Fugitive Verses
Popular Reprinted Poetry from Nineteenth Century Newspapers

"The Children" by The Village Schoolmaster (Charles M. Dickinson)

Source of witness transcribed: The Maysville Weekly Bulletin (Maysville, Kentucky)

Date of witness transcribed: 22 September 1864

Notes about this poem: "The Children" was printed in at least 265 newspapers during the nineteenth century. It can be found using ID 1057230 in this table of most widely-reprinted poems.

It circulated briefly under its author's name, Charles M. Dickinson, or his "Village Schoolmaster" pen name. Soon, however, newspapers began ascribing the poem to the more famous name Charles Dickens, after which the majority of reprints were attributed to the British novelist rather than the New York poet, lawyer, editor, and consul who actually wrote it.

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The Children

  • When the lessons and tasks are all ended,
  • And the school for the day is dismissed,
  • The little ones gather around me
  • To bid me good night and be kissed;
  • O! the little white arms that encircle
  • My neck, in their tender embrace,
  • O! the smiles that are halos of heaven,
  • Shedding sunshine of love on my face.

  • And when they are gone, I sit dreaming
  • Of my childhood, too lovely to last!
  • Of love that my heart will remember
  • While it wakes to the pulse of the past
  • Ere the world and its wickedness made me
  • A partner of sorrow and sin;
  • When the glory of God was about me,
  • And the glory of gladness within.

  • O! my heart grows as weak as a woman’s,
  • And the fount of my feelings will flow,
  • When I think of the paths deep and stony,
  • Where the feet of the dear ones must go;
  • Of the mountains of sin hanging o’er them—
  • Of the tempests of Fate blowing wild,
  • O! there’s nothing on earth half so holy,
  • As the innocent heart of a child!

  • They are idols of hearts and of households
  • They are angels of God in disguise;
  • His sunlight still sleeps in their tresses;
  • His glory still gleams in their eyes;
  • O! those truants from home and from heaven,
  • They have made me more manly and mild;
  • And I know, now, how Jesus could liken
  • The kingdom of God to a child.

  • I ask not a life for the dear one
  • All radiant, as others have done,
  • But that life may have just enough shadow
  • To temper the glare of the sun;
  • I would pray God to guard them from evil,
  • But my prayers would bound back to myself.
  • Ah! a seraph may pray for a sinner,
  • But a sinner must pray for himself.

  • The twig is so easily bended
  • I have banished the rule and the rod;
  • I have taught them the goodness of knowledge
  • They have taught e the goodness of God;
  • My heart is a dungeon of darkness
  • Where I shut the for breaking a rule,
  • My frown is sufficient correction,
  • My love is the law of the school.

  • I shall leave the old house in the autumn,
  • To traverse its threshhold no more;
  • Ah! how shall I sigh for the dear ones
  • That meet me each morn at the door!
  • I shall miss the “good-nights,” and the kisses,
  • And the gush of their innocent glee,
  • The group on the green, and the flowers
  • That are brought every morning for me.

  • I shall miss them at morn and at eve—
  • Their song in the school and the street;
  • I shall miss the low hum of their voices,
  • And the tramp of their delicate feet.
  • When the lessons of life are all ended,
  • And death says, “The school is dismissed!”
  • May the little ones gather around me,
  • To bid me good-night and be kissed.