Sunday, September 27, 2009

Home by Edgar Guest

It takes a heap o' livin' in a house t' make it home,
A heap o' sun an' shadder, an' ye sometimes have t' roam
Afore ye really 'preciate the things ye lef' behind,
An' hunger fer 'em somehow, with 'em allus on yer mind.
It don't make any differunce how rich ye get t' be,
How much yer chairs an' tables cost, how great yer luxury;
I ain't home t' ye, though it be the palace of a king,
Until somehow yer soul is sort o' wrapped round everything.

Home ain't a place that gold can buy or get up in a minute;
Afore it's home there's got t' be a heap o' livin' in it;
Within the walls there's got t' be some babies born, and then
Right there ye've got t' bring 'em up t' women good, an' men;
And gradjerly, as time goes on, ye find ye wouldn't part
With anything they ever used -- they've grown into yer heart:
The old high chairs, the playthings, too, the little shoes they wore
Ye hoard; an' if ye could ye'd keep the thumb marks on the door.

Ye've got t' weep t' make it home, ye've got t' sit an' sigh
An' watch beside a loved one's bed, an' know that Death is nigh;
An' in the stillness o' the night t' see Death's angel come,
An' close the eyes o' her that smiled,
an' leave her sweet voice dumb.
Fer these are scenes that grip the heart,
an' when yer tears are dried,
Ye find the home is dearer than it was, an' sanctified;
An' tuggin' at ye always are the pleasant memories
O' her that was an' is no more -- ye can't escape from these.

Ye've got t' sing an' dance fer years, ye've got t' romp an' play,
An' learn t' love the things ye have by usin' 'em each day;
Even the roses 'round the porch must blossom year by year
Afore they 'come a part o' ye, suggestin' someone dear
Who used t' love 'em long ago, an' trained 'em jes' t' run
The way they do, so's they would get the early mornin' sun;
Ye've got t' love each brick an' stone from cellar up t' dome:
It takes a heap o' livin' in a house t' make it home.
--Edgar Guest

I hesitate to post this poem by Edgar Guest, mostly because he is one of the few authors Lemony Snicket seems to dislike in the Series of Unfortunate Events. In the Grim Grotto, the narrator says, “every noble reader in the world agrees that the poet represented on Fiona’s uniform was a writer of limited skill, who wrote awkward, tedious poetry on hopelessly sentimental topics.” A few people seem to have trouble with this judgement. While looking for the quote above, I found an An Open Letter to Lemony Snicket (and Robert Bork) in Modest Defense of Edgar Guest In one of the footnotes, he cites somebody else who says, "Yes, most of his poetry is undistinguished, but some is charming and enjoyable. What did he do to be held up (as it seems in this book) as a symbol of evil mediocrity?"

I personally don't think he deserves quite the treatment he got from Snicket (who, after the introduction quoted above, hammered his point home every chance he got through the rest of the book), but on the other hand, I don't think that just saying that your father's favorite poem was "It Couldn't Be Done" is a cogent argument proving that Guest was a great poet worthy of the world's respect and honor (that seems more like a reflection on said Grandpa's taste in poetry than on Guest's merits as a poet).

All in all, I'd put Guest's poems above the level of moralizing tripe, but I definitely agree that the words tedious, sentimental, and mediocre apply to much of what he's written. That's not to say that his poems don't have their place. We were talking the other night at the monthly meeting of the Utah Valley Nerds Group, and all agreed that the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys (and Three Investigators and Trixie Belden, and Animorphs, et cetera) books have an important place in the development of reading skills. Because they're easy to read, and have predictable plots, and most importantly, they're comfortable for kids, reading a whole bunch of them in a row increases fluency and encourages a love of reading in general. I know I certainly went through a Nancy Drew and Babysitter's club phase myself. If Guest's poetry, with its comforting sentiments and dtrong rhyme and meter can draw a certain group of people into reading poetry at all, that's a success (though as with Eragon -- which I've heard the same argument used to defend -- being successfull doesn't mean it's not also mediocre).

Well enough with the introduction, on to the news. I would like to announce that although it takes a heap of unpacking to make a house a home, I have finally finished moving us in to the Salem house! There are no more things sitting in boxes waiting to be unpacked. There are pictures on the walls. There is a place for everything, and at least for the time it took me to take these pictures, everything was in its place!!!!!

Because this post is so long already, I won't embed every photo. I'll just give you a link to the album in Picasa and let you go from there. Each photo has a description on it, so I figure if you put them all together, it's kind of like a blog post. I only have pictures of the finished basement area since the upstairs is still kind of a work in (interrupted) progress with Mom and Dad back in Ohio. Just to refresh your memory and give you a sense of perspective, here is a floorplan of the house (the album that's from has shots of the house from before we moved in, if you never saw those).

Of course, just because we've moved in, doesn't mean there's nothing left to do. It just means that I can feel good about just keeping house for a while before starting in on the repairing, repainting, and remodeling that still really needs to be done.


  1. I like how the doll bedroom and your kitchenette turned out. And your dining room table. What are your plans for the shelves between the books and the storage room?

  2. Just so Helena knows, the toys are a combination of Karen's stuff and my stuff. Still a lot, but excusable.

  3. It's still not excusable. There's far too much stuff, and it's sapping our energy, and blah blah blah just like that article people passed around last week says -- but it certainly is fun :) -- and I'm very pleased with my garage sale acquisitions this week, so the volume of stuff is likely to continue growing.

  4. wow, Karen...what a lovely home area you have. How will you ever want to leave? I still mean to get back to you by phone....I promise...soon.

    But yes, there is a lot of stuff...reminds me of my basement now that we have moved..but I can't get down there anyway so i would rather not think about how it looks.

    Be sure your mom/dad post pictures when they move into their home. It makes me think they haven't really moved by being able to picture them now and again...which might be your job!

  5. As native of Detroit, please let me argue for Guest and in particular for this Poem you have posted. One never need be sympathetic to the poet, they will garner it or not by the words they write and the image conveyed.

    But one has to take a historical perspective on Guest's most important target for his poetry. The Detroit audience of 1916, for the most part factory workers and housewives newly minted to America. In this particular piece he writes in a soft meter but he also writes for a reading, at least semi-literate in English audience. HOME is phonetically written for that audience.

    I personally have never been able to master this piece aloud, yet I get the feeling Guest would have done a fine job of reading it on his decade long radio program.

    I understand that a modern day novelist (Handler) as are other people, not touched by Guest. He is from a simpler time in our life as Americans. Pre WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and most important of all The Cold War. That being the case I may be overly generous to him in my appreciation of his work, but being somewhat familiar with his large body of work and the millions of people he entertained with his verse, both written and spoken, I still have to give him kudos, even if it is from a day the sun has set on.

    Be Well