Saturday, 18 August 2012

Valedictory: 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 threescore 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."

Charles Brodribb     Lincoln's Inn, October 1940
From The Book of The City,  editor Ian Norrie

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