Context: In this once familiar classic of schoolroom recitations, Whittier followed the doctrine laid down by Wordsworth a generation earlier: the essential innocence and happiness of childhood as compared with the burdens and cares of later life. The poem contains an excellently observed series of details of the life of a boy in the country of Whittier's own time, when America was still predominantly rural and when such details would be familiar. It is the poet's intention to create a nostalgic picture of a boy's carefree existence soon to be brought to an end as life's responsibilities crowd in. The description begins:
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 stillKissed by strawberries on the hill. . . .