The House with Nobody In It
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
To 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 sorrowing.
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 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 know.
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.
Joyce Kilmer (1886-1918) was an American writer and poet mainly remembered for a short poem titled “Trees”, which was published in the collection “Trees and Other Poems” in 1914.
Thank you to our reader Debra G. and her sister from Connecticut who sent us this lovely poem. They are restoring an old house together.
Although the house in the poem may be run down, it is still alive and loved. So many people don’t understand old buildings and never take the time to realize that a house is more than just a building. When looking at an old house, take some time and allow yourself to gaze into its soul and imagine the people that lived there throughout the years.
Even though the seasons have passed as have its many residents, the house has lived on with secrets of the past buried within its walls. Now years of memories, some happy, some sad, silently echo through its halls.
Old homes were built and designed with pride. Sadly this is not always respected.
John Ruskin (1819-1900) expresses it very well in the following:
“. . . Old buildings are not ours. They belong, partly to those who built them, and partly to the generations of mankind who are to follow us. The dead still have their right in them: That which they labored for . . . we have no right to obliterate.”
“What we ourselves have built, we are at liberty to throw down. But what other men gave their strength, and wealth, and life to accomplish, their right over it does not pass away with their death . . .”
by John Ruskin 1849, “The Seven Lamps of Architecture ” chapter 6