“Happy Days”… Children at Play

December 8, 2014

My first introduction to Stilwell’s work was her pictorial essay in the December 1903 issue of St. Nicholas: An Illustrated Magazine for Young Folks called “Happy Days.” Perhaps her best-known early composition, “Happy Days” was comprised of portraits of children occupying their time in ordinary settings: scenes of a backyard hammock, a meadow of flowers, and walking along a rain-soaked street are juxtaposed to a line drawing of children playing a circular singing game. The captions read like a prayer:

I love the world when the sun shines

   Down on the quiet ground,

When I hear the grass-bugs chirp at my feet

   And the end of a distant sound.

I love the world when the wind blows.

   When it tosses my hair about.

When it blows my hat off,

   And my ribbons crack,

And I laugh and run and shout.

   I love the world when the rain falls.

When the streets are all mud and ooze.

   When I need my umbrella and mackintosh

And my shiny, new overshoes.

   I love all the days

Of the beautiful world,

   Every day – every hour and minute

I could go on living forever – and never

   Grow weary of any-thing in it.

“A Garden of Childhood” and “Happy Days” both contain memorable illustrations of a little girl reclining in a hammock with a book or a doll – suggesting that the girl is at peace embraced at the center of her world.

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