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The Barefoot Boy

Blessings on thee, little man,
Barefoot boy, with cheek of tan!
With thy turned-up pantaloons,
And thy merry whistled tunes;
With thy red lip, redder  The Barefoot Boystill
Kissed by strawberries on the hill;
With the sunshine on thy face,
Through thy torn brim`s jaunty grace;
From my heart I give thee joy --
I was once a barefoot boy!
Prince thou art -- the grown-up man
Only is republican.
Let the million-dollared ride!
Barefoot, trudging at his side,
Thou hast more than he can buy
In the reach of ear and eye --
Outward sunshine, inward joy:
Blessings on thee, barefoot boy!
O for boyhoods painless play,
Sleep that wakes in laughing day,
Health that mocks the doctor`s rules,
Knowledge never learned of schools,
Of the wild bee`s morning chase,
Of the wild-flowers time and place,
Flight of fowl and habitude
Of the tenants of the wood;
How the tortoise bears his shell,
How the woodchuck digs his cell,
And the ground-mole sinks his well;
How the robin feeds her young,
How the oriole`s nest is hung;
Where the whitest lilies blow,
Where the freshest berries grow,
Where the groundnut trails its vine,
Where the wood-grape`s clusters shine;
Of the black wasp`s cunning way,
Mason of his walls of clay,
And the architectural plans
Of great hornet artisans! --
For, eschewing books and tasks,
Nature answers all he asks;
Hand in hand with her he walks,
Face to face with her he talks,
Part and parcel of her joy --
Blessings on the barefoot boy!
Of for boyhood`s time of June,
Crowding years in one brief moon,
When all things I heard or saw,
Me, their master, waited for.
I was rich in flowers and trees,
Humming-birds and honey-bees;
For my sport the squirrel played,
Plied the snouted mole his spade;
For my taste the blackberry cone
Purpled over hedge and stone;
Laughed the brook for my delight
Through the day and through the night,
Whispering at the garden wall,
Talked with me from fall to fall;
Mine the sand-rimmed pickerel-pond,
Mine the walnut slopes beyond,
Mine, on bending orchard-trees,
Apples of Hesperides!
Still as my horizon grew,
Larger grew my riches too;
All the world I saw or knew
Seemed a complex Chinese toy,
Fashioned for a barefoot boy!
O for festal dainties spread,
Like my bowl of milk and bread --
Pewter spoon and bowl of wood,
On the door-stone, gray and rude!
O`er me, like a regal tent,
Cloudy-ribbed, the sunset bent,
Purple-curtained, fringed with gold,
Looped in many a wind-swung fold;
While for music came the play
Of the pied frogs` orchestra;
And, to light the noisy choir,
Lit the fly his lamp of fire.
I was monarch: pomp and joy
Waited on the barefoot boy!
Cheerly, then, my little man,
Live and laugh, as boyhood can!
Though the flinty slopes be hard,
Stubble-speared the new-mown sward,
Every morn shall lead thee through
Fresh baptisms of the dew;
Every evening from thy feet
Shall the cool wind kiss the heat:
All too soon these feet must hide
In the prison-cells of pride,
Lose the freedom of the sod,
Like a colt`s for work be shod,
Made to tread the mills of toil,
Up and down in ceaseless moil.
Happy if their track be found
Never on forbidden ground;
Happy if they sink not in
Quick and treacherous sands of sin.
Ah! that thou couldest know thy joy,
Ere it passes, barefoot boy!



- J.G. Whittier

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