Whittier in Haverhill

The Barefoot Boy

Barefoot Boy PaintingIn January of 1855, “the Barefoot Boy appeared in The Little Pilgrim and became an immediate success that appealed to both adults and children. Cornelius Conway Felton, later president of Harvard, read it in the Transcriptandsaid it was as “delicious as a shower in a summer afternoon” and he “reveled again in the days of jacket-hood, torn hat-hood, barefoot-hood.” (quoted in Woodwell 252)

The Barefoot Boy

Blessings on thee, little man,
Barefoot boy, with cheek of tan!
With thy turned-up pantaloons,
And they 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!
Prince thou art,--the grown-up man
Only is republican.

After describing the particular joys of boyhood, from observations of insects and squirrels to tasting “Apples of Hesperides!” Whittier concludes with good wishes:

Photo of barefoot young boyCheerily, 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 couldst know thy joy,
Ere it passes, barefoot boy!

Full text of "The Barefoot Boy"

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