The House of Rest

By Julia Ward Howe 1819–1910 Julia Ward Howe
I will build a house of rest,
Square the corners every one:
At each angle on his breast
Shall a cherub take the sun;
Rising, risen, sinking, down,
Weaving day’s unequal crown.

In the chambers, light as air,
Shall responsive footsteps fall:
Brother, sister, art thou there?
Hush! we need not jar nor call;
Need not turn to seek the face
Shut in rapture’s hiding-place.

Heavy load and mocking care
Shall from back and bosom part;
Thought shall reach the thrill of prayer,
Patience plan the dome of art.
None shall praise or merit claim,
Not a joy be called by name.

With a free, unmeasured tread
Shall we pace the cloisters through:
Rest, enfranchised, like the Dead;
Rest till Love be born anew.
Weary Thought shall take his time,
Free of task-work, loosed from rhyme.

No reproof shall grieve or chill;
Every sin doth stand confest;
None need murmur, ‘This was ill’:
Therefore do they grant us rest;
Contemplation making whole
Every ruin of the soul.

Pictures shall as softly look
As in distance shows delight;
Slowly shall each saintly book
Turn its pages in our sight;
Not the study’s wealth confuse,
Urging zeal to pale abuse.

Children through the windows peep,
Not reproachful, though our own;
Hushed the parent passion deep,
And the household’s eager tone.
One above, divine and true,
Makes us children like to you.

Measured bread shall build us up
At the hospitable board;
In Contentment’s golden cup
Is the guileless liquor poured.
May the beggar pledge the king
In that spirit gathering,

Oh! my house is far away;
Yet it sometimes shuts me in.
Imperfection mars each day
While the perfect works begin.
In the house of labor best
Can I build the house of rest.

Source: She Wields a Pen: American Women Poets of the Nineteenth Century (University of Iowa Press, 1997)

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Poet Julia Ward Howe 1819–1910

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Subjects Christianity, Religion

 Julia  Ward Howe

Biography

Julia Ward Howe, a social reformer, is most remembered for her Civil War-era song "The Battle Hymn of the Republic." In many respects, Howe was a female pioneer, particularly in literature and women's rights. Howe wrote many books, including collections of poetry and travel volumes. She, along with women such as Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, was a cofounder of the women's suffrage movement. In addition to lobbying . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Christianity, Religion

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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