Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE STORY OF THE BAREFOOT BOY, by JOHN TOWNSEND TROWBRIDGE



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THE STORY OF THE BAREFOOT BOY, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: On haverhill's pleasant hills there played
Last Line: Waft him a crown of glory.
Subject(s): Boys; Childhood Memories


ON Haverhill's pleasant hills there played,
Some sixty years ago,
In turned-up trowsers, tattered hat,
The "Barefoot Boy" we know.

He roamed his berry-fields content;
But while from bush and brier
The nimble feet got many a scratch,
His wit, beneath its homely thatch,
Aspired to something higher.

Over his dog-eared spelling-book,
Or school-boy's composition,
Puzzling his head with some hard sum,
Going for nuts, or gathering gum,
He cherished his ambition.

He found the turtles' eggs, and watched
To see the warm sun hatch 'em;
Hunting with sling, or bow and arrow,
Or salt to trap the unwary sparrow,
Caught fish, or tried to catch 'em.

But more and more to rise, to soar—
This hope his bosom fired,—
He shot his arrow, sailed his kite,
Let out the string and watched its flight,
And smiled while he aspired.

"Now I've a plan—I know we can!"
He said to Matt—another
Small shaver of the barefoot sort;
His name was Matthew—Matt, for short;
Our barefoot's younger brother.

"What! fly?" says Matt. "Well, not just that,"
John thought; "for we can't fly;
But we can go right up," says he;
"Oh, higher than the highest tree:
Away up in the sky!"

"Oh, do," says Matt; "I'll hold thy hat,
And watch while thee is gone."
For these were Quaker lads, lisped
Each in his pretty Quaker speech.
"No, that wont do," says John,

"For thee must help; then we can float
As light as any feather.
We both can lift; now don't thee see?
If thee lift me while I lift thee,
We shall go up together!"

An autumn evening, early dusk,
A few stars faintly twinkled;
The crickets chirped; the chores were done;
'Twas just the time to have some fun
Before the tea-bell tinkled.

They spat upon their hands and clinched,
Firm under hold and upper;
"Don't lift too hard or lift too far,"
Says Matt; "or we may hit a star,
And not get back to supper!"

"Oh, no," says John; "we'll only lift
A few rods up, that's all,
To see the river and the town.
Now don't let go till we come down,
Or we shall catch a fall!

Hold fast to me, now, one, two, three!
And up we go." They jerk,
They pull and strain, but all in vain!
A bright idea, and yet, 'twas plain,
It somehow wouldn't work.

John gave it up; Ah, many a John
Has tried and failed as he did.
'Twas a shrewd notion, none the less,
And still, in spite of ill success,
It somewhat has succeeded.

Kind Nature smiled on that wise child,
Nor could her love deny him
The large fulfillment of his plan,
Since he who lifts his brother man
In turn is lifted by him.

He reached the starry heights of peace
Before his head was hoary;
And now, at threescore years and ten,
The blessings of his fellow-men
Waft him a crown of glory.





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