I would that we were only readers now,
And wrote no more, or in rare heats of soul,
Sweated out thoughts when the o’er-burden’d brow
Was powerless to control.

Then would all future books be small and few,
And, freed of dross, the soul’s refinèd gold;
So should we have a chance to read the new,
Yet not forego the old.

But as it is, Lord help us, in this flood
Of daily papers, books, and magazines!
We scramble blind as reptiles in the mud,
And know not what it means.

Is it the myriad spawn of vagrant tides,
Whose growth would overwhelm both sea and shore,
Yet often necessary loss, provides
Sufficient and no more?

Is it the broadcast sowing of the seeds,
And from the stones, the thorns and fertile soil,
Only enough to serve the world’s great needs
Rewards the sower’s toil?

Is it all needed for the varied mind?
Gives not the teeming press a book too much—
Not one, but in its dense neglect shall find
Some needful heart to touch?

Ah, who can say that even this blade of grass
No mission has—superfluous as it looks?
Then wherefore feel oppressed and cry, Alas,
There are too many books!

Robert Leighton, from ‘Reuben, and Other Poems’ (1875).

I think this would be a ballad I should find myself singing on most days. And if there are enough of us feeling the same, perhaps we could even get together and form a choir? 😉


4 thoughts on “Ballad of Books: One book too many?

  1. There can never be too many books, only not enough time! (I can whistle, but I can’t sing, if that helps.)


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