Home > 2. Unknown Poems, 22. Local Poets, Local Heroes > The House by the Side of the Road

The House by the Side of the Road

File:Appletons' Steuben House.jpg

A friend handed RT the following poem this morning. RT had never heard of the author, Sam Walter Foss, who will probably remain confined in the limbo of “minor” poets, the quality of this work nothwithstanding. But, apart from the pleasure and instruction that it offers, “House” reminds the practicing poet of several truths:

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1) Simplicity is the most important characteristic of accessibility;

2) Traditional rhyme and structure can sometimes help bring out a poem’s message;

3) Most poems are, at some level, didactic.

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Besides this, RT notes the use of 8-line stanzas (rather long), run-on lines, and the missing refrain at the end of stanza 4. And just what is the cynic’s ban? Could our author be Classically read? Could the simplicity conceal learning and thought? What is clear is that this poem offers a deep satisfaction, a harmony with time and place.   RT

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The House by the Side of the Road

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THERE are hermit souls that live withdrawn

In the place of their self-content;

There are souls like stars, that dwell apart,

In a fellowless firmament;

There are pioneer souls that blaze the paths

Where highways never ran-

But let me live by the side of the road

And be a friend to man.

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Let me live in a house by the side of the road

Where the race of men go by-

The men who are good and the men who are bad,

As good and as bad as I.

I would not sit in the scorner’s seat

Nor hurl the cynic’s ban-

Let me live in a house by the side of the road

And be a friend to man.

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I see from my house by the side of the road

By the side of the highway of life,

The men who press with the ardor of hope,

The men who are faint with the strife,

But I turn not away from their smiles and tears,

Both parts of an infinite plan-

Let me live in a house by the side of the road

And be a friend to man.

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I know there are brook-gladdened meadows ahead,

And mountains of wearisome height;

That the road passes on through the long afternoon

And stretches away to the night.

And still I rejoice when the travelers rejoice

And weep with the strangers that moan,

Nor live in my house by the side of the road

Like a man who dwells alone.

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Let me live in my house by the side of the road,

Where the race of men go by-

They are good, they are bad, they are weak, they are strong,

Wise, foolish – so am I.

Then why should I sit in the scorner’s seat,

Or hurl the cynic’s ban?

Let me live in my house by the side of the road

And be a friend to man.

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Sam Walter Foss

Drawing: Appletons’ Steuben House; source: Appletons’ Cyclopædia of American Biography, 1900; WikiCmns; Public Domain.

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  1. June 15, 2013 at 8:49 pm

    So nice to discover a poet I didn’t know! I find especially the first stanza lovely.

  2. June 21, 2013 at 1:49 pm

    Beautiful poem. Thanks for posting.

    • June 23, 2013 at 5:35 pm

      Susanna: my pleasure! thx for the comment! RT

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