A Naturist Poem by James Whitcomb Riley

In Swimming Time

Clouds above, as white as wool,

Drifting over skies as blue

As the eyes of beautiful

Children when they smile at you;

Groves of maple, elm, and beech,

With the sunshine sifted through

Branches, mingling each with each

Dim with shade and bright with


Stripling trees, and poplars hoar,

Hickory and sycamore,

And the drowsy dogwood bowed

Where the ripples laugh aloud,

And the crooning creek is stirred

To a gaiety that now

Mates the warble of the bird

Teetering on the hazel bough;

Grasses long and fine and fair

As your schoolboy sweetheart’s hair,

Backward roached and twirled and


By the fingers of the wind.

Vines and mosses, interlinked

Down dark aisles and deep ravines,

Where the stream runs, willow-


Round a bend where some one leans

Faint and vague and indistinct

As the like reflected thing

In the current shimmering,

Childish voices farther on,

Where the truant stream has gone,

Vex the echoes of the wood

Till no word is understood,

Save that one is well aware

Happiness is hiding there.

There, in leafy coverts, nude

Little bodies poise and leap

Spattering the solitude

And the silence everywhere—

Mimic monsters of the deep!

Wallowing in sandy shoals—

Plunging headlong out of sight;

And with spurtings of delight,

Clutching hands, and slippery soles.

Climbing up the treacherous steep

Over which the spring-board spurns

Each again as he returns.

Ah! The glorious carnival!

Every care beyond recall,

Every task forgotten quite—

And again, in dreams at night,

Dropping, drifting through it all!


James Whitcomb Riley

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