Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Home


It takes a lot of living in a house to make it a home,
A lot of sun and shade, and you sometimes have to roam
Before you really appreciate the things you left behind,
And hunger for them somehow, with them always on your mind.
It doesn't make any difference how rich you get to be,
How much your chairs and tables cost, how great your luxury;
It isn't a home to you, even if it is the palace of a king,
Until somehow your soul is wrapped around everything.

Home is not a place that gold can buy or get up in a minute;
Before it is a home there has to be a lot of living in it;
Within the walls there has to be some babies born, and then
You have to bring them up to be good women, to be good men;
And gradually as time goes on, you find that you wouldn't part
With anything they have ever used — they've grown into your heart:
The old high chairs, the playthings, too, the little shoes they wore
You hoard; and if you could, you would keep the thumb-marks on the door.

You have to weep to make it a home, you have to sit and sigh
And watch beside a loved one's bed, and know that Death is nigh;
And in the stillness of the night to see Death's angel come,
And close the eyes of her that smiled, and leaves her sweet voice dumb.
For these are scenes that grip the heart, and when your tears are dried,
You find that home is dearer than it was, and sanctified;
And tugging at you always are the pleasant memories
of her that was and is no more — you can't escape from these.

You have to sing and dance for years, you have to romp and play,
And learn to love the things you have by using them each day;
Even the roses around the porch must bloom year after year
Before they become a part of you, suggesting someone dear
Who used to love them long ago, and trained them just to run
The way they do, so that they would get the early morning sun;
You have to love each brick and stone from cellar up to the dome:
It takes a lot of living in a house to make and call it home.


— Edgar Guest


This re-imagining of Edgar Guest's most famous poem is less a translation than an imitation (to borrow from Robert Lowell). The incorporated changes are to reflect a more urban sensibility than the rural intonations of 1916 America. To read the poem as Guest intended and to learn more of his stature as the People's Poet please visit the article in Slate that lead to the above imitation.