Thursday, December 29, 2016


The Scholar to the Ashes of His Library

C.W. Brodribb (1878-1945), "Valedictory," Poems. With an Introduction by Edmund Blunden (London: Macmillan & Co. Ltd, 1946), p. 6:
The Scholar to the Ashes of his Library.

Gone the books of many names,
Eaten up by hostile flames;
Loss of all his store at once
Leaves him a senescent dunce.

Tecum habita et noris
What your freightage at three score is.
Where is now a lifetime's reading?
Is aught left for years succeeding?
Just a few scraps often quoted,
Or a fragment vaguely noted;
All is ash and burnt-out embers
But what one poor brain remembers.
Yet he sees the friendly faces
Row on row in their set places;
Knows exactly what is in them,
Could he wake up and re-win them.
Nay; they're ghosts, and they are gone
Into charred oblivion.

Fortune of the war, old man;
Play the Stoic if you can;
In the breast the heart be hid
Of the Second Aeneid,
Known and conned too many years
Not to transubstantiate tears.
"Studies into manners pass"—
So the sage's saying was.
Studies are for virtue's sake;
Be the man that they should make.
Id., p. ix, from Blunden's Introduction, quoting one of Brodribb's colleagues:
The war years—including as they did the loss of his home and library in Lincoln's Inn, which he bore so bravely and mourned so movingly in one of his poems—told gradually on Brodribb's health.
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.

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