Thursday, June 12, 2014

POETRY FRIDAY: “The Barefoot Boy” by John Greenleaf Whittier

In my search for poems about summer, I came upon this beautiful piece by John Greenleaf Whittier, a Quaker poet from Massachusetts. Although it has a charming, old-timey feel (I especially love the word “pantaloons” in the first stanza), Whittier’s poem is a timeless reminder of happy childhood summers and a call to hold those memories close.

The Barefoot Boy
by John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-1892)
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 still
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!

To read the rest of this poem, click here.

I can completely identify with the sentiments in this poem; growing up, I spent many summer days traipsing through my grandparents’ fields in rural South Carolina or running barefoot in the yard with my sisters. With the overabundance of planned summer activities and access to electronics, computers, etc., I worry that my boys don’t get enough “barefoot time.” So this year we have lots of family camping trips planned, and we’ll hopefully take some walks through those same grassy fields (which now belong to my parents). And our back yard will definitely see plenty of “barefoot time this year, if I have my way!
I hope you enjoyed this poem as much as I did. Happy Friday, and Happy Writing! ☺

11 comments:

  1. What a lovely poem. It's reminiscent of my own childhood. We've always lived in safe areas so my kids have been able to roam free and play, but they certainly do not enjoy the same level of unstructured time as we did. Enjoy your camping and traipsing ... and don't forget to bring a notebook.

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  2. Hooray for "barefoot time!!"

    I loved this line: "I was rich in flowers and trees..."

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    1. I know--his language is so evocative and rich. I will definitely read more by this poet!

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  3. Oh, yes - barefoot days! My neighbor once told me that he could always tell when I was going someplace important, because it was the only time he saw me with shoes on! And that's not when I was a kid - I already had a family of my own.
    I've always like this poem, too, Becky - and I also like what Henry James said: ""Summer afternoon, summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language."

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    1. So glad to know that there are other "barefoot" adults out there, Julie! = )

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  4. Yes, "pantaloons"! :-) So many neat lines here: "Outward sunshine, inward joy," "Nature answers all he asks," "I was rich in flowers and trees, Humming-birds and honey-bees."

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    1. Yes, the language is delightful! I also like his use of the rhyming couplet with seven syllables per line--it creates a lyrical, steady cadence that stays with you!

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  5. The last stanza of his poem, on the site you linked, changes the tone of the poem when it goes from a description of the glories of summer to reminding this little man how his feet will soon be shod like a young colt's and he'll have to get to work. Sure enjoyed the agrarian metaphors and the feel of a simpler, less complicated time. It would be interesting to see a parallel poem written to a kid these days using the images of our time.

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    1. That is an excellent idea, Violet! It does end on a bittersweet note, doesn't it?

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  6. This reminds me of the Bradbury story about summer - dandelion wine, I think. To be as free as a barefoot child in summer, how beautiful. :)

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