The Barefoot Boy "Knowledge Never Learned Of Schools"

John Greenleaf Whittier

"Knowledge Never Learned Of Schools"

Context: Whittier paints an idealistic picture of the life of a child in the country. The carefree country boy is the happiest and purest person in the world: "Blessings on thee, little man, / Barefoot boy, with cheek of tan!/ With thy turned-up pantaloons,/ And thy merry whistled tunes." Like Huck Finn, the barefoot boy is happier than a prince or a millionaire, for he has "Outward sunshine, inward joy." Seeing the boy causes the poet to feel nostalgia: "From my heart I give thee joy,–/ I was once a barefoot boy!" The poet longs for "boyhood's time of June" when he was master of everything he saw and heard: "I was rich in flowers and trees . . . Laughed the brook for my delight . . . All the world I saw or knew/ Seemed a complex Chinese toy,/ Fashioned for a barefoot boy!" He advises the "little man" to "Live and laugh, as boyhood can!" For soon the boy will grow up and wear shoes, losing "the freedom of the sod." At best, adult life is endless toil; and the boy will be lucky if he sinks "not in/ Quick and treacherous sands of sin./ Ah! that thou couldst know thy joy,/ Ere it passes, barefoot boy!" Whittier describes the wonderfully free and uncivilized life of the 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
. . .
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!