John Greenleaf Whittier

(17 December 1807 – 7 September 1892 / Haverhill, Massachusetts)

In School-Days - Poem 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 frescoes 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 it 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.


Comments about In School-Days by John Greenleaf Whittier

  • Sylva-onyema Uba (2/19/2017 1:40:00 AM)


    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.

    Nicely written and well communicated.

    Sylva-Onyema Uba
    (Report) Reply

    1 person liked.
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  • (2/11/2016 5:52:00 PM)


    ............wonderfully penned...perfect rhythm...perfect flow ★ (Report) Reply

  • Charles Baldwin (10/27/2015 1:00:00 AM)


    For those who are asking about the wording of the poem (sunning/running vs. sleeping/creeping) , I consulted my copy of The Complete Poetical Works of Whittier, Cambridge Edition,9th printing, and it has the sleeping/creeping version. It's likely that the other version was published in an earlier work. In the Publishers' Note of my edition, it states, For this edition the poet furnished introductions and head-notes, and in many cases revised the text. (Report) Reply

  • Richard Blay (5/19/2015 4:53:00 PM)


    The necessary corrections should be made if that is the truth. To think of it, when I'm dead and gone, will my poems remain ever same? nonetheless, this is a better poem, the narrative and the imagery; they really speak! (Report) Reply

  • Kim Barney (5/19/2015 3:29:00 PM)


    Whoa! What a beautiful poem! As a former teacher, it really hit home to me. This poem is going on my favorite list. However, some people have commented that the wording is wrong. If that's true, Poem Hunter should be ashamed for not correcting it sooner. One comment saying it's wrong is from almost eight years ago! (Report) Reply

  • Margaret O Driscoll (5/19/2015 5:31:00 AM)


    Glad I got to read this wonderful poem, glad I joined Poem Hunter! (Report) Reply

  • (12/5/2009 3:12:00 PM)


    I also memorized it in 6th or 7th grade and it was the 'winter setting sun' that b rought it to mind and triggered my search of it. The words were definitely beggar sunning and blackberry vines running when I recited it. (Report) Reply

  • (4/28/2009 1:50:00 PM)


    The wording is wrong in the first verse, it should be 'sunning' not sleeping, also it should be 'running' not 'creeping.' I also learned this poem in 6th grade. (Report) Reply

  • (7/16/2007 12:45:00 AM)


    My mother, now 80 years of age, memorized this poem for a school project. She kept the book of poems that it was in, and when I was in 6th grade, about 9 or 10, I too memorized this from the same book. However, I remember the title being 'School Daze' and the first lst stanza totally different..a ragged beggar sunning, and blackberry vines running. I wonder if I am wrong, was the book wrong or what. I have kept this sweet little poem in my heart tucked away for years, but occasionally bring it forward to verse. I can picture her and her sweetheart perfectly. This is what poetry is to me. A sweet story. (Report) Reply

  • (9/3/2005 12:51:00 AM)


    This is one of my favorite poems. I can't conceive of how he could have done it better. It's absolutely stunning. A wonderful write. (Report) Reply

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Read poems about / on: school, sorry, loss, memory, hate, pride, girl, winter, snow, house, child, sun, light, children, sleep



Poem Submitted: Friday, January 3, 2003



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