The Building of the House

I have a wondrous house to build,
A dwelling, humble yet divine;
A lowly cottage to be filled
With all the jewels of the mine.
How shall I build it strong and fair?
This noble house, this lodging rare,
So small and modest, yet so great?
How shall I fill its chambers bare
With use—with ornaments—with state?

My God hath given the stone and clay;
'Tis I must fashion them aright;
'Tis I must mould them day by day,
And make my labor my delight;
This cot, this palace, this fair home,
This pleasure-house, this holy dome,
Must be in all proportions fit,
That heavenly messengers may come
To lodge with him who tenants it.

No fairy bower this house must be,
To totter at each gale that starts,
But of substantial masonry,
Symmetrical in all its parts:
Fit in its strength to stand sublime,
For seventy years of mortal time,
Defiant of the storm and rain,
And well attempered to the clime
In every cranny, nook and pane.

I'll build it so, that if the blast
Around it whistle loud and long,
The tempest when its rage has pass'd
Shall leave its rafters doubly strong.
I'll build it so, that travellers by
Shall view it with admiring eye,
For its commodiousness and grace:
Firm on the ground—straight to the sky—
A meek, but goodly dwelling-place.

Thus noble in its outward form;
Within I'll build it clean and white,
Not cheerless cold, but happy warm,
And ever open to the light.
No tortuous passages or stair,
No chamber foul, or dungeon lair,
No gloomy attic shall there be,
But wide apartments order'd fair
And redolent of purity.

With three compartments furnished well,
The house shall be a home complete;
Wherein, should circumstance rebel,
The humble tenant may retreat.
The first a room wherein to deal
With men for human nature's weal,
A room where he may work or play,
And all his social life reveal
In its pure texture day by day.

The second, for his wisdom sought,
Where, with his chosen book or friend,
He may employ his active thought
To virtuous and exalted end.
A chamber lofty and serene,
With a door-window to the green,
Smooth-shaven sward and arching bowers,
Where lore or talk or song between,
May gild his intellectual hours.

The third an oratory dim,
But beautiful, where he may raise,
Unheard of men, his daily hymn,
Of love and gratitude and praise.
Where he may revel in the light
Of things unseen and infinite,
And learn how little he may be,
And yet how awful in thy sight,
Ineffable Eternity!

Such is the house that I must build—
This is the cottage—this the dome,—
And this the palace, treasure-fill'd
For an immortal's earthly home.
Oh noble work of toil and care!
Oh task most difficult and rare!
Oh simple but most arduous plan!
To raise a dwelling-place so fair,
The sanctuary of a Man.
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