An Old Man’s Thought of School

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from Leaves of Grass: Book XXIV - by Walt Whitman.

[For the Inauguration of a Public School, Camden, New Jersey, 1874]

  An old man’s thought of school,
  An old man gathering youthful memories and blooms that youth itself cannot.

  Now only do I know you,
  O fair auroral skies—O morning dew upon the grass!

  And these I see, these sparkling eyes,
  These stores of mystic meaning, these young lives,
  Building, equipping like a fleet of ships, immortal ships,
  Soon to sail out over the measureless seas,
  On the soul’s voyage.

  Only a lot of boys and girls?
  Only the tiresome spelling, writing, ciphering classes?
  Only a public school?

  Ah more, infinitely more;
  (As George Fox rais’d his warning cry, “Is it this pile of brick and
      mortar, these dead floors, windows, rails, you call the church?
  Why this is not the church at all—the church is living, ever living

  And you America,
  Cast you the real reckoning for your present?
  The lights and shadows of your future, good or evil?
  To girlhood, boyhood look, the teacher and the school.


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