Whenever I walk to Suffern along the Erie track
I go by a poor old farmhouse with its shingles broken and black.
I suppose I've passed it a hundred times, but I always stop for a minute
And look at the house, the tragic house, the house with nobody in it.
I never have seen a haunted house, but I hear there are such things;
That they hold the talk of spirits, their mirth and sorrowings.
I know this house isn't haunted, and I wish it were, I do;
For it wouldn't be so lonely if it had a ghost or two.
This house on the road to Suffern needs a dozen panes of glass,
And somebody ought to weed the walk and take a scythe to the grass.
It needs new paint and shingles, and the vines should be trimmed and tied;
But what it needs the most of all is some people living inside.
If I had a lot of money and all my debts were paid
I'd put a gang of men to work with brush and saw and spade.
I'd buy that place and fix it up the way it used to be
And I'd find some people who wanted a home and give it to them free.
Now, a new house standing empty, with staring window and door,
Looks idle, perhaps, and foolish, like a hat on its block in the store.
But there's nothing mournful about it; it cannot be sad and lone
For the lack of something within it that it has never known.
But a house that has done what a house should do,
a house that has sheltered life,
That has put its loving wooden arms around a man and his wife,
A house that has echoed a baby's laugh and held up his stumbling feet,
Is the saddest sight, when it's left alone, that ever your eyes could meet.
So whenever I go to Suffern along the Erie track
I never go by the empty house without stopping and looking back,
Yet it hurts me to look at the crumbling roof and the shutters fallen apart,
For I can't help thinking the poor old house is a house with a broken heart.
This poem is in the public domain.
Alfred Joyce Kilmer (1886 – 1918) is best known for his poem, "Trees," but he actually produced quite a large volume of work. Had his life not ended so tragically early, many believe he would have developed into one of America's great poets. Joyce married young and fathered five children even as he was establishing himself as a teacher, writer, and lecturer. While coping with the illness of one of their children, Joyce and his wife converted from the Episcopal faith to Catholocism and he ultimately became the leading Catholic poet of his time. When World War I broke out, Joyce enlisted and had contracted to write a book about his war experiences. Unfortunately, he was killed on a French battlefield before he ever even began the book; he was only 31 when he died. Interesting side note: Joyce's father worked for Johnson & Johnson and is credited with inventing that company's famous baby powder.
Beautiful poem. It is interesting that the penultimate stanza has an extra line - probably the critique groups I'm in would suggest combining and shortening the first two lines. But it works well this way, drawing attention to the line, "A house that's done what a house should do." Very effective poem. I have the same feeling about barns that are falling down.
Posted 12/02/2014 09:17 AM
a lot of houses like this around here - so sad
Posted 12/02/2014 08:47 AM
If I had lots of money, I'd be just like Joyce Kilmer. What a heartbreakingly beautiful poem.
Posted 12/02/2014 07:52 AM
Ahh, Kilmer! The question of houses and souls aside, the Ogden Nash-esque rhyme
takes its place in the pantheon once more.
Posted 12/02/2014 06:11 AM
I loved this one...
Posted 12/02/2014 05:54 AM
I loved this poem. I always feel that houses have souls. Something invariably left by a past inhabitant.
Posted 11/30/2014 01:41 AM