Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, TOWARDS DEMOCRACY: PART 4. IN THE BRITISH MUSEUM LIBRARY, by EDWARD CARPENTER



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TOWARDS DEMOCRACY: PART 4. IN THE BRITISH MUSEUM LIBRARY, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: How lovely
Last Line: Be still, o soul, and know that thou art god.
Subject(s): British Museum, London; Museums; Art Gallerys


HOW lovely!
This vast vast dome—and the suspended sounds within it!
Sounds and echoes of the great city vibrating tirelessly night and day;
Voices and footfalls, of the little creatures that walk about its floor,
half-lost in the huge concave;
Suspended whispers, from its walls, of far forgotten centuries.

How lovely!
All the myriad books—well-nigh two millions of volumes—the
interminable iron galleries, the forty miles or so of closely-packed shelves;
The immense catalogue—itself a small library—of over a thousand
volumes;
The thousands of editions of the Bible and parts of the Bible, with texts,
commentaries, translations in every known tongue—these alone occupying
sixteen volumes of catalogue;
The thousands of Shakespeare books, or of Aristotle, the hundreds of Homer,
Virgil, Chaucer, Dante, Montaigne, Goethe, Voltaire, Byron;
The mountain-peaks of literature, and the myriads of lesser hills and
shoulders and points—the mole-hills and grass-blades even;
The interminable discussions of the Schoolmen and Grammarians, the equally
interminable discussions of modern Science—the investigations into ghostly
geometries of four or five dimensions, or into the values of c and g in
the Lunar Theory, or into the alternation of generations in some obscure
Annelids;
How bewildering! how impossible to sum up and estimate!

And then to think how slight it all is—
A little remnant of faded thought;
A little dust just crumbled through the fingers, hardly more;
The residue and deposit of ages;
The dead leaves, the skeleton foliage, which generations of trees have cast
upon the earth—and which with infinite care we sort and catalogue!
And then to leave the mouldy stuffy vault, and go out, and breathe freely,
How lovely!
One living bud upon a little branch,
One face that looks and passes in the street,
And these contain it all.

How lovely!
To think there are all these books—and one need not read them;
To think of all the patient purblind accumulations, all the dry-as-dust,
the fatuous drivel, the maundering vanity, the endless repetitions of vain
things,
The endless care and industry and science used to sort out the pearls from
the vast heap—
[And we only know they are pearls because we already have the same within
ourselves—]
And to think we need not stop to count them.

What is it, such a library?
It is the homage of industrious dulness to the human soul.
[Once there lived a man—he actually thought and felt—he wrote
even a single sentence of sense—he uttered a word from his heart.
Then all the nations said, "O if we may but attain to save this divine
spark from oblivion, let us erect even such a labyrinthine monument as this."]

Come, come away!
The single hair of Buddha encased in a dágoba-mountain of brick and
mortar grows now, even such a hair, upon thy loved one's head.
Come, come away! leave books, traditions, all the dross of centuries,
Clean, clean thy wings, and fly through other worlds.
Heaven's stars shine all around thee;
Deep in thy Heart the ageless celestial Museum
Waits its explorer. All that they said—those wise ones—
They say and repeat it now, where the plough-boy drives his furrow:
Be still, O Soul, and know that thou art God.





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