Robert William Service (16 January 1874 - 11 September 1958 / Preston)
The Missal Makers
To visit the Escurial
We took a motor bus,
And there a guide mercurial
Took charge of us.
He showed us through room after room,
And talked hour after hour,
Of place, crypt and royal tomb,
Of pomp and power.
But in bewilderment of grace
What pleased me most of all
Were ancient missals proud in place
In stately hall.
A thousand tomes there were at least,
All luminously bright,
That each a score of years some priest
Had toiled to write.
Poor patient monk who brushed and penned
From rise to set of sun!
And when his book came to an end,
His life was done.
With heart of love to God above
For guidance he would pray,
And here behold his art of gold
And as our homeward way we took,
The thought occurred to me -
If scribes would only write one book,
How good 'twould be!
Or if our authors had to scroll
Their words on vellum fair,
Their output might be very small,
But oh how rare!
So writers of today take note,
If you your souls would save,
Let every line be one to quote
And to engrave.
Then though you dismally are dead,
You will be cheered to know
your precious prose may still be read
-Ten years or so.
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