Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, HOUSE WITH THE MARBLE STEPS, by AMY LOWELL



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HOUSE WITH THE MARBLE STEPS, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: He built the house to show his neighbors
Last Line: Above a flight of marble steps where grass is growing.
Subject(s): Death; Houses; Dead, The


He built the house to show his neighbors
That decent thrift could lead to this,
A giddy reason for his labors,
A bright brick apothesis.

He was not one to be bulldozed
By sentiment, and he had planned
Past whispered sneers when he foreclosed
The mortgage on this very land.

He'd forced his way with prudent greed
While they at best remained the same.
He gauged the folly of a creed
Which keeps a lame purse always lame.

Well, here it was, and in the road
He stood and tallied beam and rafter.
The cost would be a heavy load
He'd tell you, twisting into laughter.

The window-edges were of stone,
A soapy limestone smooth and fair.
The floors were all hard wood and none
Tailed off to pine beneath a stair.

If he were old and quite infirm,
His house was very fresh and young,
And envy is a winding worm --
These thoughts were pepper to his tongue.

And so he watched it grow and grow,
And jotted down the things he heard,
Scheming to balance by the blow
His house should deal as final word.

To crown the whole and go beyond
Whatever yet had been attempted.
In his small town, he signed a bond
Which would most certainly have emptied

The pockets of quite half his friends,
Even to him it was a point,
But when a man aims at such ends
He must keep stiff in every joint.

He bought a quarry's good half year
Of first-class, fine-grained marble output,
He paid a mason very near
As much again to have it cut.

The sharp white polished steps were grand
Descending from the stucco porch.
They glittered like a marching band,
They mounted upward like a torch.

But he had taken to his bed
Before the last was set in place,
And one week later he was dead
With a slow smile upon his face.

The marble flashed beneath the fall
Of undertakers' feet who carried
His coffin to the funeral
Within the house. And there he tarried

For fifteen minutes more or less,
And "dust to dust" they read above him.
Now who had gained in bitterness --
For not one soul was there to love him?

They gaped upon the shining floors,
Their eyes scanned ceiling heights and blocked them.
When all was done, they shut the doors
And shrugged their shoulders as they locked them.

The house is charming now with weeds
Sprung all about, the steps are mellow
With little grass and flower-seeds
Drifting across their sun-stained yellow.

Empty it stands and so has stood
More years than the town clerk can tell.
No legend has it he was good,
No tale reports that he did well.

They tried to sell it, off and on,
But not a person wants to buy,
Though visitors who've come and gone
Remember it against the sky
In shrewd and sweet proportions glowing
Above a flight of marble steps where grass is growing.





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