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The Empty House

  The wet trees hang above the walks
    Purple with damps and earthish stains,
    And strewn by moody, absent rains
  With rose-leaves from the wild-grown stalks.

  Unmown, in heavy, tangled swaths,
    The ripe June-grass is wanton blown;
    Snails slime the untrodden threshold-stone;
  Along the sills hang drowsy moths.

  Down the blank visage of the wall,
    Where many a wavering trace appears,
    Like a forgotten trace of tears,
  From swollen eaves the slow drops crawl.

  Where everything was wide before,
    The curious wind, that comes and goes,
    Finds all the latticed windows close,
  Secret and close the bolted door.

  And with the shrewd and curious wind,
    That in the arch├ęd doorway cries,
    And at the bolted portal tries,
  And harks and listens at the blind,--

  Forever lurks my thought about,
    And in the ghostly middle-night
    Finds all the hidden windows bright,
  And sees the guests go in and out,

  And lingers till the pallid dawn,
    And feels the mystery deeper there
    In silent, gust-swept chambers, bare,
  With all the midnight revel gone;

  But wanders through the lonesome rooms,
    Where harsh the astonished cricket calls,
    And, from the hollows of the walls
  Vanishing, start unshapen glooms;

  And lingers yet, and cannot come
    Out of the drear and desolate place,
    So full of ruin's solemn grace,
  And haunted with the ghost of home.


William Dean Howells