"Hoosier Poet" and writer James Whitcomb Riley (1849-1916) was born on this day in the agricultural town of Greenfield, Indiana. The memories of his childhood and the powerful oratory skills of his father, a lawyer, would inspire his poetry.
"It is no use to grumble and complain," he said. "It's just as cheap and easy to rejoice; When God sorts out the weather and sends rain - Why, rain's my choice."
Quitting law school, Riley took a number of odd jobs before writing humorous verses in the Indianapolis Journal (1877-1885) where he wrote his most famous poems. To capture the spirit of rural America, he relied on small-town dialect. "The ripest peach is highest on the tree," he said.
His sentimental work was praised by Mark Twain as "fine and beautiful" art and celebrated for "genuine authenticity." Audiences loved his optimistic, honest, and easy-to-read poems. "Riley speaks our tongue," said Indiana state senator Albert J. Beveridge in 1908. "His works are the language of the people. He is the interpreter of the common heart."
Writing with lyrical charm, Riley broadened his audience by presenting such poems as The Old Swimmin' Hole and Raggedy Man in popular speaking engagements. He performed superbly. In 1915, Indiana declared his birthday an official state holiday.
"Disregard all the pain you feel, and the disappointment," Riley said. "Look to a better time, and a better place, have faith, and preach that faith for the nourishment of others."
Don't let anything dampen your enthusiasm!