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John Townsend Trowbridge (Джон Таунсенд Троубридж)

A Story of the «Barefoot Boy»


"I was once a barefoot boy."

ON Haverhill's pleasant hills there played,
Some sixty years ago,
In turned-up trousers, tattered hat,
Patches and freckles, and all that,
The Barefoot Boy we know.

He roamed his berry-fields content;
But while, from bush and brier
The nimble feet got many a scratch,
His wit, beneath its homely thatch,
Aspired to something higher.

Over his dog-eared spelling-book,
Or school-boy composition,
Puzzling his head with some hard sum,
Going for nuts, or gathering gum,
He cherished his ambition.

He found the turtles' eggs, and watched
To see the warm sun hatch 'em;
Hunted, with sling, or bow and arrow,
Or salt, to trap the unwary sparrow;
Caught fish, or tried to catch 'em.

But more and more, to rise, to soar—
This hope his bosom fired.
He shot his shaft, he sailed his kite,
Let out the string and watched its flight,
And smiled, while he aspired.

"Now I've a plan— I know we can!"
He said to Mat—another
Small shaver of the barefoot sort:
His name was Matthew; Mat, for short;
Our barefoot's younger brother.

"What! fly?" says Mat. "Well, not just that."
John thought: "No, we can't fly;
But we can go right up," says he,
"Oh, higher than the highest tree!
Away up in the sky!"

"Oh do!" says Mat; "I'll hold thy hat,
And watch while thee is gone."
For these were Quaker lads, and each
Lisped in his pretty Quaker speech.
"No, that won't do," says John.

"For thee must help; then we can float,
As light as any feather.
We both can lift; now don't thee see?
If thee'll lift me while I lift thee,
We shall go up together!"

An autumn evening; early dusk;
A few stars faintly twinkled;
The crickets chirped; the chores were done;
'T was just the time to have some fun,
Before the tea-bell tinkled.

They spat upon their hands, and clinched,
Firm under-hold and upper.
"Don't lift too hard, or lift too far,"
Says Mat, "or we may hit a star,
And not get back to supper!"

"Oh no!" says John; "we'll only lift
A few rods up, that's all,
To see the river and the town.
Now don't let go till we come down,
Or we shall catch a fall!

"Hold fast to me! now; one, two, three!
And up we go!" They jerk,
They pull and strain, but all in vain!
A bright idea, and yet, 't was plain,
It somehow would n't work.

John gave it up; ah, many a John
Has tried and failed, as he did!
'T was a shrewd notion, none the less,
And still, in spite of ill success,
It somehow has succeeded.

Kind nature smiled on that wise child,
Nor could her love deny him
The large fulfillment of his plan;
Since he who lifts his brother man
In turn is lifted by him.

He reached the starry heights of peace
Before his head was hoary;
And now, at threescore years and ten,
The blessings of his fellow-men
Waft him a crown of glory.

John Townsend Trowbridge's other poems:
  1. Menotomy Lake
  2. The Old Man of the Mountains under the Moon and Stars
  3. The Tragedy Queen
  4. An Idyl of Harvest Time
  5. Recollections of «Lalla Rookh»

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