The House That Was Just Like Its Neighbors

OH, the houses are all alike, you know,—
All the houses alike, in a row !
You’ll see a hat-stand in the hall,
Against the painted and polished wall;
And the threaded sunbeams softly fall
On the long stairs, winding up, away
Up to the garret, lone and gray :
And you can hear, if you wait awhile,
Odd little noises to make you smile ;
And minutes will be as long as a mile;—
Just as they would in the house below,
Were you in the entry waiting to go.

Oh, the houses are all alike, you know,—
All the houses alike, in a row!
And the world swings sadly to and fro,—
Mayhap the shining, but sure the woe !
For in the sunlight the shadows grow
Over the new name on the door,
Over the face unseen before.
Yet who shall number, by any art,
The chasms that keep so wide apart
The dancing step and the weary heart ?
Oh, who shall guess that the polished wall
Is a headstone over his neighbor’s hall ?

Yet the houses are just alike, you know,—
All the houses alike, in a row !
And solemn sounds are heard at night,
And solemn forms shut out the light,
And hideous thoughts the soul affright:
Death and despair, in solemn state,
In the silent, vaulted chambers wait;
And up the stairs as your children go,
Spectres follow them, to and fro,—
Only a wall between them, oh !
And the darkest demons, grinning, see
The fairest angels that dwell with thee !

For the houses are all alike, you know,—
All the houses alike, in a row!
My chariot waited, gold and gay :
“ I’ll ride,” I said, “ to the woods to-day,—
Out to the blithesome woods away,—
Where the old trees, swaying thoughtfully,
Watch the breeze and the shadow’s glee.”
I smiled but once, with my joy elate,
For a chariot stood at my neighbor’s gate,—
A grim old chariot, dark as fate.
“ Oh, where are you taking my neighbor ? ” I cried.
And the gray old driver thus replied :—

“ Where the houses are all alike, you know,—
Narrow houses, all in a row !
Unto a populous city,” he saith:
“ The road lies steep through the Vale of Death
Oh, it makes the old steeds gasp for breath !
There’ll be a new name over the door,
In a place where he’s never been before,—
Where the neighbors never visit, they say,—
Where the streets are echoless, night and day,
And the children forget their childish play.
And if you should live next door, I doubt
If you’d ever hear what they were about
Who lived in the next house in the row,—
Though the houses are all alike, you know! ”