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
And look at the house, the tragic house, the house with nobody in
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
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
Looks idle, perhaps, and foolish, like a hat on its block in the
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
Is the saddest sight, when it’s left alone, that ever your eyes
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
For I can’t help thinking the poor old house is a house with a broken
I had to learn this poem in the sixth-grade. I have never forgot it. I am 66 years old and I have recited it to my daughter and all my grandchildren. I have also recitd it to a lot of my friends. I have one friend that ask me to recite it still. It really touched my heart as a child and still does. Thank you for the poem.
I set this and other Kilmer poems to music as a set of art songs. I live in Mahwah, NJ where Kilmer lived and my son went to Joyce Kilmer Elementary School. Fascinating connections with Kilmer in Mahwah! You may find my art songs here if you want to check them out. https://www.timothymillermusic.com/works/art-songs.html
My mother read this to us as a small child. Everytime I read it now i well up with tears
I also had to memorize this people when I was in the 7th grade in Dalhart, Texas. For some reason I have always remembered the poem, not all of it but the first paragraph. Decided to see if I could find it and sure enough here it is. Sad but lovely.
I have admired this poem every since I read it in a library book. This poem reminds me of all the empty houses in my neighborhood. Many have been torn down, but I always think about someone lived in it perhaps years ago. I live in East St. Louis, Ill This is a poem that tends to search the soul of man. Joyce may your spirit rest in peace. Your gift came from God.
While rummaging through some papers, I found this poem that was hand-written to my Mother from her Mother. She went on to tell my Mother that she could relate to this house when you passed a certain empty house in their little town. My Grandmother had attached a picture of the empty house. My Mother had given her the Book “The Best Loved Poems of the American People” in December 1970.
My Grandmother loved poems and recited them to us all the time. I am so blessed that I found this poem, written in my Grandmother’s handwriting. Both she and my Mother are deceased. It such a shame that I never learned much poetry in school and my children and grandchildren haven’t a clue. I will pass this on to them, After I Learn to Recite It!
Thank you so much for such beautiful poetry.
I have been searching for this poem. I learned a portion of this poem when I was in elementary school.
I always think of it when travelling on the train.
I was twelve years old. My speech teacher asked me to represent our school in the county declamation contest. I agreed, and chose this poem. I recited it and won second place (a blue ribbon, I still have.) I like poetry, and this poem has stuck in my memory all these years. I am eighty three years old.
My brother and I take mom riding a lot through the country. She always comments on how sad the abandoned houses are and what memories they must hold. I stumbled across this poem by accident and vowed to learn it so I could recite it the next time we came upon an abandoned house. It has become my favorite poem.
I too learned this poem from my mother. As a child we often passed a broken hearted house on our way into New York City from the Kingston. Mimicking my mother’s recitation of this poem, each and every time we passed by the house, eventually lead to my memorizing it too. I beliceve it is an anaolgy of life: how our past is a part of us and influences us. The house demands notice and is also recognized for its contributions and past. 🙂
I had to learn this poem, too, in sixth grade at Parker School in Lexington, MA, 1939. Miss Margaret Keefe was my teacher and the whole class had the assignment of memorizing this poem. I really enjoyed reciting it in front of my class. I still tear up when I read it. During my youth I thought of this poem every time I saw an old farmhouse, especially in New Hampshire. I have passed this poem on to my own children.