POETIC BLOOMINGS READING ROOM #69 – “IN SCHOOL-DAYS”

Around these parts, today marks the first day of the new school year. And no more appropriate time to introduce a “School” poem and another obscure poet.

John Greenleaf Whittier (December 17, 1807 – September 7, 1892) was an American Quaker poet and advocate of the abolition of slavery in the United States. Frequently listed as one of the fireside poets, he was influenced by the Scottish poet Robert Burns. Whittier is remembered particularly for his anti-slavery writings, as well as his 1866 book Snow-Bound.

John Greenleaf Whittier – 1807-1892
IN SCHOOL-DAYS
By John Greenleaf Whittier

Still sits the school-house by the road, 
A ragged beggar sleeping; 
Around it still the sumachs grow, 
And blackberry-vines are creeping. 

Within, the master's desk is seen, 
Deep-scarred by raps official; 
The warping floor, the battered seats, 
The jack-knife's carved initial; 

The charcoal frescoes on its wall; 
Its door's worn sill, betraying 
The feet that, creeping slow to school, 
Went storming out to playing! 

Long years ago, a winter sun 
Shone over it at setting; 
Lit up its western window-panes, 
And low eaves' icy fretting. 

It touched the tangled golden curls, 
And brown eyes full of grieving, 
Of one who still her steps delayed 
When all the school were leaving. 

For near it stood the little boy 
Her childish favor singled; 
His cap pulled low upon a face 
Where pride and shame were mingled. 

Pushing with restless feet the snow 
To right and left, he lingered; --- 
As restlessly her tiny hands 
The blue-checked apron fingered. 

He saw her lift her eyes; he felt 
The soft hand's light caressing, 
And heard the tremble of her voice, 
As if a fault confessing. 

"I'm sorry that I spelt the word: 
I hate to go above you, 
Because,"---the brown eyes lower fell, --- 
"Because, you see, I love you!" 

Still memory to a gray-haired man 
That sweet child-face is showing. 
Dear girl! the grasses on her grave 
Have forty years been growing! 

He lives to learn, in life's hard school, 
How few who pass above him 
Lament their triumph and his loss, 
Like her, because they love him.