A precious, mouldering pleasure ‘t is
To meet an antique book,
In just the dress his century wore;
A privilege, I think,
His venerable hand to take,
And warming in our own,
A passage back, or two, to make
To times when he was young.
His quaint opinions to inspect,
His knowledge to unfold
On what concerns our mutual mind,
The literature of old;
What interested scholars most,
What competitions ran
When Plato was a certainty.
And Sophocles a man;
When Sappho was a living girl,
And Beatrice wore
The gown that Dante deified.
Facts, centuries before,
He traverses familiar,
As one should come to town
And tell you all your dreams were true;
He lived where dreams were sown.
His presence is enchantment,
You beg him not to go;
Old volumes shake their vellum heads
And tantalize, just so.
I also think of books as friends. I especially like how she presents old books (like this one is–now there’s irony for you) as special travelers from times past. When students groan about having to read Shakespeare, Homer, and Poe I feel a bit sorry for them. They don’t know what they are missing! They don’t realize that all that we have today comes from the past. Those old voices speak truths that still hold today. It seems teens only want to read about zombies and sparkling vampire boys. They don’t realize that these contemporary stories were inspired by the likes of Mary Shelley and Bram Stoker–old timers.
Emily: When Plato was a certainty. And Sophocles a man;When Sappho was a living girl, And Beatrice wore The gown that Dante deified. Facts, centuries before
Me: I admit I am not up on these names like I should be. My school doesn’t really dwell on old-time writing much. Poor excuse, I know–I should look up what I don’t know myself. I highlighted the names in blue to remind me to look them up and to understand who these people are and that will help me to better understand why they were important enough to Emily to include them in her poem.
Standouts: Since this is a longer poem I caught that Emily has a knack for rhythm or flow. There is a definite meter going on with this poem without it going all sing-songey. Some of the lines rhyme, but most don’t. She also chose particular words that lend an old-time charm to the poem: venerable, quaint, certainty, deified, traverses, vellum.
Edith: she checked the poem and what this means I don’t know–it must mean something and I count it as an annotation, so I included it.
Old books make for old friends–someone must have said that.
- The Emily Project: Poem IX (The Heart Asks Pleasure First) (veranano.wordpress.com)
- The Emily Project: (veranano.wordpress.com)
- 17 Animations of Classic Literary Works: From Plato and Shakespeare, to Kafka, Hemingway and Gaiman (openculture.com)