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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. 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!
Oh for boyhood's 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-flower's 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 gray 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!
Oh 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.
Oh 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.
Cheerily, 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 !
The sun that brief December day
Rose cheerless over hills of gray,
And, darkly circled, gave at noon
A sadder light than waning inoon.
Slow tracing down the thickening sky
Its mute and ominous prophecy,
A portent seeming less than threat,
It sank from sight before it set.
A chill no coat, however stout,
Of homespun stuff, could quite shut out,
A hard, dull bitterness of cold,
That checked, mid-vein, the circling race
Of life-blood in the sharpened face,
The coming of the snow-storm told.
The wind blew east: we heard the roar
Of Ocean on his wintry shore,
And felt the strong pulse throbbing there
Beat with low rhythm our inland air.
Meanwhile we did our nightly chores, -
Brought in the wood from out of doors;
Littered the stalls, and from the mows
Raked down the herds-grass for the cows;
Heard the horse wbinnying for his corn;
And, sharply clashing horn on horn,
Impatient down the stanchion rows
The cattle shake their walnut-bows;
While, peering from his early perch
Upon the scaffold's pole of birch,
The cock his crested helmet bent,
And down his querulous challenge sent.
Unwarmed by any sunset light,
The gray day darkened into night,
A night made hoary with the swarm
And whirl-dance of the blinding storm,
As zigzag wavering to and fro
Crossed and recrossed the winged snow;
And, ere the early bedtime came,
The white drift piled the window-frame;
And through the glass the clothes-line posts
Looked in like tall and sheeted ghosts.
So all night long the storm roared on:
The morning broke without a sun.
In tiny spherule traced with lines
Of Nature's geometric signs,
In starry flake and pellicle,
All day the hoary meteor fell;
And, when the second morning shone,
We looked upon a world unknown,-
On nothing we could call our own.
Around the glistening wonder bent
The blue walls of the firmament;
No cloud above, no earth below,-
A universe of sky and snow!
The old familiar sights of ours
Took marvelous shapes; strange domes and towers
up where sty or corn-crib stood,
Or garden wall, or belt of wood;
A smooth white mound the brush-pile showed ;
A fenceless drift what once was road;
The bridle-post an old man sat,
With loose-flung coat and high cocked hat;
The well-curb had a Chinese roof;
And even the long sweep, high aloof,
In its slant splendor seemed to tell
Of Pisa's leaning miracle.
A prompt, decisive man, no breath
Our father wasted : “ Boys, a path!”
Well pleased, (for when did farmer-boy
Count such a summons less than joy ?)
Our buskins on our feet we drew.
With mittened hands, and caps drawn low
To guard our necks and ears froin snow,
We cut the solid whiteness through ;
And, where the dritt was deepest, made
A tunnel walled and overlaid
With dazzling crystal. We had read
Of rare Aladdin's wondrous cave;
And to our own his name we gave,
With many a wish the luck were ours
To test his lamp's supernal powers.
We reached the barn with merry din,
And roused the prisoned brutes within.
The old horse thrust his long head out,
And, grave with wonder, gazed about ;
The cock his lusty greeting said,
And forth his speckled harem led;
The oxen lashed their tails, and hooked,
And mild reproach of hunger looked ;
The hornèd patriarch of the sheep,
Like Egypt's Amun roused from sleep,
Shook his sage head with gesture mute,
And emphasized with stamp of foot.
All day the gusty north wind bore
The loosening drift its breath before;
Low circling round its southern zone,
The sun through dazzling snow-mist shone.
No church-beli lent its Christian tone
To the savage air, no social smoke
Curled over woods of snow-hung oak,
A solitude made more intense
By dreary-voiced elements,
The shrieking of the mindless wind,
The moaning tree-boughs swaying blind,
And on the glass the unmeaning beat
Of ghostly finger-tips of sleet.
Beyond the circle of our hearth
No welcome sound of toil or mirth
Unbound the spell, and testified
Of human life and thought outside.
We minded that the sharpest ear
The buried brooklet could not hear,
The music of whose liquid lip
Had been to us companionship,
And in our lonely life had grown
To have an almost human tone.
As night drew on, and from the crest
Of wooded knolls that ridged the west,
The sun, a snow-blown traveler, sank
From sight beneath the smothering bank,
We piled with care our nightly stack
Of wood against the chimney-back, -
log, green, huge, and thick,
And on its top the stout back-stick;
The knotty forestick laid apart,
And filled between with curious art
The ragged brush ; then, hovering near,
We watched the first red blaze appear,
Heard the sharp crackle, caught the gleam
On whitewashed wall and sagging beam,
Until the old, rude-furnished room
Burst, flower-like, into rosy bloom ;
While radiant with a mimic flame
Outside the sparkling drift became,
And through the bare-boughed lilac-tree
Our own warm hearth seemed blazing free.
The crane and pendent trammels showed ;
The Turks' heads on the andirons glowed;
While childish fancy, prompt to tell
The meaning of the miracle,
Whispered the old rhyme : “Under the tree,
When fire outdoors burns merrily,
There ihe witches are making tea."