How ’bout another poem from Byron Williams?
Utopia is in much the same vein as Barefoot Days.
But first, I want to discuss for just a moment a comment from David Blair. He asks
Have you considered that sentimental poems like this were part of what led us to today’s anti-barefoot culture? Going barefoot was for children, and something to be grown out of.
I doubt it was the poems. In fact, by the early 1900s, I suspect they were documenting (and pining for) something that was already fading pretty rapidly. But I think you are right about it being considered something to be grown out of. Going barefoot like that tended to be more of a rural practice, and the country was urbanizing pretty rapidly.
Also note that it was boys much more than girls who went barefoot. It may have been an indulgence of what was seen as boys’ more savage (let us say) nature, but as they grew up, it was time to be more civilized and to build a nation.
Sure, pockets of barefoot kids lasted past them (e.g., the rural south), but bare feet were considered antithetical to the “march of progress”.
Well, now that we are completely civilized (snort!), maybe we can indulge ourselves again.
Anyways, on to the poem.
The happiest days were the barefoot days,
The days of the long ago.
We trooped with our “gang” through the woodland ways,
To nooks where the mushrooms grow.
We tramped with our dog where the sweet flag sways,
By paths where the zephyrs blow!
The happiest joys were the boyhood joys,
The joys of the yesterday;
When care had not sullied the realm of boys,
Nor entered their world of play;
When Fortune and Fame were the merest toys
To win in our boyish way!
The happiest time is the boyhood time,
The time of the barefoot lad—
The time when he gathers the fragrant thyme,
The hours when he casts for shad.
He dwells in a land that is song and rhyme,
A land that is always glad!
The happiest span is the boyhood span,
The years that the troublers miss—
The years all too few of the sun and tan,
The years that the fragrance kiss.
I offer two years of the grown-up man
For one of the boyhood bliss!
But Time laughs aloud at the joke he plays
On man in his quest for joy.
Ah, never but once may we know the ways
Untouched by the base alloy,
Just once in our lives are the blessed days
That come to the barefoot boy!
[All illustrations, in this and my other entry, are from the original publication of Byron Williams' poems.]