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C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

Out to Old Aunt Mary’s

By James Whitcomb Riley (1849–1916)

WASN’T it pleasant, O brother mine,

In those old days of the lost sunshine

Of youth—when the Saturday’s chores were through,

And the “Sunday’s wood” in the kitchen, too,

And we went visiting, “me and you,”

Out to Old Aunt Mary’s?—

“Me and you”—And the morning fair,

With the dewdrops twinkling everywhere;

The scent of the cherry-blossoms blown

After us, in the roadway lone,

Our capering shadows onward thrown—

Out to Old Aunt Mary’s!

It all comes back so clear to-day!

Though I am as bald as you are gray,—

Out by the barn-lot and down the lane

We patter along in the dust again,

As light as the tips of the drops of the rain,

Out to Old Aunt Mary’s.

The few last houses of the town;

Then on, up the high creek-bluffs and down;

Past the squat toll-gate, with its well-sweep pole;

The bridge, and “the old babtizin’-hole,”

Loitering, awed, o’er pool and shoal,

Out to Old Aunt Mary’s.

We cross the pasture, and through the wood,

Where the old gray snag of the poplar stood,

Where the hammering “red-heads” hopped awry,

And the buzzard “raised” in the “clearing”-sky

And lolled and circled, as we went by

Out to Old Aunt Mary’s.

Or, stayed by the glint of the redbird’s wings,

Or the glitter of song that the bluebird sings,

All hushed we feign to strike strange trails,

As the “big braves” do in the Indian tales,

Till again our real quest lags and fails—

Out to Old Aunt Mary’s—

And the woodland echoes with yells of mirth

That make old war-whoops of minor worth!…

Where such heroes of war as we?—

With bows and arrows of fantasy,

Chasing each other from tree to tree

Out to Old Aunt Mary’s.

And then in the dust of the road again;

The teams we met, and the countrymen;

And the long highway, with sunshine spread

As thick as butter on country bread,

Our cares behind, and our hearts ahead

Out to Old Aunt Mary’s.—

For only, now, at the road’s next bend

To the right we could make out the gable-end

Of the fine old Huston homestead—not

Half a mile from the sacred spot

Where dwelt our Saint in her simple cot—

Out to Old Aunt Mary’s.

Why, I see her now in the open door

Where the little gourds grew up the sides and o’er

The clapboard roof!—And her face—ah, me!

Wasn’t it good for a boy to see—

And wasn’t it good for a boy to be

Out to Old Aunt Mary’s?—

The jelly—the jam and the marmalade,

The cherry and quince “preserves” she made!

And the sweet-sour pickles of peach and pear,

With cinnamon in ’em, and all things rare!—

And the more we ate was the more to spare,

Out to Old Aunt Mary’s!

Ah! was there, ever, so kind a face

And gentle as hers, or such a grace

Of welcoming, as she cut the cake

Or the juicy pies that she joyed to make

Just for the visiting children’s sake—

Out to Old Aunt Mary’s!

The honey, too, in its amber comb

One only finds in an old farm-home;

And the coffee, fragrant and sweet, and ho!

So hot that we gloried to drink it so,

With spangles of tears in our eyes, you know—

Out to Old Aunt Mary’s.

And the romps we took, in our glad unrest!—

Was it the lawn that we loved the best,

With its swooping swing in the locust trees,

Or was it the grove, with its leafy breeze,

Or the dim haymow, with its fragrancies—

Out to Old Aunt Mary’s.

Far fields, bottom-lands, creek-banks—all,

We ranged at will.—Where the waterfall

Laughed all day as it slowly poured

Over the dam by the old mill-ford,

While the tail-race writhed, and the mill-wheel roared—

Out to Old Aunt Mary’s.

But home, with Aunty in nearer call,

That was the best place, after all!—

The talks on the back porch, in the low

Slanting sun and the evening glow,

With the voice of counsel that touched us so,

Out to Old Aunt Mary’s.

And then, in the garden—near the side

Where the beehives were and the path was wide,—

The apple-house—like a fairy cell—

With the little square door we knew so well,

And the wealth inside but our tongues could tell—

Out to Old Aunt Mary’s.

And the old spring-house, in the cool green gloom

Of the willow trees,—and the cooler room

Where the swinging shelves and the crocks were kept,

Where the cream in a golden languor slept,

While the waters gurgled and laughed and wept—

Out to Old Aunt Mary’s.

And as many a time have you and I—

Barefoot boys in the days gone by—

Knelt, and in tremulous ecstasies

Dipped our lips into sweets like these,—

Memory now is on her knees

Out to Old Aunt Mary’s.—

For, O my brother so far away,

This is to tell you—she waits to-day

To welcome us:—Aunt Mary fell

Asleep this morning, whispering, “Tell

The boys to come.”… And all is well

Out to Old Aunt Mary’s.