27 OCTOBER 1894, Page 15


THE OLD BOOKS, li'stE old books, the old books, the books of long ago !

Who ever felt Miss Austen tame, or called Sir Walter slow ?

We did not care the worst to bare of human sty or den ; We liked to love a little bit, and trust our fellow-men.

'The old books, the old books, as pure as summer-breeze!

We read them under garden-boughs, by firelight on our They did not teach, they did not preach, or scold us into good ; A noble spirit from them breathed, the rest was understood. 0 happy dusk, when lamps were lit, around a mother's chair, To listen as she read, and breathe the rich enchanted air ; Of banner bright and stainless knight, of eerie elfin page, With all that glamour of delight, that wondrous Middle Age. Then was there no forbidden tree with longing vainly eyed; No hiding books with lock and key to childish ears denied ; The library was open field where all might come and go ; The Serpent had not yet revealed his heritage of woe.

The new books, the new books, the great neurotic school ! That never let the Furies sleep, the fervid passions cool.

Be real! they cry, and lust and strife thick crowd the horrid stage ; And every loathsome ill of life is " copy " to their page. The new books, the new books, the other nobler kind ! Straight from the heart they come and speak, and round the heart they wind.

Marcella in her lovelier mood, a Stevenson, a Thrums, A Kipling great in camp and wood, a Besant in the slums ! Not theirs to hint that all is dark, the sun has fled the day Not theirs to stamp the autumn leaf more deeply in the clay ! In every life they find a strain of good as yet untold ; In simple hearts a noble vein of unsuspected gold : They bold the mirror to our times, they paint in motley dyes The image of our wants and crimes ; they bid us sympathise. And not in vain : so rich the art, so rare the painter's skill, They wake in every sleeping heart the old knight-errant still.

But the old books, the old books, the mother loves them best : They leave no bitter taste behind to haunt the youthful breast : They bid us hope, they bid us fill our hearts with visions fair ; They do not paralyse the will with problems of despair. And as they lift from sloth and sense to follow loftier pains, And stir the blood of indolence to bubble in the veins : Inheritors of mighty things, who own a lineage high, We feel within us budding wings that long to reach the sky : To rise above the commonplace, and through the cloud to soar, And join the loftier company of grander souls of yore Then as she reads each magic scene, the firelight burning low, How flush the cheeks ! how quick, how keen, the heart-beats come and go !

The mother's voice is soft and sweet, the mother's look is kind, But she has tones that cause to beat all passions of the mind : And Alice weeps, and Jack inspired rides forth a hero bold : So master passions early fired burn on when life is cold.

A. G. B.