Lockerbie Street39.772162, -86.148816

James Whitcomb Riley

James Whitcomb Riley adored the Indianapolis neighborhood of Lockerbie. Riley wrote the poem “Lockerbie Street” even before he became a longtime resident.

Author

James Whitcomb Riley
b. 1849 – d. 1916

Literary Inspiration

“Lockerbie Street”

Published 1887
First appeared in the Indianapolis Journal, July 12, 1880

Location

Lockerbie Street, between East Street and Park Avenue

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Poem

“Lockerbie Street” in Afterwhiles


James Whitcomb Riley

Such a dear little street it is, nestled away
From the noise of the city and heat of the day,
In cool shady coverts of whispering trees,
With their leaves lifted up to shake hands with the breeze
Which in all its wide wanderings never may meet
With a resting-place fairer than Lockerbie street!

There is such a relief, from the clangor and din
Of the heart of the town, to go loitering in
Through the dim, narrow walks, with the sheltering shade
Of the trees waving over the long promenade,
And littering lightly the ways of our feet
With the gold of the sunshine of Lockerbie street.

And the nights that come down the dark pathways of dusk,
With the stars in their tresses, and odors of musk
In their moon-woven raiments, bespangled with dews,
And looped up with lilies for lovers to use
In the songs that they sing to the tinkle and beat
Of their sweet serenadings through Lockerbie street.

O, my Lockerbie street! You are fair to be seen—
Be it noon of the day, or the rare and serene
Afternoon of the night—you are one to my heart,
And I love you above all the phrases of art,
For no language could frame and no lips could repeat
My rhyme-haunted raptures of Lockerbie street.

NOTES

Riley did a lot of his writing prior to moving into the Lockerbie Square neighborhood. By the time he moved in 1893, he had already enjoyed his most creative period of his life. That being said, his work was always closely tied to Indiana and his sense of place. His Hoosier dialect poems were clearly inspired by the people living in his hometown of Greenfield, Indiana, and later the people he met in the city of Indianapolis. Really, you could say that the state and his city inspired a vast a majority of his poetry. It was so important to him that he made the conscious decision to continue living in Indianapolis, rather than moving to New York or Philadelphia—which was the heart of the publishing/literary industry at the time. He considered being in Indianapolis and Indiana absolutely essential to his work.

—Chris Mize, Manager of Programming
James Whitcomb Riley Museum Home

Riley’s poetry reveals a great deal about life in Indiana and the Midwest during this time period. His poetry tried to imitate everyday people he met in his youth, and I think it does give a certain idealized portrayal of a “Hoosier.” His poetry is often nostalgic, idealizing country life, childhood, lost love and simple wisdom and humor. While his poems may not have been the most true-to-life portrayals, I think his massive popularity reveals how people during that time longed for the idealized versions of Indiana he created in his poetry. As urbanization increased, and the industrial revolution progressed into the Gilded Age, Riley found an audience for the warm portrayals of simple but wise farmers, humorous children or other Hoosier characters he celebrated in his poetry. I think they reveal an idealized, rural past that many Victorians longed for in a world growing rapidly more complex and industrial.

I also say, Riley really introduced Indiana to the rest of the country. He created these idealized versions of Hoosier men, women and children, and made characters like Little Orphant Annie and the Raggedy Man nationally well known.

—Chris Mize, Manager of Programming
James Whitcomb Riley Museum Home

 

James Whitcomb Riley loved the Lockerbie neighborhood so much that he even named his dog “Lockerbie.” You can see Lockerbie’s portrait here above the fireplace in James Whitcomb Riley’s quarters.

A native of Greenfield, Indiana, James Whitcomb Riley was known as the Hoosier Poet” and Children’s Poet” for his dialect works and his children’s poetry. His most famous works include “Little Orphant Annie” and “The Raggedy Man,” which he made popular on the national lecture circuit in the 1880s and 1890s. Riley, along with Meredith Nicholson, George Ade and Booth Tarkington, was a leading figure during the Golden Age of Indiana Literature. 

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Deeper

Indianapolis is a place that inspires creativity. This is one of a dozen original pieces of visual and performing art created by Hoosier artists inspired by Bookmark Indy authors.

Mary Ann Davis painting of Lockerbie Street.

Mary Ann Davis

Lockerbie Street
Oil on canvas
www.madavisart.com 

Artist Mary Ann Davis visually captures the spirit of James Whitcomb Riley’s “Lockerbie Street” poem. Her loose, soft brushstrokes illustrate the respite and comfort that the Lockerbie neighborhood offers within the bustling city. 

lockerbie street

 

Lockerbie Street, between East Street and Park Avenue

 

Closest IndyGo Stops: 

East Street & New York Street (Routes 11 & 21)

New York Street & East Street (Route 3)

 

How to Plan a Trip on IndyGo:  

  • Use the Trip Planner on IndyGo.net 
  • Use Google Maps (select “transit” as your travel method) 
  • Call IndyGo Customer Service at 317-635-3344 
  • Track your bus using the MyStop Mobile App 
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The Lockerbie Promenade

July 20, 2021 | 6:30-8:00 p.m. | 528 Lockerbie Street

Spend a pleasant summer evening on Lockerbie Street, the “dear little street” that James Whitcomb Riley called home and honored with a poem. We’ll gather at the James Whitcomb Riley Museum Home, where the famed Hoosier Poet lived from 1893 to 1916, and enjoy guided tours and perhaps even a visit from Riley himself. Meanwhile, Marjorie Kienle, a longtime resident of the Lockerbie Square neighborhood who helped to revitalize it beginning in the 1970s, will lead walks through the neighborhood’s “cool shady coverts of whispering trees” and share its history. Masks required.

Registration is required: https://lockerbiepromenade.eventbrite.com

Partners: James Whitcomb Riley Museum Home and Historic Urban Neighborhoods of Indianapolis

You can visit the James Whitcomb Riley Museum Home in the historic Lockerbie neighborhood and view authentic furnishings and artifacts, including Riley’s writing desk and his top hat and cane.

 

David Sasso composed music to James Whitcomb Riley’s poems “Dreamer, Say” and “The Best Is Good Enough” and recorded them with his duo partner, Kat Wallace, on their debut album, Stuff of Stars.

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