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GOOD BOOKS

John RUSKIN

John Ruskin (1819-1900) was an English author and artist. To defend the painter Turner from his critics, Ruskin wrote his first great book, “ Modern Painters.” He was greatly interested in social progress.

I would urge upon every young man, as the beginning of his due and wise provision for his household, too obtain as soon as he can, by the severest economy, a restricted, serviceable, and steadily — however slowly increasing series of books for use through life; making his little library, of all the furniture in his room, the most studied and decorated piece ; every volume having 10 its assigned place, like a little statue in its niche.

Nearly all our associations are determined by chance or necessity, and restricted within a narrow circle. We cannot know whom we would; and those whom we know, we cannot have at our side when we most need them. 15 All the higher circles of human intelligence are, to those beneath, only momentarily and partially open. We

may by good fortune obtain a glimpse of a great poet and hear the sound of his voice; or put a question to a man of science, and be answered good-humoredly, and yet these 20 chances we covet, while meantime there is a society continually open to us, of people who will talk to us as long as we like, whatever our rank or occupation; — talk to us

in the best words they can choose, and with thanks if we listen to them. And this society, because it is so numerous and so gentle, and can be kept waiting round us all day long, not to grant audience, but to gain it ! - kings 5 and statesmen lingering patiently in those plainly furnished and narrow anterooms, our bookcase shelves, we make no account of that company, — perhaps never listen to a word they would say, all day long!

Will you go and gossip with your housemaid, or your 10 stable boy, when you may talk with queens and kings;

or flatter yourselves that it is with any worthy consciousness of your own claims to respect that you jostle with the hungry and common crowd, when all the while this

eternal court is open to you, with its society wide as the 15 world, multitudinous as its days, the chosen, and the

mighty, of every place and time ? Into that you may enter always; in that you may take fellowship and rank according to your wish; from that, once entered into it,

you can never be outcast but by your own fault; by your 20 aristocracy of companionship there, your own inherent

aristocracy will be assuredly tested, and the motives with which you strive to take high place in the society of the living, measured, as to all truth and sincerity that are in

them, by the place you desire to take in this company of 25 the Dead.

No book is worth anything which is not worth much ; nor is it serviceable until it has been read, and reread, and

loved, and loved again; and marked, so that you can refer to the passages you want in it, as a soldier can seize the weapon he needs in an armory, or a housewife bring the spice she needs from her store. Bread of flour is good ; but there is bread, sweet as honey, if we would eat o it, in a good book.

Abridged.

TO DAVID IN HEAVEN

ROBERT BUCHANAN

Robert BUCHANAN (1841–1901) was a Scottish poet.

Note. These lines are in memory of Buchanan's friend, David Gray, another poet of Scottish birth, who died in early manhood.

10

Lo! the slow moon roaming

Through fleecy mists of gloaming, Furrowing with pearly edge the jewel-powdered sky!

Lo, the bridge moss-laden,

Arched like foot of maiden,
And on the bridge, in silence, looking upward, you 15

and I!
Lo, the pleasant season

Of reaping and of mowing —
The round still moon above, - beneath, the river duskily

flowing !

Violet-colored shadows,

Blown from scented meadows,
Float o'er us to the pine wood dark from yonder dim

corn ridge;
The little river gushes
Through shady sedge and rushes,

[graphic]

And gray gnats murmur o'er the pools, beneath the

mossy bridge ; –
And you and I stand darkly,

O’er the keystone leaning,
And watch the pale, mesmeric moon, in the time of

gleaners and gleaning.

In some heaven star-lighted,

Are you now united Unto the poet spirits that you loved, of English race ?

Is Chatterton still dreaming ?

And, to give it stately seeming,
Has the music of his last strong song passed into

Keats's face?
Is Wordsworth there? and Spenser ?

Beyond the grave's black portals,
Can the grand eye of Milton see the glory he sang to

mortals ?

10

But ah, that pale moon roaming

Through fleecy mists of gloaming, Furrowing with pearly edge the jewel-powdered sky,

And ah, the days departed

With your friendship gentle-hearted, And ah, the dream we dreamt that night, together, 15

you and I!

Is it fashioned wisely,

To help us or to blind us, That at each height we gain we turn, and behold a

heaven behind us?

Chatterton: a gifted English poet who died at the age of nineteen. Keats, Wordsworth, Spenser, Milton : English poets of high rank. — his last song : a sonnet, beginning “ Bright star, would I were steadfast as thou art.”. mesmeric: the moon was formerly supposed to have a strong influence upon the mind. Trace the history of the word lunatic.

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