Joyce Kilmer

(1886-1918 / New Jersey)

The House With Nobody In It - Poem by Joyce Kilmer

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.

Comments about The House With Nobody In It by Joyce Kilmer

  • (5/12/2019 11:25:00 PM)

    I’ve not seen this one! No idea why not - but thank you for this! I memorized ‘Trees’ as a youngster as I absolutely love trees and his poem! I still love it. However that was the extent of most of my interest in poetry.
    Thank you for this wonderful poem! I’ll be looking up more of his works as well! 😘

    0 person liked.
    0 person did not like.
  • (4/14/2019 12:01:00 PM)

    I memorized that poem when I was in 6th grade and somehow after 50 years I still remember it (Report)Reply

    (8/14/2019 7:08:00 AM)

    So did I! And so DO I! It comes into my head often, and there are a few houses that bring it to mind each and every time I pass them, like Kilmer’s house on “the Erie track”. When I give myself the time to sit and read it through, it often brings tears. I actually left a 35 year career in retail to become a carpenter at 52. Was a one or-two-man operation, and my favorite work was always on older houses.

    0 person liked.
    0 person did not like.
  • (2/20/2019 7:33:00 AM)

    Makes my heart sad every time I see an old empty house.. (Report)Reply

    1 person liked.
    0 person did not like.
  • (2/14/2019 9:32:00 AM)

    I was birn at Good Samaritan Hospital in Suffern. I am from the Ramapo, once called Johnstown, now Harriman State Park. This poem was always a favorite of my mothers. And subsequently mine as well.
    I have read this to my children when they were young, it is a bit of a family tradition now. Strange maybe, but true!

    0 person liked.
    0 person did not like.
  • (2/4/2019 2:56:00 PM)

    my aunt gave me a little book called Silver Pennies..This poem was in it...Always thought of it when I see old abandoned houses...I still have the book with her signature...and dated 1945! (Report)Reply

    0 person liked.
    0 person did not like.
  • (1/3/2019 9:44:00 AM)

    One of my favorite Kilmer poems. When my mom passed away, I got her copy of Kilmer poems letters (Report)Reply

    0 person liked.
    0 person did not like.
  • (11/30/2018 9:42:00 PM)


    0 person liked.
    0 person did not like.
  • (11/29/2018 1:50:00 PM)

    well written..heartfelt and unique (Report)Reply

    0 person liked.
    0 person did not like.
  • (10/31/2018 9:28:00 AM)

    My mother, who is going on 92, used to recite this poem to me as a child. Would love to see a picture of this house (Report)Reply

    (1/4/2019 9:07:00 AM)

    I rode the Erie up to my grandfathers farm in Middletown from 1938 (when I learned this poem in school) until 1950 and looked for this house each trip. Assuming there was such a house, it was probably completely gone by then,35 or 40 years later. However, all those years I was disappointed I could never find it.

    1 person liked.
    0 person did not like.
  • (10/23/2018 8:27:00 PM)

    I suspect this poem may have been inspiration for Tom Waits' song House Where Nobody Lives (Report)Reply

    (12/6/2018 3:01:00 PM)

    Yes, I think that is highly likely. Waits has been inspired, similarly by Edna Millay. His song: No One Knows I'm Gone. Can't remember the Millay poem at the moment.

    1 person liked.
    1 person did not like.
  • (10/22/2018 12:46:00 AM)

    It is a simple but beautiful thought (Report)Reply

    1 person liked.
    1 person did not like.
  • (10/2/2018 11:56:00 AM)

    My favorite poem by Mr. Kilmer. He echoes my thoughts every time I encounter a weary, abandoned place that once was home to someone, or a factory that once provided a living for so many people, The sadness overwhelms me. (Report)Reply

    1 person liked.
    1 person did not like.
  • (8/31/2018 8:17:00 AM)

    I have seen homes like this in rural areas & it definitely sad! ! I too think about the lives lived in these houses. (Report)Reply

    1 person liked.
    2 person did not like.
  • (8/29/2018 11:56:00 PM)

    One of the first poems I read as a very young child, and have loved it all of my life. (Report)Reply

    0 person liked.
    1 person did not like.
  • (7/29/2018 2:54:00 PM)


    2 person liked.
    0 person did not like.
  • (6/20/2018 6:44:00 PM)

    It was almost 80 years ago...but seems like yesterday... that, during an assembly at my Hillside, NJ elementary school, the principal read this great and memorable poem to us. (Report)Reply

    0 person liked.
    1 person did not like.
  • (3/31/2018 11:49:00 PM)

    I had to learn a new poem every week in the 5th grade and this was one of my favorites (Report)Reply

    2 person liked.
    0 person did not like.
  • (3/22/2018 11:59:00 AM)

    When I was in grade school one of our lessons was to memorize Joyce Kilmers beloved poem, the House With Nobody In It, and I loved it so much I would repeat it over and over at social gatherings and family get togethers. I'm 88 yrs old now and still remember it's haunting words. So beautiful! (Report)Reply

    (10/16/2018 11:40:00 PM)

    My mother who was 83 and just passed recited it to us as children. Would you like to have us record you saying it? contact we would love to use it in a memorial service.

    2 person liked.
    0 person did not like.
  • (3/16/2018 10:11:00 PM)

    Oh, this poem I learned in fifth grade.I love it still today. (Report)Reply

    4 person liked.
    0 person did not like.
  • (3/16/2018 5:46:00 PM)

    Loved this as a child. It was the inspiration for the first poem I can remember writing when I was about 8:
    There's an old house,
    run down, neglected
    It's easily seen it's been rejected.
    Left there to stand alone
    nevermore to be someone's home.

    4 person liked.
    0 person did not like.
Read all 52 comments »

Read this poem in other languages

This poem has not been translated into any other language yet.

I would like to translate this poem »

word flags

What do you think this poem is about?

Read poems about / on: house, baby, money, people, lonely, sad, work, home, alone

Poem Submitted: Tuesday, December 31, 2002

Famous Poems

  1. Still I Rise
    Maya Angelou
  2. The Road Not Taken
    Robert Frost
  3. If You Forget Me
    Pablo Neruda
  4. Dreams
    Langston Hughes
  5. Annabel Lee
    Edgar Allan Poe
  6. Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening
    Robert Frost
  7. If
    Rudyard Kipling
  8. Do Not Stand At My Grave And Weep
    Mary Elizabeth Frye
  9. I Do Not Love You Except Because I Love You
    Pablo Neruda
  10. Television
    Roald Dahl
[Report Error]