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Roofs
by
Joyce Kilmer


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(For Amelia Josephine Burr)

 

The road is wide and the stars are out
And the breath of the night is sweet,
And this is the time when wanderlust should seize upon my feet.
But I'm glad to turn from the open road and the starlight on my face,
And to leave the splendour of out-of-doors for a human dwelling place.

I never have seen a vagabond who really liked to roam
All up and down the streets of the world and not to have a home:
The tramp who slept in your barn last night and left at break of day
Will wander only until he finds another place to stay.

A gypsy-man will sleep in his cart with canvas overhead;
Or else he'll go into his tent when it is time for bed.
He'll sit on the grass and take his ease so long as the sun is high,
But when it is dark he wants a roof to keep away the sky.

If you call a gypsy a vagabond, I think you do him wrong,
For he never goes a-travelling but he takes his home along.
And the only reason a road is good, as every wanderer knows,
Is just because of the homes, the homes, the homes to which it goes.

They say that life is a highway and its milestones are the years,
And now and then there's a toll-gate where you buy your way with tears.
It's a rough road and a steep road and it stretches broad and far,
But at last it leads to a golden Town where golden Houses are.

This poem is in the public domain.

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Alfred Joyce Kilmer (1886 – 1918) is best known for his poem, "Trees,"  but he actually produced quite a large volume of work. Had his life not ended so tragically early, many believe he would have developed into one of America's great poets. Joyce married young and fathered five children even as he was establishing himself as a teacher, writer, and lecturer. While coping with the illness of one of their children, Joyce and his wife converted from the Episcopal faith to Catholocism and he ultimately became the leading Catholic poet of his time. When World War I broke out, Joyce enlisted and had contracted to write a book about his war experiences. Unfortunatly, he was killed on a French battlefield before he ever even began the book; he was only 31 when he died. Interesting side note: Joyce's father worked for Johnson & Johnson and is credited with inventing that company's famous baby powder.


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