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By John Greenleaf Whittier

Still sits the school-house by the road,

   A ragged beggar sleeping;

Around it still the sumachs grow,

   And blackberry-vines are creeping.


Within, the master’s desk is seen,

   Deep scarred by raps official;

The warping floor, the battered seats,

   The jack-knife’s carved initial;


The charcoal frescos on its wall;

   Its door’s worn sill, betraying

The feet that, creeping slow to school,

   Went storming out to playing!


Long years ago a winter sun

   Shone over it at setting;

Lit up its western window-panes,

   And low eaves’ icy fretting.


It touched the tangled golden curls,

   And brown eyes full of grieving,

Of one who still her steps delayed

   When all the school were leaving.


For near her stood the little boy

   Her childish favor singled:

His cap pulled low upon a face

   Where pride and shame were mingled.


Pushing with restless feet the snow

   To right and left, he lingered;—

As restlessly her tiny hands

   The blue-checked apron fingered.


He saw her lift her eyes; he felt

   The soft hand’s light caressing,

And heard the tremble of her voice,

   As if a fault confessing.


“I’m sorry that I spelt the word:

   I hate to go above you,

Because,”—the brown eyes lower fell,—

   “Because, you see, I love you!”


Still memory to a gray-haired man

   That sweet child-face is showing.

Dear girl! the grasses on her grave

   Have forty years been growing!


He lives to learn, in life’s hard school,

   How few who pass above him

Lament their triumph and his loss,

   Like her,—because they love him.


  • Activities
  • Arts & Sciences
  • Living

Poet Bio

John Greenleaf Whittier
The 1866 publication of his long poem Snow-Bound brought John Greenleaf Whittier popular acclaim and financial security. But literary success was of secondary importance to him: his priorities were dictated by his Quaker faith and his courageous battle against slavery. Whittier was born and raised on a farm near Haverhill, Massachusetts, and felt a strong kinship throughout his life with the hard-working, rural poor. See More By This Poet

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