Monday, September 01, 2014

Writers on Reading

William Wordsworth

from Personal Talk

          Wings have we,--and as far as we can go,
          We may find pleasure: wilderness and wood,
          Blank ocean and mere sky, support that mood
          Which with the lofty sanctifies the low.
          Dreams, books, are each a world; and books, we know,
          Are a substantial world, both pure and good:
          Round these, with tendrils strong as flesh and blood,
          Our pastime and our happiness will grow.
          There find I personal themes, a plenteous store,
          Matter wherein right voluble I am,
          To which I listen with a ready ear;
          Two shall be named, pre-eminently dear,--
          The gentle Lady married to the Moor;
          And heavenly Una with her milk-white Lamb,

                 -  "Stanza III", from Personal Talk by  William Wordsworth

Thomas Wentworth Higginson

from  Books Unread

The only knowledge that involves no burden is found, it may be justly claimed, in the books that are left unread.  I mean those which remain undisturbed, long and perhaps forever, on a student's bookshelves;  books for which he possible economized, and to obtain which he went without his dinner;  books on whose backs his eyes have rested a thousand times, tenderly and almost lovingly, until he has perhaps forgotten the very language in which they are written.  He has never read them, yet during these years there has never been a day when he would have sold them;  they are a part of his youth.  In dreams he turns to them;  in dreams he reads Hebrew again;  he knows what a Differential Equation is;  "how happy could he be with either."  He awakens, and whole shelves of his library are, as it were, like fair maidens who smiled on him in their youth but once, and then passed away.  Under different circumstances, who knows but one of them might have been his?  As it is, they have grown old apart from him;  yet for him they retain their charms.

        -  from Part of a Man's Life by Thomas Wentworth Higginson 


Brian Joseph said...

The passage that you quoted is superb. Happily for me, I do occasionally get around to those old books that have waited patiently for many years.

James said...

Thanks for your observation. I am sometimes surprised and charmed by books I have neglected when I find them on my shelves (usually when I am looking for a different book).