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"I Am the Little Irish Boy"

Henry David Thoreau is one of America's best-loved poets and authors, known especially for his work Walden, with its meditations on nature. In this 1850 poem, Thoreau turns his attentive eye to a "little Irish boy," destined for a life of manual labor, whose circumstances of extreme poverty are reminiscent of those faced by many early Irish immigrants.

I am the little Irish boy
    That lives in the shanty
I am four years old today
    And shall soon be one and twenty
    I shall grow up
    And be a great man
    And shovel all day
    As hard as I can.

    Down in the deep cut   
    Where the men lived
    Who made the Railroad.
For supper
    I have some potato
    And sometimes some bread
    And then if it’s cold
        I go right to bed.

    I lie on some straw
    Under my father’s coat

    My mother does not cry
    And my father does not scold
    For I am a little Irish Boy
    And I’m four years old.

Source | Henry David Thoreau, "I am the Little Irish Boy," poem, in The Book of Irish American Poetry: from the Eighteenth Century to the Present, ed. Daniel Tobin (University of Notre Dame Press, 2007).
Creator | Henry David Thoreau
Item Type | Fiction/Poetry
Cite This document | Henry David Thoreau, “"I Am the Little Irish Boy",” HERB: Resources for Teachers, accessed July 21, 2019, https://herb.ashp.cuny.edu/items/show/767.

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