Friday, February 06, 2015


Back to Books, Away from Men

H.W. Garrod (1878-1960), "In an Oxford Library, 1919," Worms and Epitaphs (Oxford: B.H. Blackwell, 1919), pp. 18-19:
God! it's good to get again
Back to books, away from men!
Like breath of kine or scent of sea,
Books, your air blows up to me.
Sick from the smell of politics,
With the smell of books to mix—
Is there any other smell
That's one half so comfortable?
Here for the rest of time I'll sit
And read, and never tire of it,
And never die—'tis doing things
Has laid in earth these many kings.
If they had sat and read and read
And marked and learned, they'd not be dead.
If here and there a king or two,
Instead of having things to do,
Read books, he did not read enough,
Or did not read the proper stuff.
He should have read from morn till night
And pledged his crown for candle-light.
Instead of conning on his throne
Tales of men to greatness grown,
He should have sat upon the ground
And read tales of kings discrowned,
And have made his memory sad
With the women kings have had—
The child of Leda, and the child
Of renowned Athanagild;
Rosamund that wont to sup
From her father's skull for cup;
Irene that with irons hot
Blinded the son herself begot;
And Catherine that fixed the cord,
Or mixed the cup, that killed her lord.
If these and other likely things
Had been the reading set to kings,
O, you would not be where you are,
Kaiser nor Constantine nor Tsar:
There never would have been a war,
Nor I have quit my books to hive
Four years with men that cry and strive.
God! it's good to get again
Back to books, away from men!

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