Sam Walter Foss

(19 June 1858 - 26 February 1911 / the United States)

Biography of Sam Walter Foss

Sam Walter Foss poet

Sam Walter Foss was a librarian and poet whose works included The House by the Side of the Road and The Coming American.

He was born in rural Candia, New Hampshire. Foss lost his mother at age four, worked on his father's farm and went to school in the winter. He graduated from Brown University in 1882, and would be considered illustrious enough to warrant having his name inscribed on the mace. Beginning in 1898, he served as librarian at the Somerville Public Library in Massachusetts. He married a minister's daughter, with whom he had a daughter and son. Foss used to write a poem a day for the newspapers, and his five volumes of collected poetry are of the frank and homely “common man” variety.

Longtime baseball announcer Ernie Harwell alluded to one of Foss's poems whenever he described a batter taking a called third strike: "He stood there like the house by the side of the road and watched it go by."

"Bring me men to match my mountains, Bring me men to match my plains, Men with empires in their purpose, And new eras in their brains."

-- Sam Walter Foss, from "The Coming American", July 4, 1894

These words were inscribed on a granite wall at the United States Air Force Academy to inspire cadets and officers, but they were removed in 2003.

He is buried in the North Burial Ground in Providence, Rhode Island.

Sam Walter Foss's Works:

* Back Country Poems (1892)
* Whiffs from Wild Meadows (1895)
* Dreams in Homespun (1897)
* Songs of War and Peace (1899)
* The Song of the Library Staff (1906)
* Songs of the Average Man (1907)

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The Coming War

'There will be a war in Europe,
Thrones will be rent and overturned,'
('Go and fetch a pail of water,' said his wife).
'Nations shall go down in slaughter,
Ancient capitals be burned,'
('Hurry up and split the kindlings,' said his wife).
'Cities wrapped in conflagration!
Nation decimating nation!
Chaos crashing through creation!'

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