Last week we heard the story about the Children in a Democracy report cover that was torn off because it depicted 3 barefoot children on their way to school, and the government offical thought that reflected badly on the United States.
In one of the newspapers of the time there appeared a poem that mocked that decision.
The poem is from a columnist named H. I. Phillips, and it is a take-off on John Greenleaf Whittier’s “The Barefoot Boy”. In it he intersperses portion of Whittier’s version with Phillips own additions (the new stuff is italicized). We’ve seen H. I. Phillips before, with another of his poems, The Barefoot Girl.
It really doesn’t scan very well. But it is interesting nonetheless.
The Barefoot Boy, Modernized
Blessings on thee, little man,
Barefoot boy with cheek of tan!—
(What a thought; ‘Twill never do
In this land of notions new);
With thy turned-up pantaloons
And thy merry whistled tunes—
(Pantaloons! Say, that must go!
We’ve an era new, you know;
Make those trousers long enough,
And cut out that turned-up stuff.)
With thy red lips, redder still,
Kissed by strawberries on the hill
(Those lines we cannot allow,
That hill is a project now);
With the sunshine on thy face
Through the torn brim’s jaunty grace—
(Out with torn brim stuff like that!
Give that kid a brand-new hat!)
From my heart I give thee joy—
I was once a barefoot boy;
(If I was it was before
F. D. R. came through the door);
Prince thou art; the grown-up man
Only is Republican—
(Horrors! Give those lines the sack!
That’s a dirty Tory crack!)
Let the milllon-dollared ride!
(If they do they’d better hide);
Barefoot, trudging, at his side,
Thou hast more than he can buy—
(That, by golly, is no lie!)
Outward sunshine, inward joy—
(Put some shoes on, barefoot boy!)
Oh, for boyhood’s painless play,
Sleep that wakes in laughing day . . .
(That in print we will allow;
Play and sleep go big, and how!)
Health that mocks the doctor’s rules,
Knowledge never learned in 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—
(Stop! Those tenants needn’t live
In the woods on what we give!).
How the robin feeds her young,
How the oriole’s nest is hung—
(Anybody knows, to wit;
Federal boards attend to it!)
Oh, for boyhood’s time in June,
Crowding years in one brief moon!
I was rich in flowers and trees,
Hummingbirds and honey bees—
(Printer, give that “rich” the bird—
We don’t like it as a word!)
And as your horizon grew
Larger grew your riches, too—
(Riches! There he goes again—
Whittier’s an awful pain!)