The Gladness of Nature
by John Greenleaf Whittier
Is this a time to be cloudy and sad,
When our Mother Nature laughs around,
When even the deep blue heavens look glad,
And gladness breathes from the blossoming ground?
There are notes of joy from the hangbird and wren,
And the gossip of swallows through all the sky;
The ground squirrel gayly chirps by his den,
And the wilding bee hums merrily by.
The clouds are at play in the azure space,
And their shadows at play on the bright green vale,
And here they stretch to the frolic chase,
And there they roll on the easy gale.
There's a dance of leaves in that aspen bower;
There's a titter of winds in that beechen tree;
There's a smile on the fruit, and a smile on the flower,
And a laugh from the brook that runs to the sea.
And look at the broad-faced sun, how he smiles
On the dewy earth that smiles in his ray,
On the leaping waters and gay young isles,
Ay, look, and he'll smile thy gloom away.
Poetry Study - Notes and Questions
- What season is described here?
- What are the signs
that Nature is glad? How do all these things affect the poet? How do
you sometimes feel on a cold, rainy day?
- What signs of gladness are
mentioned in the first two stanzas?
- Which of these have you seen
- Have you ever seen clouds that seemed to chase one
- What is meant by "a laugh from the brook"?
- What does
the poet say the sun will do for us?
- Do you think spring is "a time
to be cloudy and sad"? Why?
- Why do city boys and girls like to
visit the country?
- Commit to memory the stanza that
you like best.
- Pronounce: wilding; azure; isles; ay
Phrases for Study
gladness breathes, frolic chase, blossoming ground, aspen bower,
gossip of swallows, titter of winds, azure space, broad-faced sun.
About the Author
John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-1892) was born near the town of
Haverhill, Massachusetts, not far from Hawthorne's birthplace. He had
very little opportunity for education beyond what the district school
afforded, for his parents were too poor to send him away to school.
His two years' attendance at Haverhill Academy was paid for by his own
work at making ladies' slippers for twenty-five cents a pair. He began
writing verses almost as soon as he learned to write at all, but his
father discouraged this ambition as frivolous, saying it would never
give him bread. His family were Quakers, sturdy of stature as of
character. He is called "The Quaker Poet."
Whittier led the life of a New England farm boy, used to hard work
and few pleasures. His library consisted of practically one book, the
family Bible. Later, a copy of Burns's poems was loaned to him by
the district schoolmaster. Like Burns he had great sympathy with the
humble and the poor. In his poems. Whittier described the scenes and
told the legends of his own locality. Home Ballads and Songs of Labor,
in which "The Huskers" and "The Corn-Song" appear, are among his most
widely read books. They picture country life and the scenes of the
simple occupations common in his part of the country. Whittier was
intensely patriotic and religious by nature. His happiness lay in his
association with his friends, with children, animals, and the outdoor
In these respects he was like Bryant, a man who found pleasure in
simple things. Like Bryant, also, he was interested in public affairs.
Any injustice to the poor he opposed passionately. He wrote many poems
in protest against slavery. He wrote, also, ballads of early New
England history, and some of our most beautiful religious poetry comes
from his pen. His life was less filled with business cares than that
of Bryant, but it was equally full of interests that made him happy
and source of help and joy to others.