In serried ranks around me rise
Two thousand tried and trusty friends;
Instructive, famous, witty, wise,
Each gladly his assistance lends
To suit, at will, my varying mood;
But none that aid will e’er intrude,
Or break, unsought, my solitude.
Some speak of problems of the soul,—
Profound, insoluble, sublime;
Some tell of Law’s supreme control;
And some retrace through distant time
The evolution of mankind,
And in its ever-broadening mind
A hope for future triumphs find.
A few the noble deeds rehearse
Of heroes famed in peace or war;
While many in inspiring verse
Show heights to which the soul may soar;
But all with serious thoughts are filled,
And some hold truths, from life distilled,
Whose power my heart hath often thrilled.
By such companions cheered and blest,
How vapid seems the listless throng
Of those who, tortured by unrest,
Find life too dull and days too long,
And idly frittering time away,
As scandal-mongers, rend and slay
The friends they dined with yesterday!
My Library! to thee I turn,
As turns the needle toward the pole,
And feel my heart within me yearn
For all thou offerest to the soul;
Why should I join in feverish haste
The crowd for which I have no taste,
The precious boon of life to waste?
Yet not as an austere recluse,—
Still less as one who hates mankind—,
Do I thy peaceful precincts choose;
But as a student, who can find
No joys in Vanity’s gay Fair
That for an instant can compare
With those thou askest me to share.
Moreover, welcome as the sun
Are friends whose love I prize and hold;
Their visits I would never shun;
To them my heart grows never cold;
And whether they have wealth, or fame,
Or bear a plain or titled name,
To me will always be the same.
Nor am I ever quite alone
When thus ensconced among my books;
A kindred mind there meets my own,
And with me toward the sunset looks;
With blazing logs the hearth is bright,
A treasured volume is in sight;
Hence to the outer world good night!
Once more I watch the crystal stream
I watched in days gone by;
Once more its waves reflect the gleam
Of Autumn’s sunset sky;
Again its banks of gold and green
Seem bursting into flame,—
And yet for me the lovely scene
Can never be the same.
The waves that gleamed here long ago
Have reached a distant sea;
The leaves of that first autumn glow
Have fallen from the tree;
The birds which charmed me with their song
Have long since elsewhere flown,
And I amid a careless throng
Am standing here alone.
This sparkling flood can never quite
Replace the stream of old;
These radiant leaves, however bright,
Wear not the old-time gold;
For evening’s light can ne’er retain
The splendor of the dawn,
And naught, alas, can bring again
The faces that are gone.