December 17: John Greenleaf Whittier
On this day in 1807, American poet John Greenleaf Whittier was born. Whittier is remembered particularly for his abolitionist writings.
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William Lloyd Garrison from the ClipArt ETC website. Garrison was leading abolitionist of the era and the publisher of the Newburyport Free Press. Whittier’s first published poem, “The Exile’s Departure,” was sent to Garrison by Whittier’s sister when he was still a teenager. Garrison published it in his newspaper.
Whittier attended Haverhill Academy from 1827 to 1828 and completed high school in only two terms. To raise money for tuition, Whittier made shoes during his first term and taught in a one-room school during his second term. He had also participated in the 1827 dedication of the school by composing an ode, which was sung at the ceremony.
This poem by Whittier is about a wealthy judge and a beautiful farm maid who briefly meet and spend the rest of their lives thinking about each other and wondering what might have been. Listen on the Lit2Go website. Duration: 5:00. The poem contains the well-known couplet:
For of all sad words of tongue or pen,
The saddest are these: “It might have been!”