We’re all (I presume) familiar with John Greenleaf Whittier’s classic poem “Barefoot Boy“.
Do you think maybe I could find a poem about a barefoot girl?
In Colorful Characters: Hans Peter Bertelsen, I wrote about how Hans Peter Bertelsen was considered the inspiration for John Greenleaf Whittier’s poem “The Barefoot Boy”. However, in a comment to that, it was suggested that Whittier himself was the barefoot boy.
What’s the real scoop?
Most of the poems that I’ve posted here are from the late 1800s or early 1900s, as the time of “barefoot boys” as the norm was starting to fade as the country urbanized. That’s not to say that it died out completely (the second “great decline” happened in the 1970s or so).
Anyways, here is a much more contemporary poem about bare feet.
I’ve highlighted a few poems here before. Of course, there is John Greenleaf Whittier’s “The Barefoot Boy“. But I’ve also pointed out Burges Johnson’s “Goin’ Barefoot“, and Edwin Sabin’s “The Barefoot Trail“.
One thing they do is point out just how going barefoot for kids really was romanticized, accepted, and celebrated in the past.
I have a friend who I’ve talked to about “big justice” and “little justice”. One thing I’ve always had to battle in my lawsuits is the perception that fighting to go barefoot is just “little justice.” Oh, just put on some shoes. Oh, that’s too minor of an insult to fight.
I’ve had courts get mad at me for wasting their time. In my suit against the Columbus Metropolitan Library, I had the trial court judge there admonish me:
As long as we are on a poem kick, here’s another one. I actually like this one a bit more than the previous one.
By the way, I’m not claiming that these poems are great literature. But they are kind of fun.
This one is from 1907, written by Edwin L. Sabin:
The Barefoot Trail
Out of the dear front gate it ran,
Into the sun and dew and tan;
Traversed the dusty, peaceful street
Arched by maples, in mem’ry sweet;
Crossed the pasture with clover lush;
Entered the copse, where trilled the thrush;
Rambled, loitered, and played—and then
Turned to mother and home again.
Street, and pasture and hill and vale—
Such was the course of the Barefoot Trail;
Pausing and veering for this and that—
Now for a game of one-old-cat,
Now for a rollicking butterfly,
Now for a nest hung just too high,
Now for a brookside haunt—and then
Back to mother and home again.
Never a sun for this trail too hot,
Never a nook that knew it not;
Twisting and turning from scene to scene,
It checkered the realm of the gold and green.
Passenger—courier boyhood, slim;
Passport—whistle and tattered brim;
Province—to beckon afar, and then
To lead to mother and home again.
Many a secret and many a tale
Ours who followed the Barefoot Trail;
Wonders witnessed and marvels heard;
Kinship of squirrel and hare and bird,
The shortest route to the swimming-hole,
The finny spoil of the swaying pole,
Care-free triumphs and joys—and then,
Best—the “mother and home again.”
In one of the comments, Martin asked about whether kids used to go barefoot because they liked it or because they were poor.
As part of my answer, I mentioned that there were poems from back then about kids loving to go barefoot. Here is one of them, from 1903, written by Burges Johnson:
It’s more fun goin’ barefoot than anythin’
There ain’t a single nother thing that helps
yer feelin’s so.
Some days I stay in Muvver’s room a get-
tin’ in her way;
An’ when I’ve bothered her so much she sez,
“Oh, run an’ play!”
I say, “Kin I go barefoot?” En she say,
“If y’ choose”–
Nen I alwuz wanter holler when I’m pullin’
off my shoes!
It’s fun a-goin’ barefoot when yer playin’
‘Cause robbers would be noisy an’ Indians
Unless they had their shoes off when they
crep’ up in th’ night,
An’ folks can’t know they’re comin’ till they
get right close in sight!
An’ I’m surely goin’ barefoot every day when
I get old,
An’ haven’t got a nurse to say I’ll catch my
death o’ cold!
An’ if yer goin’ barefoot, yer want t’ go out-
Y’ can’t stretch out an’ dig yer heels in
stupid hard-wood floors
Like you kin dig ‘em in th’ dirt! An’
where th’ long grass grows,
The blades feel kinder tickley and cool be-
tween yer toes.
So when I’m pullin’ off my shoes I’m
mighty ‘fraid I’ll cough,–
‘Cause then I know Ma’d stop me ‘fore I
got my stockin’s off!
If y’ often go round barefoot there’s lot o’
things to know,–
Of how t’ curl yer feet on stones so they
won’t hurt y’ so,–
An’ when th’ grass is stickley an’ pricks
y’ at a touch,
Jes plunk yer feet down solid an’ it don’t
hurt half so much.
I lose my hat mos’ every day. I wish I did
Er else I wisht I was so poor I hadn’t none