(1886-1918 / New Jersey)

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
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.

by Joyce Kilmer

Comments (44)

I’ve not seen this one! No idea why not - but thank you for this! I memorized ‘Trees’ as a youngster as I absolutely love trees and his poem! I still love it. However that was the extent of most of my interest in poetry. Thank you for this wonderful poem! I’ll be looking up more of his works as well! 😘
I memorized that poem when I was in 6th grade and somehow after 50 years I still remember it
Makes my heart sad every time I see an old empty house..
I was birn at Good Samaritan Hospital in Suffern. I am from the Ramapo, once called Johnstown, now Harriman State Park. This poem was always a favorite of my mothers. And subsequently mine as well. I have read this to my children when they were young, it is a bit of a family tradition now. Strange maybe, but true!
my aunt gave me a little book called Silver Pennies..This poem was in it...Always thought of it when I see old abandoned houses...I still have the book with her signature...and dated 1945!
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