John Greenleaf Whittier Poems

John Greenleaf Whittier was an American poet and Quaker who advocated for the abolition of slavery. He is often regarded, or linked, with the Fireside Poets. His 1866 book, Snow-Bound, is one of his best-known works. Several of his poems were turned into hymns and speak on sentimental and religious themes.

Maud Muller

by John Greenleaf Whittier

‘Maud Muller’ by John Greenleaf Whittier is a classic narrative ballad that recounts how the poor peasant, Maud, and an urban judge fantasize about getting married and living together. However, neither of them ever takes action, which fills their lives with regret.

This poem is often regarded as Whittier's best work since it is timeless and universal. The story reflects the ideas within many popular tales such as 'Beauty and The Beast,' 'Cinderella,' and 'The Princess and the Pauper.' However, Whittier's work does not have a happy or hopeful ending.

God pity them both! and pity us all,

Who vainly the dreams of youth recall.

For of all sad words of tongue or pen,

The saddest are these: “It might have been!”

The Eternal Goodness

by John Greenleaf Whittier

‘The Eternal Goodness’ by John Greenleaf Whittier is a relatively unknown 19th-century poem that explores religious themes and the various ways that God’s love comes through. 

John Greenleaf Whittier's poems are not widely known, but this is one of the more commonly read poems he wrote in his lifetime. It explores highly relatable themes, as does much of his work.

O friends! with whom my feet have trod

The quiet aisles of prayer,

Glad witness to your zeal for God

And love of man I bear.


The Pumpkin

by John Greenleaf Whittier

‘The Pumpkin’ by John Greenleaf Whittier celebrates the pumpkin’s beauty, nostalgia, and its power to evoke cherished memories and emotions.

The poem 'The Pumpkin' is a good representation of John Greenleaf Whittier's poems. Whittier was known for his celebration of nature, rural life, and themes of gratitude and thanksgiving. "The Pumpkin" encapsulates these elements through its vivid imagery of pumpkins' abundance, their significance during Thanksgiving, and the nostalgic reflections on childhood memories. The poem reflects Whittier's style and themes, making it a fitting representation of his body of work.

Oh, greenly and fair in the lands of the sun,

The vines of the gourd and the rich melon run,

And the rock and the tree and the cottage enfold,

With broad leaves all greenness and blossoms all gold,

The Barefoot Boy

by John Greenleaf Whittier

‘The Barefoot Boy’ by John Greenleaf Whittier is a highly relatable poem that speaks on universal themes of aging and the beauty and joy of youth. The poem celebrates a young boy’s freedom and mourns the coming of age. 

This Whittier poem is a lovely discussion of youth and aging. The poet makes his position very clear as he discusses how much he misses running free as the "Barefoot Boy" does.

Blessings on thee, little man,

Barefoot boy, with cheek of tan!

With thy turned-up pantaloons,

And thy merry whistled tunes;