The Frost is on the Pumpkin Tonight – Are You Ready For It?

Posted on October 12, 2010


Up here in Western New  York tucked in close to Lake Ontario, we have had our first frost warning for the fall season.  My silly old uncle used to grab my aunt around this time of year and exclaim “the frost is on the pumpkin and I’m ready for love.”   Well, that version kept him happy but poet James Whitcomb Riley’s text is THE authority:

Louis Untermeyer, ed. (1885–1977). Modern American Poetry.  1919.

James Whitcomb Riley. 1853–1916

“When the Frost is on the Punkin”

 

Corn Shock

 

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;

it’s then the time 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 blossoms 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

it’s 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;

he hosses in theyr stalls below—the clover overhead!—

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 cellar-floor in red and yaller heaps;

And your cider-makin’s over, and your wimmern-folks is through

With theyr mince and apple-butter, and theyr souse and sausage too!…

I don’t know how to tell it—but ef such 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. [bartleby.com]

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Here’s a wonderful recitation of the above:

Riley was also famous for the children’s poem, “Little Orphan Annie.”  He is the voice of a generation of Americans.  It is comforting and enjoyable to return to writing that is as solidly American as jazz.