27 October 2007 | Vol. 7, No. 3

The Nine Little Goblins

They all climbed up on a high board fence—

Nine little Goblins, with green-glass eyes—

Nine little Goblins that had no sense,

And couldn't tell coppers from cold mince pies;

And they all climbed up on the fence, and sat—

And I asked them what they were staring at.

And the first one said, as he scratched his head

With a queer little arm that reached out of his ear

And rasped its claws in his hair so red—

"This is what this little arm is fer!"

And he scratched and stared, and the next one said,

"How on earth do you scratch your head?"

And he laughed like the screech of a rusty hinge—

Laughed and laughed till his face grew black;

And when he choked, with a final twinge

Of his stifling laughter, he thumped his back

With a fist that grew on the end of his tail

Till the breath came back to his lips so pale.

And the third little Goblin leered round at me—

And there were no lids on his eyes at all—

And he clucked one eye, and he says, says he,

"What is the style of your socks this fall?"

And he clapped his heels—and I sighed to see

That he had hands where his feet should be.

Then a bald-faced Goblin, gray and grim,

Bowed his head, and I saw him slip

His eyebrows off, as I looked at him,

And paste them over his upper lip;

And then he moaned in remorseful pain—

"Would—Ah, would I'd me brows again!"

And then the whole of the Goblin band

Rocked on the fence-top to and fro,

And clung, in a long row, hand in hand,

Singing the songs that they used to know—

Singing the songs that their grandsires sung

In the goo-goo days of the Goblin-tongue.

And ever they kept their green-glass eyes

Fixed on me with a stony stare—

Till my own grew glazed with a dread surmise,

And my hat whooped up on my lifted hair,

And I felt the heart in my breast snap to

As you've heard the lid of a snuff-box do.

And they sang "You're asleep! There is no board-fence,

And never a Goblin with green-glass eyes!

'Tis only a vision the mind invents

After a supper of cold mince pies,

And you're doomed to dream this way," they said,

"And you sha'n't wake up till you're clean plum dead."

About the author:

1849-1916. An American writer, James Whitcomb Riley was known as the "Children's Poet" for his light-hearted (and often sentimental) verse.

For further reading:

Browse the contents of 42opus Vol. 7, No. 3, where "The Nine Little Goblins" ran on October 27, 2007. List other work with these same labels: poetry, classic, rhyme, light verse.

42opus is an online magazine of the literary arts.

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