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- The Library - 1/4 -


Transcribed by Mark Sherwood, e-mail mark.sherwood@btinternet.com

"THE LIBRARY", by GEORGE CRABBE

THE ARGUMENT. {1}

Books afford Consolation to the troubled Mind by substituting a lighter kind of Distress for its own--They are productive of other Advantages--An Author's Hope of being known in distant times-- Arrangement of the Library--Size and Form of the Volumes--The ancient Folio, clasped and chained--Fashion prevalent even in this Place--The Mode of publishing in Numbers, Pamphlets &c.--Subjects of the different Classes--Divinity--Controversy--The Friends of Religion often more dangerous than her Foes--Sceptical Authors-- Reason too much rejected by the former Converts; exclusively relied upon by the latter--Philosophy ascending through the Scale of Being to Moral Subjects--Books of Medicine: their Variety, Variance, and Proneness to System: the Evil of this, and the Difficulty it causes--Farewell to this Study--Law: the increasing Number of its Volumes--Supposed happy State of Man without Laws--Progress of Society--Historians: their Subjects--Dramatic Authors, Tragic and Comic--Ancient Romances--The Captive Heroine--Happiness in the perusal of such Books: why--Criticism--Apprehensions of the Author: removed by the Appearance of the Genius of the Place; whose Reasoning and Admonition conclude the subject.

When the sad soul, by care and grief oppress'd, Looks round the world, but looks in vain for rest; When every object that appears in view Partakes her gloom and seems dejected too; Where shall affliction from itself retire? Where fade away and placidly expire? Alas! we fly to silent scenes in vain; Care blasts the honours of the flow'ry plain: Care veils in clouds the sun's meridian beam, Sighs through the grove, and murmurs in the stream; For when the soul is labouring in despair, In vain the body breathes a purer air: No storm-tost sailor sighs for slumbering seas,- He dreads the tempest, but invokes the breeze; On the smooth mirror of the deep resides Reflected woe, and o'er unruffled tides The ghost of every former danger glides. Thus, in the calms of life, we only see A steadier image of our misery; But lively gales and gently clouded skies Disperse the sad reflections as they rise; And busy thoughts and little cares avail To ease the mind, when rest and reason fail. When the dull thought, by no designs employ'd, Dwells on the past, or suffer'd or enjoy'd, We bleed anew in every former grief, And joys departed furnish no relief. Not Hope herself, with all her flattering art, Can cure this stubborn sickness of the heart: The soul disdains each comfort she prepares, And anxious searches for congenial cares; Those lenient cares, which with our own combined, By mix'd sensations ease th' afflicted mind, And steal our grief away, and leave their own behind; A lighter grief! which feeling hearts endure Without regret, nor e'en demand a cure. But what strange art, what magic can dispose The troubled mind to change its native woes? Or lead us willing from ourselves, to see Others more wretched, more undone than we? This BOOKS can do;--nor this alone; they give New views to life, and teach us how to live; They soothe the grieved, the stubborn they chastise, Fools they admonish, and confirm the wise: Their aid they yield to all: they never shun The man of sorrow, nor the wretch undone: Unlike the hard, the selfish, and the proud, They fly not sullen from the suppliant crowd; Nor tell to various people various things, But show to subjects what they show to kings. Come, Child of Care! to make thy soul serene, Approach the treasures of this tranquil scene; Survey the dome, and, as the doors unfold, The soul's best cure, in all her cares, behold! Where mental wealth the poor in thought may find, And mental physic the diseased in mind; See here the balms that passion's wounds assuage; See coolers here, that damp the fire of rage; Here alt'ratives, by slow degrees control The chronic habits of the sickly soul; And round the heart and o'er the aching head, Mild opiates here their sober influence shed. Now bid thy soul man's busy scenes exclude, And view composed this silent multitude:- Silent they are--but though deprived of sound, Here all the living languages abound; Here all that live no more; preserved they lie, In tombs that open to the curious eye. Blest be the gracious Power, who taught mankind To stamp a lasting image of the mind! Beasts may convey, and tuneful birds may sing, Their mutual feelings, in the opening spring ; But Man alone has skill and power to send The heart's warm dictates to the distant friend; 'Tis his alone to please, instruct, advise Ages remote, and nations yet to rise. In sweet repose, when Labour's children sleep, When Joy forgets to smile and Care to weep, When Passion slumbers in the lover's breast, And Fear and Guilt partake the balm of rest, Why then denies the studious man to share Man's common good, who feels his common care? Because the hope is his, that bids him fly Night's soft repose, and sleep's mild power defy; That after-ages may repeat his praise, And fame's fair meed be his, for length of days. Delightful prospect! when we leave behind A worthy offspring of the fruitful mind! Which, born and nursed through many an anxious day, Shall all our labour, all our care repay. Yet all are not these births of noble kind, Not all the children of a vigorous mind; But where the wisest should alone preside, The weak would rule us, and the blind would guide; Nay, man's best efforts taste of man, and show The poor and troubled source from which they flow; Where most he triumphs we his wants perceive, And for his weakness in his wisdom grieve. But though imperfect all; yet wisdom loves This seat serene, and virtue's self approves:- Here come the grieved, a change of thought to find; The curious here to feed a craving mind; Here the devout their peaceful temple choose; And here the poet meets his favouring Muse. With awe, around these silent walks I tread; These are the lasting mansions of the dead:- "The dead!" methinks a thousand tongues reply; "These are the tombs of such as cannot die!" Crown'd with eternal fame, they sit sublime, "And laugh at all the little strife of time." Hail, then, immortals! ye who shine above, Each, in his sphere, the literary Jove; And ye the common people of these skies, A humbler crowd of nameless deities; Whether 'tis yours to lead the willing mind Through History's mazes, and the turnings find; Or, whether led by Science, ye retire, Lost and bewilder'd in the vast desire; Whether the Muse invites you to her bowers, And crowns your placid brows with living flowers; Or godlike Wisdom teaches you to show The noblest road to happiness below; Or men and manners prompt the easy page To mark the flying follies of the age: Whatever good ye boast, that good impart; Inform the head and rectify the heart. Lo, all in silence, all in order stand, And mighty folios first, a lordly band ; Then quartos their well-order'd ranks maintain, And light octavos fill a spacious plain: See yonder, ranged in more frequented rows, A humbler band of duodecimos; While undistinguish'd trifles swell the scene, The last new play and fritter'd magazine. Thus 'tis in life, where first the proud, the great, In leagued assembly keep their cumbrous state; Heavy and huge, they fill the world with dread, Are much admired, and are but little read: The commons next, a middle rank, are found; Professions fruitful pour their offspring round; Reasoners and wits are next their place allowed, And last, of vulgar tribes a countless crowd. First, let us view the form, the size, the dress; For these the manners, nay the mind, express: That weight of wood, with leathern coat o'erlaid; Those ample clasps, of solid metal made; The close-press'd leaves, unclosed for many an age; The dull red edging of the well-fill'd page; On the broad back the stubborn ridges roll'd, Where yet the title stands in tarnish'd gold; These all a sage and labour'd work proclaim, A painful candidate for lasting fame: No idle wit, no trifling verse can lurk In the deep bosom of that weighty work; No playful thoughts degrade the solemn style, Nor one light sentence claims a transient smile. Hence, in these times, untouch'd the pages lie, And slumber out their immortality: They HAD their day, when, after after all his toil, His morning study, and his midnight oil, At length an author's ONE great work appeared,


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