A Remembered House

SOMETIMES a house will die as men will die;
And then the pulses of its being fail,
And cold upon the hearth its ashes lie.
Its windows slumber, veiled with blinds that seem
Like eyelids drooping over lifeless eyes
Wherein lies orbed no dear recurrent gleam.
These things befell a house I loved of old,
But I was far away when they befell.
I did not see it darken and grow cold.
Between me and my memory of that place
I must be glad that there will never hang
The pitiful image of a lifeless face.
It was an old house, sober and sedate,
Aloof yet whimsical, austere yet warm;
It had a paved court and a creaking gate.
Some of its walls you could not see for books,
Calf-bound, a tawny bloom upon their leaves;
Its unpolled elms were clamorous with rooks.
There were three dim urns in the dining room,
Vaguely adorned with russet streaks and black
And dug long since from some Etruscan tomb.
Above them hung a parson’s painted head,
With grave gray wig and seemly bands of lawn;
He had known Dr. Johnson, it was said.
His wife hung opposite, a resolute dame
More like Queen Charlotte than he might have wished,
With cap too wide to go inside her frame.
He must have been an old philosopher
And a collector in a modest way;
His were the urns, and his the amethysts were;
The amethysts that beneath a glassy dome
Lay shrined, uncut, unpolished, yet beautiful
Like frozen splinters of pale purple foam.
Climbing the shallow stairs you could rescan
The Hogarths, see the bad apprentice haled
Before the good one grown an Alderman.
Now all these things are scattered and forlorn,
And in the echoing rooms that were their own
None who remembers them is left to mourn.
And there no more the long-drawn dusk of Spring
Deepening outside shall give new tongues of light
To the brown logs fresh-stirred and flickering.
Yet, since I did not see their gold turn gray,
For me that house still stands, unchanged and dear,
But in some nameless country far away.