A Naturist Poem by James Whitcomb Riley
Posted on December 29, 2018
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