The Old Swimmin’ Hole

The Old Swimmin’ Hole

(“Greenfield, Indiana — James Whitcomb Riley’s Old Swimmin’ Hole has passed into oblivion, with the dedication of a modern bathing pool on the site.” — News item.)

Oh! the old swimmin’-hole! whare the crick so still and deep
Looked like a baby-river that was laying half asleep,
And the gurgle of the worter round the drift jest below
Sounded like the laugh of something we onc’t ust to know
Before we could remember anything but the eyes
Of the angels lookin’ out as we left Paradise;
Now I gaze at the spot and it makes me very glum
For the hole’s been replaced by a natatorium!

Oh! the old swimmin’-hole! In the happy days of yore,
When I ust to lean above it on the old sycamore,
Oh! it showed me a face in its warm sunny tide
That gazed back at me so gay and glorified;
It made me love myself, as I leaped to caress
My shadder smilin’ up at me with such tenderness —
But now marble baths shine with bright nickle showers
And they’ve rules, regulations too, an’ set swimmin’ hours!

Oh! the old swimmin’ hole! In the long, lazy days
When the humdrum of school made so many runaways,
How pleasant was the jurney down the old dusty lane,
Where the tracks of our bare feet was all printed so plain
You could tell by the dent of the heel and the sole
They was lots o’ fun on hand at the old swimmin’s hole.
But today modern plumbin’ mocks the scenes of old —
An’ it’s plastered with faucets readin’ “Hot” and “Cold!”

Now no bulrushes growed, and the cattails so tall,
Are gone with shadders that fell over all
And the worter so mottled with amber and gold
Now gushes from pipes that some steamfitter sold;
At one end o’ the place is a sign — man alive! —
That says in big letters to bathers, “DON’T DIVE!”
And no glad lilies rock in the ripples that roll
In the new bathin’ pool by the old swimmin’ hole.

Oh! the old swimmin’ hole! When I looked at the place
I shuddered to think just what time could efface;
A great marble structure now stands on the spot
Whare the old divin’ log lays sunk and forgot;
As I stray down the banks whare the trees ust to be
There’s nuthin’ I see that’s familiar to me,
And there’s this that jest clutches my heart by the roots —
When the kids now swim there they must wear bathin’ suits!

Morning Herald (Hagerstown, Maryland) Jul 11, 1930

The original version from Poetry Foundation:

The Old Swimmin’ Hole

By James Whitcomb Riley

Oh! the old swimmin’-hole! whare the crick so still and deep
Looked like a baby-river that was laying half asleep,
And the gurgle of the worter round the drift jest below
Sounded like the laugh of something we onc’t ust to know
Before we could remember anything but the eyes
Of the angels lookin’ out as we left Paradise;
But the merry days of youth is beyond our controle,
And it’s hard to part ferever with the old swimmin’-hole.

Oh! the old swimmin’-hole! In the happy days of yore,
When I ust to lean above it on the old sickamore,
Oh! it showed me a face in its warm sunny tide
That gazed back at me so gay and glorified,
It made me love myself, as I leaped to caress
My shadder smilin’ up at me with sich tenderness.
But them days is past and gone, and old Time’s tuck his toll
From the old man come back to the old swimmin’-hole.

Oh! the old swimmin’-hole! In the long, lazy days
When the humdrum of school made so many run-a-ways,
How plesant was the jurney down the old dusty lane,
Whare the tracks of our bare feet was all printed so plane
You could tell by the dent of the heel and the sole
They was lots o’ fun on hands at the old swimmin’-hole.
But the lost joys is past! Let your tears in sorrow roll
Like the rain that ust to dapple up the old swimmin’-hole.

Thare the bullrushes growed, and the cattails so tall,
And the sunshine and shadder fell over it all;
And it mottled the worter with amber and gold
Tel the glad lilies rocked in the ripples that rolled;
And the snake-feeder’s four gauzy wings fluttered by
Like the ghost of a daisy dropped out of the sky,
Or a wownded apple-blossom in the breeze’s controle
As it cut acrost some orchard to’rds the old swimmin’-hole.

Oh! the old swimmin’-hole! When I last saw the place,
The scenes was all changed, like the change in my face;
The bridge of the railroad now crosses the spot
Whare the old divin’-log lays sunk and fergot.
And I stray down the banks whare the trees ust to be—
But never again will theyr shade shelter me!
And I wish in my sorrow I could strip to the soul,
And dive off in my grave like the old swimmin’-hole.

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