Eugene Field

(2 September 1850 - 4 November 1895 / St Louis / Missouri / United States)

Marcus Varro - Poem by Eugene Field

Marcus Varro went up and down
The places where old books were sold;
He ransacked all the shops in town
For pictures new and pictures old.
He gave the folk of earth no peace;
Snooping around by day and night,
He plied the trade in Rome and Greece
Of an insatiate Grangerite.

'Pictures!' was evermore his cry --
'Pictures of old or recent date,'
And pictures only would he buy
Wherewith to 'extra-illustrate.'
Full many a tome of ancient type
And many a manuscript he took,
For nary purpose but to swipe
Their pictures for some other book.

While Marcus Varro plied his fad
There was not in the shops of Greece
A book or pamphlet to be had
That was not minus frontispiece.
Nor did he hesitate to ply
His baleful practices at home;
It was not possible to buy
A perfect book in all of Rome!

What must the other folk have done --
Who, glancing o'er the books they bought,
Came soon and suddenly upon
The vandalism Varro wrought!
How must their cheeks have flamed with red --
How did their hearts with choler beat!
We can imagine what they said --
We can imagine, not repeat!

Where are the books that Varro made --
The pride of dilettante Rome --
With divers portraitures inlaid
Swiped from so many another tome?
The worms devoured them long ago --
O wretched worms! ye should have fed
Not on the books 'extended' so,
But on old Varro's flesh instead!

Alas, that Marcus Varro lives
And is a potent factor yet!
Alas, that still his practice gives
Good men occasion for regret!
To yonder bookstall, pri'thee, go,
And by the 'missing' prints and plates
And frontispieces you shall know
He lives, and 'extra-illustrates'!


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Poem Submitted: Friday, April 9, 2010



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