Sunday, October 18, 2015


The Books That Never Can Be Mine

Andrew Lang (1844-1912), "Ballade of the Unattainable," Books and Bookmen (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1887), pp. 133-134:
The Books I cannot hope to buy,
Their phantoms round me waltz and wheel,
They pass before the dreaming eye,
Ere Sleep the dreaming eye can seal.
A kind of literary reel
They dance; how fair the bindings shine!
Prose cannot tell them what I feel,—
The Books that never can be mine!

There frisk Editions rare and shy,
Morocco clad from head to heel;
Shakspearian quartos; Comedy
As first she flashed from Richard Steele;
And quaint De Foe on Mrs. Veal;
And, lord of landing net and line,
Old Izaak with his fishing creel,—
The Books that never can be mine!

Incunables! for you I sigh,
Black letter, at thy founts I kneel,
Old tales of Perrault's nursery,
For you I'd go without a meal!
For Books wherein did Aldus deal
And rare Galliot du Pré I pine.
The watches of the night reveal
The Books that never can be mine!


Prince, bear a hopeless Bard's appeal;
Reverse the rules of Mine and Thine;
Make it legitimate to steal
The Books that never can be mine!

Ronald Searle, Anatomy of an Antiquarian Bookseller
(click on image to enlarge)

Hat tip: Eric Thomson.

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