Fall is too windy; winter is too cold; spring is too wet. May is not enough and July is too much. When it comes to a month a man can REALLY love– it’s June, you know, I’m talking of!
“Knee-Deep in June”
by James Whitcomb Riley
Tell you what I like the best —
‘Long about knee-deep in June,
‘Bout the time strawberries melts
On the vine, — some afternoon
Like to jes’ git out and rest,
And not work at nothin’ else!
Orchard’s where I’d ruther be —
Needn’t fence it in fer me! —
Jes’ the whole sky overhead,
And the whole airth underneath —
Sort o’ so’s a man kin breathe
Like he ort, and kind o’ has
Elbow-room to keerlessly
Sprawl out len’thways on the grass
Where the shadders thick and soft
As the kivvers on the bed
Mother fixes in the loft
Allus, when they’s company!
Jes’ a-sort o’ lazin there –
S’lazy, ‘at you peek and peer
Through the wavin’ leaves above,
Like a feller ‘ats in love
And don’t know it, ner don’t keer!
Ever’thing you hear and see
Got some sort o’ interest –
Maybe find a bluebird’s nest
Tucked up there conveenently
Fer the boy ‘at’s ap’ to be
Up some other apple tree!
Watch the swallers skootin’ past
Bout as peert as you could ast;
Er the Bob-white raise and whiz
Where some other’s whistle is.
Ketch a shadder down below,
And look up to find the crow —
Er a hawk, – away up there,
‘Pearantly froze in the air! —
Hear the old hen squawk, and squat
Over ever’ chick she’s got,
Suddent-like! – and she knows where
That-air hawk is, well as you! —
You jes’ bet yer life she do! —
Eyes a-glitterin’ like glass,
Waitin’ till he makes a pass!
Pee-wees wingin’, to express
My opinion, ‘s second-class,
Yit you’ll hear ’em more er less;
Sapsucks gittin’ down to biz,
Weedin’ out the lonesomeness;
Mr. Bluejay, full o’ sass,
In them baseball clothes o’ his,
Sportin’ round the orchad jes’
Like he owned the premises!
Sun out in the fields kin sizz,
But flat on yer back, I guess,
In the shade’s where glory is!
That’s jes’ what I’d like to do
Stiddy fer a year er two!
Plague! Ef they ain’t somepin’ in
Work ‘at kind o’ goes ag’in’
My convictions! – ‘long about
Here in June especially! —
Under some ole apple tree,
Jes’ a-restin through and through,
I could git along without
Nothin’ else at all to do
Only jes’ a-wishin’ you
Wuz a-gittin’ there like me,
And June wuz eternity!
Lay out there and try to see
Jes’ how lazy you kin be! —
Tumble round and souse yer head
In the clover-bloom, er pull
Yer straw hat acrost yer eyes
And peek through it at the skies,
Thinkin’ of old chums ‘ats dead,
Maybe, smilin’ back at you
In betwixt the beautiful
Clouds o’gold and white and blue! —
Month a man kin railly love —
June, you know, I’m talkin’ of!
March ain’t never nothin’ new! —
April’s altogether too
Brash fer me! and May — I jes’
‘Bominate its promises, —
Little hints o’ sunshine and
Green around the timber-land —
A few blossoms, and a few
Chip-birds, and a sprout er two, —
Drap asleep, and it turns in
Fore daylight and snows ag’in! —
But when June comes – Clear my th’oat
With wild honey! — Rench my hair
In the dew! And hold my coat!
Whoop out loud! And th’ow my hat! —
June wants me, and I’m to spare!
Spread them shadders anywhere,
I’ll get down and waller there,
And obleeged to you at that!
The dialect, in “Knee-Deep in June”, adds personality and authenticity to the speaker. It also allows for very unique rhythms and sounds that James Whitcomb Riley masterfully puts on display as the Hoosier (Indiana) Poet. In this sense, he is very similar to Paul Laurence Dunbar and Robert Burns. Both of these poets have also had a lot of success with dialect poems.
June wants me, and I’m to spare!
There really is no better month than June. And the way James Whitcomb Riley describes June, just makes it all the more desirable. Perhaps my favorite imagery in this poem (and there’s a lot of it!), is sassy Mr. Blue Jay wearing baseball clothes and strutting around like he owns the place. Or, maybe, it’s stretching out on the grass in a shadow doing nothing– Sounds pretty appealing to me!