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The House by the Side of the Road

House by a roadside

NH POETRY

Considered among the Top 100 most popular poems in America, this quotable classic remains popular today. Following also is a photo of the house in New Hampshire that , some say, inspired the poem.

 

 

 

Classic Sam Foss Poem of Hope and Human Kindness

MORE POEMS with a local flavor 

We stumbled across this postcard of the Tilton, NH house (see below) that, legend says, was the inspiration for "The House by the Side of the Road," the best known poem by Sam Walter Foss (1858 – 1911). Outside Tilton, however, many are skeptical. Apparently Foss’ sister frequently noted that there was no specific house, but that her brother, born in nearby Candia, NH, was speaking generically. Every house, Foss implies in the poem, qualifies, as long as the occupant is "a friend to man". All the same, the Tilton house is on the National Register of Historic Places and privately owned.

Thematically the poem is like many others by Foss, who was a true humanitarian and perpetual optimist. His five books of verse are all "home-spun" and directed to the average reader. In his poems Foss praised common men and women and distrusted figures of authority, both secular and religious. "The House by the Side of the Road" was extremely popular and copies of the poem hung in the homes of many working class Americans. Foss himself was a librarian and journalist and lived in Somerville, MA, one of the most densely populated cities in America. -- JDR

House by the side of the road in Tilton, NH, reportedly the inspiration for the classic poem by Sam Walter Foss/ SeacoastNH.com


The House by the Side of the Road
by Sam Walter Foss

"He was a friend to man, and lived
In a house by the side of the road."
-- Homer

There are hermit souls that live withdrawn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 their 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,
Or 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 nor their 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.
But 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-
It's here 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.

By Sam Walter Foss

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