William Cosmo Monkhouse
De Libris - Poem by William Cosmo Monkhouse
True — there are books and books. There’s Gray,
For instance, and there’s Bacon;
There’s Longfellow, and Monstrelet,
And also Colton’s “ Lacon,”
With “Laws of Whist” and those • of Libel,
And Euclid, and the Mormon Bible.
And some are dear as friends, and some
We keep because we need’them;
And some we ward from worm and thumb,
And love too well to read them.
My own are poor, and mostly new,
But I’ve an Elzevir or two.
That as a gift is prized, the next
For trouble in the finding;
This Aldine for its early text,
That Plantin for the binding;
This sorry Herrick hides a flower,
The record of one perfect hour.
But whether it be worth or looks
We gently love or strongly,
Such virtue doth reside in books
We scarce can love them wrongly;
To sages an eternal school,
A hobby (harmless) to the fool.
Nor altogether fool is he
Who orders, free from doubt,
Those books which “no good library
Should ever be without,”
And blandly locks the well-glazed door
On tomes that issue never more.
Less may we scorn his cases grand,
Where safely, surely linger
Fair virgin fields of type, unscanned
And innocent of finger.
There rest, preserved from dust accurst,
The first editions — and the worst.
And least of all should we that write
With easy jest deride them
Who hope to leave when “lost to sight”
The best of us inside them,
Dear shrines! where many a scribbler’s name
Has lasted — longer than his fame.
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