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John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-1892)

In School-days


              1Still sits the school-house by the road,
              2  A ragged beggar sleeping;
              3Around it still the sumachs grow,
              4  And blackberry-vines are creeping.

              5Within, the master's desk is seen,
              6  Deep scarred by raps official;
              7The warping floor, the battered seats,
              8  The jack-knife's carved initial;

              9The charcoal frescos on its wall;
            10  Its door's worn sill, betraying
            11The feet that, creeping slow to school,
            12  Went storming out to playing!

            13Long years ago a winter sun
            14  Shone over it at setting;
            15Lit up its western window-panes,
            16  And low eaves' icy fretting.

            17It touched the tangled golden curls,
            18  And brown eyes full of grieving,
            19Of one who still her steps delayed
            20  When all the school were leaving.

            21For near her stood the little boy
            22  Her childish favor singled:
            23His cap pulled low upon a face
            24  Where pride and shame were mingled.

            25Pushing with restless feet the snow
            26  To right and left, he lingered; --
            27As restlessly her tiny hands
            28  The blue-checked apron fingered.

            29He saw her lift her eyes; he felt
            30  The soft hand's light caressing,
            31And heard the tremble of her voice,
            32  As if a fault confessing.

            33"I'm sorry that I spelt the word:
            34  I hate to go above you,
            35Because," -- the brown eyes lower fell, --
            36  "Because, you see, I love you!"

            37Still memory to a gray-haired man
            38  That sweet child-face is showing.
            39Dear girl! the grasses on her grave
            40  Have forty years been growing!

            41He lives to learn, in life's hard school,
            42  How few who pass above him
            43Lament their triumph and his loss,
            44  Like her, -- because they love him.

Notes

3] sumachs: shrub or small tree whose leaves are used in tanning.


Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: The Complete Poetical Works of John Greenleaf Whittier, Cambridge edition, ed. H. E. S. (Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1894): 407-08. PS 3250 E94 1894 Robarts Library.
First publication date: 1870
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: RPO 1998.
Recent editing: 2:2002/2/20

Rhyme: abcb


Other poems by John Greenleaf Whittier