Decoration Day – a poem by James Whitcomb Riley

Decoration Day on the Place

It’s lonesome—sorto’ lonesome,—it’s a Sund’y-day to me,
It ‘pears-like—more’n any day I nearly ever see!
Yit, with the Stars and Stripes above, a-flutterin’ in the air,
On ev’ry Soldier’s grave I’d love to lay a lilly thare.

They say, though, Decoration Days is ginerly observed
‘Most ev’rywheres—espeshally by soldier-boys that’s served.—
But me and Mother’s never went—we seldom git away,—
In p’int o’ fact, we’re allus home on Decoration Day.

They say the old boys marches through the streets in colum’s grand,
A’follerin’ the old war-tunes theyr playin’ on the band—
And citizuns all jinin’ in—and little childern, too—
All marchin’, under shelter of the old Red White and Blue.—

With roses! roses! roses!—ev’rybody in the town!—
And crowds o’ little girls in white, jest fairly loaded down!—
Oh! don’t The Boys know it, from theyr camp acrost the hill?—
Don’t they see theyr com’ards comin’ and the old flag wavin’ still?

Oh! can’t they hear the bugul and the rattle of the drum?—
Ain’t they no way under heavens they can rickollect us some?
Ain’t they no way we can coax ’em through the roses, jest to say
They know that ev’ry day on earth’s theyr Decoration Day?

We’ve tried that—me and Mother,—whare Elias takes his rest,
In the orchurd—in his uniform, and hands acrost his brest,
And the flag he died fer, smilin’ and a-ripplin’ in the breeze
Above his grave—and over that,—the robin in the trees!

And yit it’s lonesome—lonesome!—It’s a Sund’y-day, to me,
It ‘pears-like—more’n any day I nearly ever see!—
Still, with the Stars and Stripes above, a-flutterin’ in the air,
On ev’ry Soldier’s grave I’d love to lay a lily thare.

by James Whitcomb Riley, from Neighborly Poems, 1883


This poem was delivered by James Whitcomb Riley (1849-1916) “at Grand Army of the Republic (Civil War veterans) gatherings,” according to information at You can find all the works of James Whitcomb Riley (1849-1916) at Project Gutenberg

About SallyK

A little blog about the ordinary and not so ordinary things our family does, places we travel, things we see. Like travel, cooking, family stories, book reviews, music? You will find it all here - comments welcome!
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