Barefoot in the Summer

Chestnuts, Burrs, and Leaves

In honor of the official beginning of summer (though with this heat it has been here for a while now), I want to start off my summer poetry series with two poems about being barefoot. As a child of the South, we rarely ever played outside without being barefoot. Shoes were worn when we were going somewhere or when company was coming. I do remember one time when I truly wished I had not been barefoot. My grandparents had a chestnut tree. I don’t know how many of you are familiar with chestnut trees, but chestnuts grow inside burrs (see the picture on the right), which look like little porcupines. A group of us kids were playing around the chestnut tree, climbing it and fooling around. Stupidly we were barefoot, but being barefoot made climbing a tree easier. When we were down on the ground, I was backing up (I think my sister was threatening me). I stepped on one of these burrs. Hundreds of the little thorns went into the bottom of my foot. It took my grandfather and father all day and much of the night to get most of them out. A few that got really embedded in my foot didn’t come out for months and sometimes even years. It was not one of my finer moments.

Chestnut Tree

So in honor of those barefoot days of summer, here are some poems that I hope you will enjoy.

The Barefoot Boy by John Greenleaf Whittier

Blessings on thee, little man,
Barefoot boy, with cheek of tan!
With thy turned-up pantaloons,
And thy merry whistled tunes;
With thy red lip, redder still
Kissed by strawberries on the hill;
With the sunshine on thy face,
Through thy torn brim’s jaunty grace;
From my heart I give thee joy,—
I was once a barefoot boy!

Barefoot Days by Rachel Field

In the morning, very early,
That’s the time I love to go
Barefoot where the fern grows curly
And the grass is cool between each toe,
On a summer morning – O!
On a summer morning!
That is when the birds go by
Up the sunny slopes of air,
And each rose has a butterfly
Or a golden bee to wear;
And I am glad in every toe –
Such a summer morning – O!
Such a summer morning!
For more information about the poets who wrote these poems, click “Read More” below.

John Greenleaf Whittier
The first poem “The Barefoot Boy” is by John Greenleaf Whittier (born Dec. 17, 1807, near Haverhill, Mass., U.S. — died Sept. 7, 1892, Hampton Falls, Mass.), a U.S. poet and reformer. A Quaker born on a farm, Whittier had limited education but was early acquainted with poetry. He became involved in journalism and published his first volume of poems in 1831. During 1833 – 42 he embraced the abolitionism of William Lloyd Garrison and became a prominent antislavery crusader. Thereafter he continued to support humanitarian causes while publishing further poetry volumes. After the Civil War he was noted for his vivid portrayals of rural New England life. His best-known poem is the nostalgic pastoral “Snow-Bound” (1866); others include “Maud Muller” (1854) and “Barbara Frietchie” (1863).
The second poem, “Barefoot Days” is by Rachel Lyman Field (September 19, 1894 – March 15, 1942), an American novelist, poet, and author of children’s fiction. She is best known for her Newbery Medal–winning novel for young adults, Hitty, Her First Hundred Years, published in 1929. Field was born in New York City, and, as a child, contributed to the St. Nicholas Magazine. She was educated at Radcliffe College. Field was also a successful author of adult fiction, writing the bestsellers Time Out of Mind (1935), All This and Heaven Too (1938), and And Now Tomorrow (1942). She is also famous for her poem-turned-song “Something Told the Wild Geese”. Field also wrote the English lyrics for the version of Franz Schubert’s Ave Maria used in the Disney film Fantasia (film). Field married Arthur S. Pederson in 1935, with whom she collaborated in 1937 on To See Ourselves. She died in Los Angeles, California on March 15, 1942, of pneumonia following an operation.

About Joe

I began my life in the South and for five years lived as a closeted teacher, but am now making a new life for myself as an oral historian in New England. I think my life will work out the way it was always meant to be. That doesn't mean there won't be ups and downs; that's all part of life. It means I just have to be patient. I feel like October 7, 2015 is my new birthday. It's a beginning filled with great hope. It's a second chance to live my life…not anyone else's. My profile picture is "David and Me," 2001 painting by artist Steve Walker. It happens to be one of my favorite modern gay art pieces. View all posts by Joe

4 responses to “Barefoot in the Summer

  • fan of casey

    Joe: I love roasted chestnuts but I never realized they were so dangerous. Ouch!

  • Jay M.

    Our yard and the woods were far to rough for us to spend much time barefoot, though I loved to! I did have some stinky shoes, though.And the longest day of the year has come to a close…Peace <3Jay

  • Uncutplus

    Alas, the summer solstice has passed, but many watched it shine perfectly aligned in Stonehenge.We had sweet gum trees that had those little prickly balls too, and they got really hard and sharp in the fall. But the worst was the clover in the grass that attracted honey bees — when you stepped on one of those, you didn't forget it, ever!

  • JoeBlow

    FOC, they can be quite dangerous, but I learned my lesson, LOL.LOL, Jay.Uncutplus, those sweet gum trees were just as bad, but the burs were never as sharp around here, they always seemed to be rounded on the edges. I never stepped on a honey bee, but I did once grab a doorknob that I didn't realize was covered with yellow jackets.

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