Ghosts in the Library

By Andrew Lang

ghost in the library


Suppose, when now the house is dumb,
When lights are out, and ashes fall -
Suppose their ancient owners come
To claim our spoils of shop and stall,
Ah me! within the narrow hall
How strange a mob would meet and go,
What famous folk would haunt them all,
Octavo, quarto, folio!

The great Napoleon lays his hand
Upon this eagle-headed N,
That marks for his a pamphlet banned
By all but scandal-loving men, -
A libel from some nameless den
Of Frankfort,--Arnaud a la Sphere,
Wherein one spilt, with venal pen,
Lies o’er the loves of Moliere.

 Another shade—he does not see
“Boney,” the foeman of his race -
The great Sir Walter, this is he
With that grave homely Border face.
He claims his poem of the chase
That rang Benvoirlich’s valley through;
And THIS, that doth the lineage trace
And fortunes of the bold Buccleuch;

 For these were his, and these he gave
To one who dwelt beside the Peel,
That murmurs with its tiny wave
To join the Tweed at Ashestiel.
Now thick as motes the shadows wheel,
And find their own, and claim a share
Of books wherein Ribou did deal,
Or Roulland sold to wise Colbert.

 What famous folk of old are here!
A royal duke comes down to us,
And greatly wants his Elzevir,
His Pagan tutor, Lucius.
And Beckford claims an amorous
Old heathen in morocco blue;
And who demands Eobanus
But stately Jacques Auguste de Thou!

 They come, the wise, the great, the true,
They jostle on the narrow stair,
The frolic Countess de Verrue,
Lamoignon, ay, and Longepierre,
The new and elder dead are there -
The lords of speech, and song, and pen,
Gambetta, Schlegel and the rare
Drummond of haunted Hawthornden.

 Ah, and with those, a hundred more,
Whose names, whose deeds, are quite forgot:
Brave “Smiths” and “Thompsons” by the score,
Scrawled upon many a shabby “lot.”
This playbook was the joy of Pott -
Pott, for whom now no mortal grieves.
Our names, like his, remembered not,
Like his, shall flutter on fly-leaves!

At least in pleasant company
We bookish ghosts, perchance, may flit;
A man may turn a page, and sigh,
Seeing one’s name, to think of it.
Beauty, or Poet, Sage, or Wit,
May ope our book, and muse awhile,
And fall into a dreaming fit,
As now we dream, and wake, and smile!




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