Author:

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.

Stars

(For the Rev. James J. Daly, S. J.)

Bright stars, yellow stars, flashing through the air,
Are you errant strands of Lady Mary’s hair?
As she slits the cloudy veil and bends down through,
Do you fall across her cheeks and over heaven too?

Gay stars, little stars, you are little eyes,
Eyes of baby angels playing in the skies.
Now and then a winged child turns his merry face
Down toward the spinning world — what a funny place!

Jesus Christ came from the Cross (Christ receive my soul!)
In each perfect hand and foot there was a bloody hole.
Four great iron spikes there were, red and never dry,
Michael plucked them from the Cross and set them in the sky.

Christ’s Troop, Mary’s Guard, God’s own men,
Draw your swords and strike at Hell and strike again.
Every steel-born spark that flies where God’s battles are,
Flashes past the face of God, and is a star.

Ballade Of My Lady’s Beauty

Squire Adam had two wives, they say,
Two wives had he, for his delight,
He kissed and clypt them all the day
And clypt and kissed them all the night.
Now Eve like ocean foam was white
And Lilith roses dipped in wine,
But though they were a goodly sight
No lady is so fair as mine.

To Venus some folk tribute pay
And Queen of Beauty she is hight,
And Sainte Marie the world doth sway
In cerule napery bedight.
My wonderment these twain invite,
Their comeliness it is divine,
And yet I say in their despite,
No lady is so fair as mine.

Dame Helen caused a grievous fray,
For love of her brave men did fight,
The eyes of her made sages fey
And put their hearts in woeful plight.
To her no rhymes will I indite,
For her no garlands will I twine,
Though she be made of flowers and light
No lady is so fair as mine.

L’Envoi

Prince Eros, Lord of lovely might,
Who on Olympus dost recline,
Do I not tell the truth aright?
No lady is so fair as mine.

A Blue Valentine

(For Aline)

Monsignore,
Right Reverend Bishop Valentinus,
Sometime of Interamna, which is called Ferni,
Now of the delightful Court of Heaven,
I respectfully salute you,
I genuflect
And I kiss your episcopal ring.

It is not, Monsignore,
The fragrant memory of your holy life,
Nor that of your shining and joyous martyrdom,
Which causes me now to address you.
But since this is your august festival, Monsignore,
It seems appropriate to me to state
According to a venerable and agreeable custom,
That I love a beautiful lady.
Her eyes, Monsignore,
Are so blue that they put lovely little blue reflections
On everything that she looks at,
Such as a wall
Or the moon
Or my heart.
It is like the light coming through blue stained glass,
Yet not quite like it,
For the blueness is not transparent,
Only translucent.
Her soul’s light shines through,
But her soul cannot be seen.
It is something elusive, whimsical, tender, wanton, infantile, wise
And noble.
She wears, Monsignore, a blue garment,
Made in the manner of the Japanese.
It is very blue —
I think that her eyes have made it more blue,
Sweetly staining it
As the pressure of her body has graciously given it form.
Loving her, Monsignore,
I love all her attributes;
But I believe
That even if I did not love her
I would love the blueness of her eyes,
And her blue garment, made in the manner of the Japanese.

Monsignore,
I have never before troubled you with a request.
The saints whose ears I chiefly worry with my pleas
are the most exquisite and maternal Brigid,
Gallant Saint Stephen, who puts fire in my blood,
And your brother bishop, my patron,
The generous and jovial Saint Nicholas of Bari.
But, of your courtesy, Monsignore,
Do me this favour:
When you this morning make your way
To the Ivory Throne that bursts into bloom with roses
because of her who sits upon it,
When you come to pay your devoir to Our Lady,
I beg you, say to her:
"Madame, a poor poet, one of your singing servants yet on earth,
Has asked me to say that at this moment he is especially grateful to you
For wearing a blue gown."

Prayer Of A Soldier In France

1 My shoulders ache beneath my pack
2 (Lie easier, Cross, upon His back).

3 I march with feet that burn and smart
4 (Tread, Holy Feet, upon my heart).

5 Men shout at me who may not speak
6 (They scourged Thy back and smote Thy cheek).

7 I may not lift a hand to clear
8 My eyes of salty drops that sear.

9 (Then shall my fickle soul forget
10 Thy agony of Bloody Sweat?)

11 My rifle hand is stiff and numb
12 (From Thy pierced palm red rivers come).

13 Lord, Thou didst suffer more for me
14 Than all the hosts of land and sea.

15 So let me render back again
16 This millionth of Thy gift. Amen.

To A Young Poet Who Killed Himself

1 When you had played with life a space
2 And made it drink and lust and sing,
3 You flung it back into God’s face
4 And thought you did a noble thing.
5 "Lo, I have lived and loved," you said,
6 "And sung to fools too dull to hear me.
7 Now for a cool and grassy bed
8 With violets in blossom near me."

9 Well, rest is good for weary feet,
10 Although they ran for no great prize;
11 And violets are very sweet,
12 Although their roots are in your eyes.
13 But hark to what the earthworms say
14 Who share with you your muddy haven:
15 "The fight was on — you ran away.
16 You are a coward and a craven."

17 "The rug is ruined where you bled;
18 It was a dirty way to die!
19 To put a bullet through your head
20 And make a silly woman cry!
21 You could not vex the merry stars
22 Nor make them heed you, dead or living.
23 Not all your puny anger mars
24 God’s irresistible forgiving.

25 "Yes, God forgives and men forget,
26 And you’re forgiven and forgotten.
27 You may be gaily sinning yet
28 And quick and fresh instead of rotten.
29 And when you think of love and fame
30 And all that might have come to pass,
31 Then don’t you feel a little shame?
32 And don’t you think you were an ass?"

Old Poets

(For Robert Cortez Holliday)

If I should live in a forest
And sleep underneath a tree,
No grove of impudent saplings
Would make a home for me.

I’d go where the old oaks gather,
Serene and good and strong,
And they would not sigh and tremble
And vex me with a song.

The pleasantest sort of poet
Is the poet who’s old and wise,
With an old white beard and wrinkles
About his kind old eyes.

For these young flippertigibbets
A-rhyming their hours away
They won’t be still like honest men
And listen to what you say.

The young poet screams forever
About his sex and his soul;
But the old man listens, and smokes his pipe,
And polishes its bowl.

There should be a club for poets
Who have come to seventy year.
They should sit in a great hall drinking
Red wine and golden beer.

They would shuffle in of an evening,
Each one to his cushioned seat,
And there would be mellow talking
And silence rich and sweet.

There is no peace to be taken
With poets who are young,
For they worry about the wars to be fought
And the songs that must be sung.

But the old man knows that he’s in his chair
And that God’s on His throne in the sky.
So he sits by the fire in comfort
And he lets the world spin by.

Wealth

(For Aline)

From what old ballad, or from what rich frame
Did you descend to glorify the earth?
Was it from Chaucer’s singing book you came?
Or did Watteau’s small brushes give you birth?

Nothing so exquisite as that slight hand
Could Raphael or Leonardo trace.
Nor could the poets know in Fairyland
The changing wonder of your lyric face.

I would possess a host of lovely things,
But I am poor and such joys may not be.
So God who lifts the poor and humbles kings
Sent loveliness itself to dwell with me.

As Winds That Blow Against A Star

(For Aline)

Now by what whim of wanton chance
Do radiant eyes know sombre days?
And feet that shod in light should dance
Walk weary and laborious ways?

But rays from Heaven, white and whole,
May penetrate the gloom of earth;
And tears but nourish, in your soul,
The glory of celestial mirth.

The darts of toil and sorrow, sent
Against your peaceful beauty, are
As foolish and as impotent
As winds that blow against a star.

Pennies

A few long-hoarded pennies in his hand
Behold him stand;
A kilted Hedonist, perplexed and sad.
The joy that once he had,
The first delight of ownership is fled.
He bows his little head.
Ah, cruel Time, to kill
That splendid thrill!

Then in his tear-dimmed eyes
New lights arise.
He drops his treasured pennies on the ground,
They roll and bound
And scattered, rest.
Now with what zest
He runs to find his errant wealth again!

So unto men
Doth God, depriving that He may bestow.
Fame, health and money go,
But that they may, new found, be newly sweet.
Yea, at His feet
Sit, waiting us, to their concealment bid,
All they, our lovers, whom His Love hath hid.

Lo, comfort blooms on pain, and peace on strife,
And gain on loss.
What is the key to Everlasting Life?
A blood-stained Cross.

Citizen Of The World

No longer of Him be it said
"He hath no place to lay His head."

In every land a constant lamp
Flames by His small and mighty camp.

There is no strange and distant place
That is not gladdened by His face.

And every nation kneels to hail
The Splendour shining through Its veil.

Cloistered beside the shouting street,
Silent, He calls me to His feet.

Imprisoned for His love of me
He makes my spirit greatly free.

And through my lips that uttered sin
The King of Glory enters in.