Skip to main content
By W. D. Snodgrass

Up the reputable walks of old established trees

They stalk, children of the nouveaux riches; chimes

Of the tall Clock Tower drench their heads in blessing:   

“I don’t wanna play at your house;

I don’t like you any more.”

My house stands opposite, on the other hill,

Among meadows, with the orchard fences down and falling;   

Deer come almost to the door.

You cannot see it, even in this clearest morning.

White birds hang in the air between

Over the garbage landfill and those homes thereto adjacent,   

Hovering slowly, turning, settling down

Like the flakes sifting imperceptibly onto the little town   

In a waterball of glass.

And yet, this morning, beyond this quiet scene,

The floating birds, the backyards of the poor,

Beyond the shopping plaza, the dead canal, the hillside lying tilted in the air,


Tomorrow has broken out today:

Riot in Algeria, in Cyprus, in Alabama;

Aged in wrong, the empires are declining,

And China gathers, soundlessly, like evidence.

What shall I say to the young on such a morning?—

Mind is the one salvation?—also grammar?—

No; my little ones lean not toward revolt. They

Are the Whites, the vaguely furiously driven, who resist   

Their souls with such passivity

As would make Quakers swear. All day, dear Lord, all day   

They wear their godhead lightly.

They look out from their hill and say,

To themselves, “We have nowhere to go but down;   

The great destination is to stay.”

Surely the nations will be reasonable;

They look at the world—don’t they?—the world’s way?   

The clock just now has nothing more to say.


W.D. Snodgrass, “The Campus on the Hill” from Selected Poems, 1957-1987 (New York: Soho Press, 1987). Copyright © 1987 by W.D. Snodgrass. Reprinted with the permission of the author.

Source: Selected Poems 1957-1987 (1987)

  • Activities
  • Arts & Sciences
  • Living

Poet Bio

W. D. Snodgrass
W.D. Snodgrass was born in Pennsylvania and attended the University of Iowa. At Iowa he met Robert Lowell, who admired Snodgrass's poetry and helped publish it in 1959. Snodgrass's poetry is often considered the beginning of the Confessional school of poetry, which would later influence such poets as Sylvia Plath, Ted Hughes, and even his teacher Lowell. His poetry focuses on intimate, personal experiences, in which the poet reflects on profound aspects of life in a revealing way. But though his poetry has maintained this tone, he moved away from the formal structure of his early verse to a free verse style, as seen in "The Campus on the Hill" and "A Locked House."

More By This Poet

More Poems about Activities

Browse poems about Activities

More Poems about Arts & Sciences

Browse poems about Arts & Sciences

More Poems about Living

Browse poems about Living