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De Amicitiis
by Eugene Field (1850-1895)

               Though care and strife
               Elsewhere be rife,
Upon my word I do not heed 'em;
               In bed I lie
               With books hard by,
And with increasing zest I read 'em

               Propped up in bed,
               So much I 've read
Of musty tomes that I 've a headful
               Of tales and rhymes
               Of ancient times,
Which, wife declares, are "simply dreadful!"

               They give me joy
               Without alloy;
And is n't that what books are made for?
               And yet---and yet---
               (Ah, vain regret!)
I would to God they all were paid for!

               No festooned cup
               Filled foaming up
Can lure me elsewhere to confound me;
               Sweeter than wine
               This love of mine
For these old books I see around me!

               A plague, I say,
               On maidens gay;
I 'll weave no compliments to tell 'em!
               Vain fool I were,
               Did I prefer
Those dolls to these old friends in vellum!

               At dead of night
               My chamber 's bright
Not only with the gas that 's burning,
               But with the glow
               Of long ago,---
Of beauty back from eld returning.

               Fair women's looks
               I see in books,
I see them, and I hear their laughter,---
               Proud, high-born maids,
               Unlike the jades
Which men-folk now go chasing after!

               Herein again
               Speak valiant men
Of all nativities and ages;
               I hear and smile
               With rapture while
I turn these musty, magic pages.

               The sword, the lance,
               The morris dance,
The highland song, the greenwood ditty,
               Of these I read,
               Or, when the need,
My Miller grinds me grist that 's gritty!

               When of such stuff
               We 've had enough,
Why, there be other friends to greet us;
               We 'll moralize
               In solemn wise
With Plato or with Epictetus.

               Sneer as you may,
               I 'm proud to say
That I, for one, am very grateful
               To Heaven, that sends
               These genial friends
To banish other friendships hateful!

               And when I 'm done,
               I 'd have no son
Pounce on these treasures like a vulture;
               Nay, give them half
               My epitaph,
And let them share in my sepulture.

               Then, when the crack
               Of doom rolls back
The marble and the earth that hide me,
               I 'll smuggle home
               Each precious tome,
Without a fear my wife shall chide me!

 

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Page last updated: 21 January 1999
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