May 4, 2020

Poem to Read Aloud: A Heap O' Livin'

Resources , Poems to Read Aloud

The Buckley School's founder, Reid Buckley, believed that all speakers should hone their speaking skills by reading poetry out loud. Each month in our magazine, we'll keep that worthwhile practice alive by including a poem for you to read aloud. Above, poet Edgar Allen Guest, who had his own NBC radio show.

"I'd rather flunk my Wassermann test* than read a poem by Edgar Guest."

– Dorothy Parker

He was a favorite poet of All in the Family's Edith Bunker, and that may be all you need to know about Edgar Guest.

Guest was born in England in 1881, and his family moved to the United States later that year. He was 17 when his first poem appeared in the Detroit Free Press.

Guest worked his way up at the paper from copy boy to reporter. Over the course of his life, he wrote 11,000 poems that were syndicated to newspapers and collected in 20+ books.

Thanks to his popularity as a poet, he hosted a radio show, had his own television series, and is still the only poet to have been named poet laureate of Michigan.

He became known as the People's Poet, beloved by many and criticized by many others for his sentimentality. His poem "It Couldn't Be Done" was used in an Audi commercial and inspired a parody by Benny Hill.

In honor of the heap o' livin we've all been doing at home these days, we give you what may be his most famous poem. Read it aloud and delight your housemates--or bar the door, lest they don't 'preciate your versifyn' an' make a run fer it.

*A Wasserman test is an antibody for syphilis, widely known (and used) in the first half of the 20th century.


by Edgar Albert Guest

It takes a heap o' livin' in a house t' make it home,
A heap o' sun an' shadder, an' ye sometimes have t' roam
Afore ye really 'preciate the things ye lef' behind,
An' hunger fer 'em somehow, with 'em allus on yer mind.
It don't make any differunce how rich ye get t' be,
How much yer chairs an' tables cost, how great yer luxury;
It ain't home t' ye, though it be the palace of a king,
Until somehow yer soul is sort o' wrapped round everything.

Home ain't a place that gold can buy or get up in a minute;
Afore it's home there's got t' be a heap o' livin' in it;
Within the walls there's got t' be some babies born, and then
Right there ye've got t' bring 'em up t' women good, an' men;
And gradjerly, as time goes on, ye find ye wouldn't part
With anything they ever used—they've grown into yer heart:
The old high chairs, the playthings, too, the little shoes they wore
Ye hoard; an' if ye could ye'd keep the thumbmarks on the door.

Ye've got t' weep t' make it home, ye've got t' sit an' sigh
An' watch beside a loved one's bed, an' know that Death is nigh;
An' in the stillness o' the night t' see Death's angel come,
An' close the eyes o' her that smiled, an' leave her sweet voice dumb.
Fer these are scenes that grip the heart, an' when yer tears are dried,
Ye find the home is dearer than it was, an' sanctified;
An' tuggin' at ye always are the pleasant memories
O' her that was an' is no more—ye can't escape from these.

Ye've got t' sing an' dance fer years, ye've got t' romp an' play,
An' learn t' love the things ye have by usin' 'em each day;
Even the roses 'round the porch must blossom year by year
Afore they 'come a part o' ye, suggestin' someone dear
Who used t' love 'em long ago, an' trained 'em jes' t' run
The way they do, so's they would get the early mornin' sun;
Ye've got t' love each brick an' stone from cellar up t' dome:
It takes a heap o' livin' in a house t' make it home.


And here's the Audi commercial that uses Guest's poem "It Couldn't Be Done."

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