Mary Alice Smith, Riley’s inspiration for the poem. Wikipedia
In an earlier post, I described our family’s celebration of Halloween and how my Mother, who was born in Scotland, followed the Celtic Halloween traditions. Our grade school classes also had Halloween celebrations–everyone would dress in costumes and parade around the school grounds, followed by parties in the classrooms. Homeroom mothers would serve cider with orange and chocolate cupcakes.
One year my Mother came up with an idea that I should dress up as “Little Orphan Annie” – not the comic book character, but from the poem by James Whitcomb Riley. Riley based his poem on a real person, Alice Smith, who became orphaned when her father died in the Civil War. Allie, as she was known, came to live with the Riley family, and she would tell stories to the younger children after finishing chores at the end of the day.
For my orphan Annie costume, I wore a dress with an apron and black stockings and carried a dust cloth and broom. I memorized the poem for a classroom presentation; Mom coached me on the proper inflection at the end of each stanza, “and the goblins will get ya if ya don’t watch out!” On looking back on the poem, I recalled these lines . . .
and cherish them that loves ya, and dry the orphans tears
and help the poor and needy ones that cluster all about,
or the goblins will get ya if ya don’t watch out!!!
In thinking about those words in the poem, I became inspired to rewrite the poem for today’s current political climate just before the 2012 election.
Over the past few months, I have received forwarded emails, not about a particular political issue or articulated argument advocating one position or another, but rather content that focused on rumors and lies with obvious prejudicial biases. In rewriting the poem, I included the lines above, written over a hundred years ago, as they apply today as well.
I guess if I could give a dedication to someone, it would be to those folks forwarding those emails.
The Ghost of Little Orphan Annie on Election Eve
The ghost of orphan Annie has somethin’ strong to say,
Things you might’ve heard before but may have brushed away.
About payin’ those taxes, is that so very bad?
Or are ya worryin’ and fretin’ and makin’ yourself so sad?
For all the roads an’ bridges, schools, an’ parks an’ like
Just let them go to dust? Well, that would be a fright.
If you’ re complainin’ then finishin’ with a shout
The goblins will get ya if ya don’t watch out!
There’s ways to pull together as Americans will do
But a bake sale to cure a kid with cancer, mumps or flu?
Or how about a doctor for the child ill next door?
Or are ya a listenin’ to that politician’s unrelenting roar.
Now payin’ fair share, that’s not a scary scheme.
Those with more wealth could help, or so it would seem.
So let’s all pitch in together, please, don’t be a lout
Or the goblins will get ya if ya don’t watch out!!
Are ya balkin’ to give to causes that benefit us all?
Or is money is better spent for merchants at the mall?
With the social security Grandma can live her own
Rather than in your basement without a telephone.
And those that will follow you, fond an’ dear,
Take care of them, please, an’ dry the orphan’s tear
An’ help the poor an’ needy ones that cluster all about,
Or the goblins will get ya if ya don’t watch out!!!
So who are the goblins, do they hide in the night?
They’re just right in front of ya, in your plain sight!
They tell ya that science is not on your side.
They tell ya not to worry, take your car for ride.
They point to your working pal as stealing your dough.
When its unregulated Wall Street that’s really the foe.
They make up a story so you’ll hate those abroad,
Those many poor souls, also victims of fraud.
Think: is it your anger what this is all about?
Then the goblins have got ya, ya didn’t watch out!!!!