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About this Item

Title: An Old Man's Thought of School

Creator: Walt Whitman

Date: November 3, 1874

Whitman Archive ID: per.00133

Source: New York Daily Graphic 3 November 1874: 11. Our transcription is based on a digital image of a microfilm copy of an original issue. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the periodical poems, see our statement of editorial policy.

Contributors to digital file: Elizabeth Lorang, April Lambert, and Susan Belasco

image 1



[The following poem was recited personally by th author Saturday afternoon, October 31, at th inauguration of the fine new Cooper Publi School, Camden, New Jersey:]2

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
And these I see—these sparkling eyes,
These stores of mystic meaning—these young lives,
Building, equipping, like a fleet of ships—immortal
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 souls.")
And you, America,
Cast you the real reckoning for your present?
The lights and shadows of your future—good or evil?
This Union multiform, with all its dazzling hopes
and terrible fears?
Look deeper, nearer, earlier far—provide ahead—
counsel in time;
Not to your verdicts of election days—not to your
voters look,
To girlhood, boyhood look—the teacher and the


1. Reprinted in Two Rivulets (1876). [back]

2. The editor's note preceding the poem includes several typographical errors: "th" for "the" in two places and "publi" for "public." [back]


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