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An Old Man's Thought of School by Walt Whitman


"An Old Man's Thought of School" is a poem written by Walt Whitman. This poem is about exactly what the title states. As an old man, Whitman gives his thoughts about what school is. He states that it is like preparing an army to go to war. He then goes on to state that whatever type of school it is (public or private) it is still a place where students must learn and be prepared by the teachers. He also states in the last stanza that the future of America depends on these young minds.

This poem is made up of six stanzas. The first two are couplets while the fourth is made up of three lines. The other three stanzas have four lines each.


An Old Man's Thought of School

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 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.

Next: As If a Phantom Caress'd Me
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Literary Movement
19th Century

Old age, School, War

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