Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The House with Nobody in It

This poem follows up nicely to my post yesterday, "Capturing the Past Before it's Gone."  Thanks to Jane for bringing it to my attention.  This is a really lovely poem and exactly how I feel about empty, old houses.

The House with Nobody in It

 by Joyce Kilmer

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.
Joyce Kilmer

Since this poem was written in 1913 I presume that it is in the public domain and that is why I am reproducing it in full here.


  1. What a perfect poem! In the past three weeks while traveling through GA, TN, KY, IL, and IN I have seen many of these and photographed quite a few. I captured a photo (using Google Earth and screen capture) of an old barn that may have been the barn of my ancestor, but when I went there in person to see it, it was gone and only one of the smaller sheds was still there. I'm so glad I have the Google earth photo! In 1998 and 1999 I took pictures of tombstones that are unreadable now and some were actually gone this time visiting. I am thankful that I took the pictures when I did.

  2. I love the poem! The house my dad grew up in is over 100 years old. Everytime I go by I have to take pictures. Many changes have been made over the years since the family sold the house and I know someday it will be gone. The house is now empty and it is so sad to see it. My grandmother always told her children when I am gone don't let my house just set empty.