Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Apart from his children's poems, Eugene Field wrote poems about his books and book collecting, many of which are very amusing. His final work, written in the last year of his short life, was The Love Affairs of A Bibliomaniac. These are available in their entirity online. My favourite, without doubt, is 'On the Odors Which My Books Exhale,' which includes a retelling of the poisonous atmosphere of the British Library Reading Room.

The Bibliomaniac's Prayer

Keep me, I pray, in wisdom's way
That I may truths eternal seek;
I need protecting care to-day, --
My purse is light, my flesh is weak.
So banish from my erring heart
All baleful appetites and hints
Of Satan's fascinating art,
Of first editions, and of prints.
Direct me in some goodly walk
Which leads away from bookish strife,
That I with pious deed and talk
May extra-illustrate my life.

But if, O Lord, it pleaseth Thee
To keep me in temptation's way,
I humbly ask that I may be
Most notably beset to-day;
Let my temptation be a book,
Which I shall purchase, hold, and keep,
Whereon when other men shall look,
They'll wail to know I got it cheap.
Oh, let it such a volume be
As in rare copperplate abounds,
Large paper, clean, and fair to see,
Uncut, unique, unknown to Lowndes