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Reader’s Den, Poetry Month

Reader's Den: Library as (Emily's) Muse


Last week in the Reader's Den I shared a library poem by modern New York poet Puma Perl. This week I found a library poem by the immortal Emily Dickinson. She writes of an intimate encounter with an antique volume, and how it transports her.

IN A LIBRARY. [Front cover of binding], Digital ID 1658117, New York
Public Library

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 wonder what sort of poem one could write about encountering an antique volume on a website (in my case, Project Gutenberg's rich collection of Dickinson poetry).

Do you have thoughts you'd like to share about this poem? Feel free to post comments below, and look out for the next poem from the Reader's Den, coming soon to a screen near you.


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poetry love

I love Emily Dickinson as a poet. She's just so great!

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