The book hunter

The Book-Hunter

A cup of coffee, eggs, and rolls
Sustain him on his morning strolls:
Unconscious of the passers-by,
He trudges on with downcast eye;
He wears a queer old hat and coat,
Suggestive of a style remote;
His manner is preoccupied,—
A shambling gait, from side to side.
For him the sleek, bright-windowed shop
Is all in vain,—he does not stop.

His thoughts are fixed on dusty shelves
Where musty volumes hide themselves,—
Rare prints of poetry and prose,
And quaintly lettered folios,—
Perchance a parchment manuscript,
In some forgotten corner slipped,
Or monk-illumined missal bound
In vellum with brass clasps around;
These are the pictured things that throng
His mind the while he walks along.

A dingy street, a cellar dim,
With book-lined walls, suffices him.
The dust is white upon his sleeves;
He turns the yellow, dog-eared leaves
With just the same religious look
That priests give to the Holy Book.

He does not heed the stifling air
If so he find a treasure there.
He knows rare books, like precious wines,
Are hidden where the sun ne’er shines;
For him delicious flavors dwell
In books as in old Muscatel;
He finds in features of the type
A clew to prove the grape was ripe.

And when he leaves this dismal place,
Behold, a smile lights up his face!
Upon his cheeks a genial glow,—
Within his hand Boccaccio,
A first edition worn with age,
“Firenze” on the title-page.

Frank Dempster Sherman. From the ‘Century Magazine,’
November, 1885.

I love this ballad! Such a lovely depiction of a book-hunter.

And it is just as fitting a description for fellow modern day ‘book-hunters’ of the 21st century too, wouldn’t you agree? 😉


2 thoughts on “Ballad of Books: The Book-Hunter

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