Swinging on a Birch-Tree,” by Lucy Larcom, is a poem describing a popular game, accompanied by an engaging engraving by Winslow Homer. Both Larcom and Homer contributed several pieces to Our Young Folks. [Note: This image has been digitally “de-aged,” though I made every effort to keep the artist's work unaltered.]

“Swinging On a Birch-Tree,” by Lucy Larcom (from Our Young Folks, June 1867; pp. 355-356)
Swinging on a Birch-Tree

“Swinging on a Birch-Tree,” by Winslow Homer, July 1867

Swinging on a birch-tree

To a sleepy tune,

Hummed by all the breezes

In the month of June!

Little leaves a-flutter

Sound like dancing drops

Of a brook on pebbles,—

Song that never stops.

Up and down we seesaw:

Up into the sky;

How it opens on us,

Like a wide blue eye!

p. 356

You and I are sailors

Rocking on a mast;

And the world’s our vessel:

Ho! she sails so fast!

Blue, blue sea around us;

Not a ship in sight;

They will hang out lanterns

When they pass, to-night.

We with ours will follow

Through the midnight deep;

Not a thought of danger,

Though the crew ’s asleep.

O, how still the air is!

There an oriole flew;

What a jolly whistle!

He’s a sailor, too.

Yonder is his hammock

In the elm-top high:

One more ballad, messmate!

Sing it as you fly!

Up and down we seesaw:

Down into the grass,

Scented fern, and rose-buds,

All a woven mass.

That ’s the sort of carpet

Fitted for our feet;

Tapestry nor velvet

Is so rich and neat.

Swinging on a birch-tree!

This is summer joy,

Fun for all vacation,—

Don’t you think so, boy?

Up and down to seesaw,

Merry and at ease,

Careless as a brook is,

Idle as the breeze.

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