Among His Books by Edith Nesbit October 1, 2012 – Tags: ,

Though best known for her series The Railway Children  E. Nesbit also wrote 21 collections of poetry as well as numerous adult novels and story collections. She was also a founding member of the Fabian Society.
The poem ‘Among His Books’ appeared in the collection  Leaves of Life which was published  in 1888. It is the Poem of the Week at the Guardian where it is read closely by Carol Rumens who calls it “a wry, novelistic tale of a jilted bachelor.”


Among His Books

A silent room – grey with a dusty blight
Of loneliness;
A room with not enough of light
Its form to dress.
Books enough though! The groaning sofa bears
A goodly store –
Books on the window-seat, and on the chairs,
And on the floor.
Books of all sorts of soul, all sorts of age,
All sorts of face –
Black-letter, vellum, and the flimsy page
Of commonplace.
All bindings, from the cloth whose hue distracts
One’s weary nerves,
To yellow parchment, binding rare old tracts
It serves – deserves.
Books on the shelves, and in the cupboard books,
Worthless and rare –
Books on the mantelpiece – wheree’er one looks
Books everywhere!
Books! Books! The only things in life I find
Not wholly vain.
Books in my hands – books in my heart enshrined –
Books in my brain.
My friends are they: for children and for wife
They serve me too;
For these alone, of all dear things in life,
Have I found true.
They do not flatter, change, deny, deceive –
Ah no – not they!
The same editions which one night you leave
You find next day.
You don’t find railway novels where you left
Your Elsevirs!
Your Aldines don’t betray you – leave bereft
Your lonely years!
And yet this common Book of Common Prayer
My heart prefers,
Because the names upon the fly-leaf there
Are mine and hers.
It’s a dead flower that makes it open so –
Forget-me-not –
The Marriage Service…well, my dear, you know
Who first forgot.
Those were the days when in the choir we two
Sat – used to sing –
When I believed in God, in love, in you –
In everything.
Through quiet lanes to church we used to come,
Happy and good,
Clasp hands through sermon, and go slowly home
Down through the wood.
Kisses? A certain yellow rose no doubt
That porch still shows;
Whenever I hear kisses talked about,
I smell that rose!
No – I don’t blame you – since you only proved
My choice unwise,
And taught me books should trusted be and loved,
Not lips and eyes!
And so I keep your book – your flower – to show
How much I care
For the dear memory of what, you know,
You never were.
« A Space Library
The Birth of Speedball »