13. The Golf Links: Sarah N. Cleghorn

A simple little poem about social class, it ties easily into any unit on industrialization, the Progressive Era, sweatshops, international trade, or basic empathy. In talking about poetry, I like how it uses an almost nursery rhyme sing-song beat and its strong sense of irony. Laboring children and playing men….

UPDATE: Talk about taking things for granted….

I’m a New Critic, so Historical Criticism doesn’t interest me much. Still, as a Social Science teacher, too, I try and integrate the poetry with other subjects. When we aren’t looking at the Progressive Era, I use Cleghorn when talking about overseas sweatshops. But last week we looked at the poem during our year-end review. I had thought that my casual reminder about our study of the turn of the 19th century was enough, but the kids thought otherwise.

One student wrote a brilliant analysis: That you needed to toil when you were young to enjoy your later years. Considering the debates around saving Social Security while cutting social programs for children and the student loan situation, I can understand the confusion. It is also the message parents seem to give whining kids. This student was a grind in school, with no real passion but seeking college and success later. Of course, she’s wrong, but there is nothing in the poem to contradict her.

Darn kids reading the text closely and thinking for themselves!

The Golf Links
Sarah N. Gleghorn

The golf links lie so near the mill
That almost every day
The laboring children can look out
And see the men at play.


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