Not long ago, a friend asked if I had heard of the poem, "The Barefoot Boy." For once, I was able to say I surely had heard of it and even managed to quote a line. The friend then asked if I might be able to locate a copy, to which I replied I probably could. Of course, I put off that task for an embarrassing amount of time.
Finally I went into my book room, sat down, and looked around at the three walls of books. My eye fell on the most logical place to look for that poem by John Greenleaf Whittier — the set of JUNIOR CLASSICS. A LIBRARY FOR BOYS AND GIRLS, a collection of books which had belonged to Mother and which had become my close friends when I was very young.
The volume of poems certainly caused me to pause as I browsed through its pages. Many favorite poems caught my attention, but I finally turned to "The Barefoot Boy." Because poetry was written to be read aloud, I began reading it that way until the voice broke because emotions took over. As most of you know, poetry, especially classical poetry, appeals to the emotions and often brings tears to the eyes as the words begin to set the scene. If the reader is naturally a sentimental person, poetry often has major effects.
While looking through that volume, I noticed it had been published in 1912, the same year our state was born. The yellowing pages and the cracking leather added more to the moment. I could recall having listened to Mother while she read so many of those poems and later to being able to read those poems on my own. Although the set is now incomplete because some of the books were lost along the way, it still contains volumes about history, myths, legends, science, and other subjects of interest to young people.
As a teacher, I had to choose carefully when I was going to read poems aloud because I didn't want to break down in front of class. I remembered all too well having joined one of my favorite college professors in shedding tears as he recited certain poems to us. He would sometimes stop after the first stanza or two and tell us to read the rest. Who could read through all those tears? Also, as a teacher, I found that some students seemed to be turned away from poetry because of its appearance on the page. By copying it as if it were written in prose without changing a word or a comma, I could entice those to read poems with pleasure, to be able to understand, and appreciate their beauty. After reading one or two in prose form, they could then return to the poetry form and continue their enjoyment.
When you want a few minutes of pleasure, just pick up a volume of poetry and begin to read. Enjoy the beauty!
Lynn Moncus is a Tucumcari resident and can be contacted through the Quay County Sun by calling 461-1952.