An Old Man’s Thought of School

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
             It self 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 souls.")
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.
 
                                                                                                      Walt Whitman