Robert William Service

(16 January 1874 - 11 September 1958 / Preston)

My Library


Like prim Professor of a College
I primed my shelves with books of knowledge;
And now I stand before them dumb,
Just like a child that sucks its thumb,
And stares forlorn and turns away,
With dolls or painted bricks to play.

They glour at me, my tomes of learning.
"You dolt!" they jibe; "you undiscerning
Moronic oaf, you make a fuss,
With highbrow swank selecting us;
Saying: "I'll read you all some day' -
And now you yawn and turn away.

"Unwanted wait we with our store
Of facts and philosophic lore;
The scholarship of all the ages
Snug packed within our uncut pages;
The mystery of all mankind
In part revealed - but you are blind.

"You have no time to read, you tell us;
Oh, do not think that we are jealous
Of all the trash that wins your favour,
The flimsy fiction that you savour:
We only beg that sometimes you
Will spare us just an hour or two.

"For all the minds that went to make us
Are dust if folk like you forsake us,
And they can only live again
By virtue of your kindling brain;
In magice print they packed their best:
Come - try their wisdom to digest. . . ."

Said I: "Alas! I am not able;
I lay my cards upon the table,
And with deep shame and blame avow
I am too old to read you now;
So I will lock you in glass cases
And shun your sad, reproachful faces."

* * * * * * * * *

My library is noble planned,
Yet in it desolate I stand;
And though my thousand books I prize,
Feeling a witling in their eyes,
I turn from them in weariness
To wallow in the Daily Press.

For, oh, I never, never will
The noble field of knowledge till:
I pattern words with artful tricks,
As children play with painted bricks,
And realize with futile woe,
Nothing I know - nor want to know.

My library has windowed nooks;
And so I turn from arid books
To vastitude of sea and sky,
And like a child content am I
With peak and plain and brook and tree,
Crying: "Behold! the books for me:
Nature, be thou my Library!"

Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003

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