Thursday, June 25, 2015

And be a friend to man...

The House by the Side of the Road

“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There are hermit souls that live withdrawn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 peace 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 my 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 travellers 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 (1858–1911), “The House by the Side of the Road,” c.1896, originally published in The Independent then later in Foss’ own collection titled Dreams in Homespun, in 1897. According to The Alumnæ News of The Normal College, City of New York, September 1897, the sentiments of this poem were inspired by the Roadside Settlement in Des Moines, Iowa. The wording was inspired by Homer, as seen in the quotation preface to this beautiful poem. I’m not the best of Greek scholars, but I believe the excerpt would be:
          Axylus: in Arisba fair he dwelt
          With riches blest, near to the public way
          His dwelling: thus a general friend to man
          He lov’d them all, and all their wants reliev’d...
And as if Foss' poetry weren't enough to give me joy, get this — he was also a librarian! {swoon}

Sam Walter Foss
Sam Walter Foss (1858–1911)
photo modified from "A Poet of the Common Life:
Editorial Sketch of Sam Walter Foss,"
The Coming Age, October 1899