My friend of many years, William Renzulli, from Paducah, KY, is visiting for a day or two. We’ve known each other for a long time. In the midst of our conversation last night I mentioned that I should like to memorize some of my favorite poetry. It would be a good exercise for my mind—and it is something I use to do. If Cato could learn Greek when he was eighty, surely I can memorize a few poems at the age of 72! Will I follow through with this resolve? Who knows?
When my granddaughter, Eleni, visited earlier this year she told me how much she liked to visit our house because “Grandad’s house has imagination.” Her words came back to me this morning as I thought about a poem I once had memorized. (When you don’t use it, you lose it!) Perhaps re-memorization of Joyce Kilmer’s “The House With Nobody in It” can be good starting point for my new “self-imposed” discipline.
The House With Nobody In It
|Granddaughter Eleni exercising|
her imagination...or whatever.
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.