The House by the Side of the Road

Helen McKenzie Garrison Wright 2016-2016

My grandmother was moved from her home of 70 years in 2008, to an assisted living facility near my Uncle’s near Hickory NC.  In 2009, I was back visiting in NC and my Uncle brought my grandmother back to her home for a week. My daughter and I came down to visit her. It was a wonderful time and I could tell my grandma was excited being back in her own home. My grandmother’s house has also been a welcome retreat for me and for many others, for she has always been a gracious host. This was a post from a former blog written at that time. The poem, I realized, goes well with the passage for the sermon I’m working on based on Psalm 1 (where the Psalmist encourages his readers not to sit in the seat of scoffers). To read more about my grandmother, click here.

My grandmother came back home looking for a book of poetry. Finding the book, she was upset that it didn’t have the poem for which she was looking. She told me about making a booklet of poems when she was in the seventh grade. The assignment was to copy poems they liked and to draw pictures to illustrate them. The two poems she remembered are Joyce Kilmer’s “Trees” and one titled “The House Beside the Road.” She illustrated the first with a tree, the second with a house. Grandma asked if I knew the poem, but I didn’t. Then I got an idea. Pulling out my Blackberry, I googled the poem. I came up with a poem by Scarlett Treat and read it to my Grandmother. She didn’t think that was the one because it was sad and about a house falling down. The poem she remembered talked about how to live a life. With some further checking, I learned that Ms. Treat was born while my father was in elementary school, making it highly unlikely my grandmother was reading her poetry in the seventh grade. So I did some more googling and came up with the poem, “The House by the Side of the Road” by Sam Walter Foss (1858-1911). As I read aloud, my grandmother smiled and said, “Yes, that’s it.” She was also excited but couldn’t understand how I was able to find it on my cell phone…

In many ways, this poem describes my grandmother, who has sought to be a friend to all. Here is the poem:

The House by the Side of the Road

There are hermit souls that live withdrawn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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
-Sam Walter Foss


The House by the Side of the Road — 4 Comments

  1. Wow!! Excellent write and also a very lively poem on life and human nature. Being a friend to a person in need is indeed one of the most worthwhile things in life.

  2. My Dad had this poem hung in our living room for years. Also BLESS THIS HOUSE O LORD WE PRAY. I often read them and memorized some of the words to each poem. Would like yo do them in counted cross stitch.

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