When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock,
And you hear the kyouck and gobble of the struttin’ turkey-cock,
And the clackin’ of the guineys, and the cluckin’ of the hens,
And the rooster’s hallylooyer as he tiptoes on the fence;
O, it’s then’s the times a feller is a-feelin’ at his best,
With the risin’ sun to greet him from a night of peaceful rest,
As he leaves the house, bareheaded, and goes out to feed the stock,
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock.

They’s something kindo’ harty-like about the atmusfere
When the heat of summer’s over and the coolin’ fall is here–
Of course we miss the flowers, and the blossums on the trees,
And the mumble of the hummin’-birds and buzzin’ of the bees;
But the air’s so appetizin’; and the landscape through the haze
Of a crisp and sunny morning of the airly autumn days
Is a pictur’ that no painter has the colorin’ to mock–
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock.

The husky, rusty russel of the tossels of the corn,
And the raspin’ of the tangled leaves, as golden as the morn;
The stubble in the furries–kindo’ lonesome-like, but still
A-preachin’ sermuns to us of the barns they growed to fill;
The strawstack in the medder, and the reaper in the shed;
The hosses in theyr stalls below–the clover over-head!–
O, it sets my hart a-clickin’ like the tickin’ of a clock,
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock!

Then your apples all is gethered, and the ones a feller keeps
Is poured around the celler-floor in red and yeller heaps;
And your cider-makin’ ‘s over, and your wimmern-folks is through
With their mince and apple-butter, and theyr souse and saussage, too! …
I don’t know how to tell it–but ef sich a thing could be
As the Angels wantin’ boardin’, and they’d call around on me–
I’d want to ‘commodate ’em–all the whole-indurin’ flock–
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock!

8 Comments

  1. Ralph E. Shaffer, Professor Emeritus, Cal Poly Pomona says:

    Having enjoyed Riley’s poems throughout my 80 years, and with parents
    who grew up on Riley poems in their late-19th century Indiana home, I
    couldn’t resist writing this parody when I found out what it will cost
    to send my grandson to college a year from now. When I went to UCLA
    over 60 years ago there was no tuition and my room and board was $36 a
    month. The cost at top-flight private colleges for the coming year
    ranges from $40-50,000. Almost unbelievable! That’s why I felt
    compelled to re-write the opening stanza of When the Frost is on the
    Punkin.

    LAMENT OF A KID GOING OFF TO COLLEGE
    [With a little help from James Whitcomb Riley]

    WHEN THE COST OF MY TUITION PUT MY FODDER INTO SHOCK

    AND THE CHARGES FOR MY TEXTBOOKS MADE HIM WONDER WHAT TO HOCK

    FROM THE CONTRACT FOR MY DORM ROOM AND THE FEES FOR BALL POINT PENS

    TO THE ‘LUMNI BOOSTERS DUNNING OF MYSELF AND FRESHMAN FRIENDS

    O, IT’S THEN THE TIME A PARENT IS A-NEEDIN’ PEACE AND REST

    ‘MIDST THE RISIN’ COST A-LIVIN’ AND IT AIN’T ABOUT TO CREST

    AS I LEAVE THE HOUSE FOR COLLEGE DAD IS TELLIN’ ALL THE BLOCK:

    “WHEN THE FROST IS ON THE PUNKIN THAT KID’S GRADES HAD BETTER ROCK.”

  2. Anonymous says:

    This poem is my first experience of poetry. Raised in Indiana, we had a class on Indiana History at the school. This man has had a profound effect on my life. His music with words have stayed with me and helped me to have an open and questioning insight into the world as I experience it. His apparent simplicity masks a rich and powerful understanding of the nature of life.

  3. trisha says:

    this my favorite poem of james because its silly and funny but it also has a meaning to it some of us may not realize it but this poem may have meaning no matter what kind of personality me or you or others may have so when the frost is on the punkin remember james whitcomb riley for him and not what people write or do or say to find the truth find someone or colide facts from other writers.

  4. William John Hawthorn says:

    My mother had no more than a high school education because my grandfather was a coal miner, but she exposed my sisters, brother and I to an amazing variety of life experiences including travel, unusual foods, literature, especially poetry. J.W.R and E.A. Poe became my favorites. I was thrilled one day while browsing in a Goodwill store to come across a signed, used copy of a book that my mother had written. I can still hear her reciting from memory “When the frost” and “Once upon a midnight dreary, every word.

  5. John Karamanski says:

    The story give me a big sigh of understanding.Riley captures the feeling of exilerated anxiety when viewing the colors and the articulated moments of a fall.Extrordinary crispness and colors so special in hue and intensity as to make one sigh at the realization of both the intensity of there brillance in the moment before death.

  6. June Backhaus says:

    I recalled this poem from the past but couldn’t remember more than the first line. As I was scrapbooking a page with pumpkins on it, I thought this would be the perfect poem to go along with it. I love the rhythm and vernacular of it.

  7. Michael Robertson says:

    This poem reflects on far more than a farmer being finished with his harvest for the year. It speaks to
    a man wanting to feel that his life has been worth living
    and that his life made a difference and that he is ready
    to go on to his reward.
    thanks for the site.

  8. wbpoet says:

    This is a wonderful analogy of the days of life and the ending of sed life. Rileys country slang adds great character to his poetry…………..wbpoet

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