that I understood the significance of why the boy dreamed of growing up to be a raggedy man rather than a rich merchant like his father. May we all have such an impact on a child’s life.

  3. Tracy Edger says:

    My aunt was also a school teacher and passed away last week at 93. She and I used to read from this book every time I stayed with her. It was my favorite book we read together. Several years ago, after even more years of begging for it, she finally gave it to me, it is one of my dearest treasures and one line from a poem brings the wonderful memories to life.
    I love you Aunt Marian.

  4. Karen B says:

    I fondly remember this poem as one of my favorites from a book of poems by James Whitcomb Riley. It was given to me by my dad’s parents when I was in no more than 3rd grade. I’m 39, younger than most of those who have commented on their own age. I think my dad really disliked the spelling and dialect and I’m surprised my grandmother picked it, but I remember her reading this poem with great feeling and my reading the book cover to cover several times.

  5. Andrea says:

    I’m 63 and I remember my dad reading this to me when I was a child. I liked the part about the hole that the wunks has got. Great memories!

  6. Mary DeWolf says:

    My grandmother (1855-1949) read this over and over and over again to me, when I was a preschooler in the 1930’s. We lived on a farm with such good hired help in the barn and gardens and apple orchard! That was the Great Depression, when shoes sometimes didn’t match, and work clothes did get ragged. Tears are filling my eyes.

  7. Diana says:

    This is my all time favorite poem! I love the verse about the squidicum squeez ‘at swallers therselves. I’ve memorized most of the poem.

  8. Karen Farr says:

    I can’t tell you how delighted I was to find this poem that was so much apart of my childhood. My father would read it to us so often that in time he had memorized it. It is one of the fondest memories I have of my childhood. It has been passed down to my children and hopefully it will be passed along to my grandchildren and theirs. What a treasure!

  9. Phyllis Howe says:

    In grade 6, our teacher, Mrs. Williams, had our class to memorize this poem. We all had to stand in front of the room and recite and she wanted emotion and “acting”. I have never forgotten the poem or the class.

  10. daisy says:

    My dad loves this poem.

  11. Ginger Johnson says:

    I also remember my 3rd grade teacher reading this poem to me in my Memphis schoolroom in the 1950’s. I have an old copy of the book that was copyrighted 1907. It is the most beautiful book with illustrations that I have ever seen. The pictures are like fine watercolors and the picture of the Raggedy Man is nothing like we have all imagined. He is a young looking, almost boyish white man who wears a suit and vest with a yellow straw hat. His white shirt is collarless and when he is depicted without his jacket, he has on suspenders. The book has several chapters namely, The Man in the Moon, The Bumblebee, The Old Tramp, Our hired Girl, (Lizabuth Ann), The Hired Man’s Faith in Children, and The Raggedy Man on Children.What a rich memory we all share in this gentle poem and way of life. Blessings.

  12. sue says:

    my mom would read Riley poetry and stories to us as we were growing up and now as an adult I am making dolls of some of his characters. To everyone…what does the Raggedy Man look like to you? Black or white, young or old. What drawings I have seen he appears too young and dressy. I see him as an old rag-wearing man, sun browned or many an ex-slave type, bent and worn. Any ideas out there?

  13. Susann Hepler Maidlow says:

    I am 52 and my 5th grade teacher, Mrs. Curtis used to set on the corner of her desk and recite this wonderful poem to us. I had almost forgotten about it until my 9 year old daughter is being asked to memorize and recite a poem for her English class. Immediately I thought of the poem, The Raggedy Man that I had loved so much. I have shown her this poem and she loves it. I guess that things come full circle. I noticed that Dee from the United States, who is also 52 had a fifth grade teacher that used to read this lovely poem to the class. It would be fun if we had been in the same class with the same teacher. Thanks for helping me find the poem again.

  14. Elaine Isenberg says:

    Oh, how wonderful to find this poem! My father used to read this to my twin brother and me so often, he didn’t actually need the Childcraft book from which he read it (although I believe that version was shorter, it was well illustrated). The books have since moved on through my children and are with my eldest grandchildren now and they too enjoy this wonderful work. This poem has been such a wonderful legacy for my family to share. Younger children love it for its imaginitive phrasing and the elder ones learn to appreciate it for its creative language and poetry form. My father is now 80 and can still quote the entire thing! What a blessing that it’s still well loved and now easily accessed on your site.
    Thank you!

  15. Dee says:

    I am 52 years old and one of my teachers read this poem to us in 5th grade. It has always been my favorite. I love it so much, that I named one of my daughters Elizabeth Ann.

  16. Betty Lou says:

    When I was teaching creative writing, my students would ask me if the grammer, punctuation, and spelling would count . I would read this poem to them, then read it again in perfect form. Then I would ask them if it had the same effect in perfect form. They understood that sometimes perfection can be sidestepped in the interest of a feeling or literary effect. It freed them to explore their own style.

  17. kim says:

    This poem was so totally rad! I am so touched by this poem i have shared it with my friends and they to love it too! I can not say thanks to many times so thank alot!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  18. Shirley Arnold says:

    I am now 55 yrs old, and when I was in the 7th grade, my favorite teacher used to read this poem to the whole class. I loved the way she read it. After my children were born, I read it to them. Since I have once again found it, I will be reading it to my Grandchildren. Thank you so much

  19. Joan Smith says:

    Thank you for posting this poem! It brings back so many childhood memories of my dearly beloved mother reading this poem to my younger brothers and their joy and laughter at her theatrical presentation! It is a poem of the joy of a simple, loving and compassionate life. The “Raggedy Man” was a spiritual teacher to the children in the poem and to children who were entertained by this charming piece. I plan to tell my brother about your website so he, too, can pass on the lessons of “The Raggedy Man” to his son.

  20. Olivia says:

    My mom used to read this poem all the time. It’s one of my favorites. April’s too.

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