Thursday, March 16, 2023

Reading In Bed As A Fine Art (#poem)

Reading In Bed As A Fine Art

That reading in bed is a rite with a ritual,
    Those couch-cognoscenti our essayists teach;
Ye novices, learn from us aesthetes habitual
    The bed written rules that the essayists preach.
Retire to your room with the paraphernalia,
    Some hoary old volume, your brier and pouch,
And garbing yourself in nocturnal regalia,
    Then kindle the candle that stands by the couch.

For bed books, no new books we essayists handle;
    For night lights, no bright lights are known to the game—
A second-hand book by a flickering candle,
    A tattered old tome by a tremulous flame.
We cling to the candle, so human, appealing;
    It weeps as it works, shedding tallowy tears;
So second-hand books touch us readers of feeling
    With lachrymose thoughts of delectable years.

How fondly we dandle in candle-lit darkness
    Fair folios veiled in voluptuous vellum,
And thrill to the mad Latin grammar of Harkness
    Or rakish old Caesar's wild Gallicum Bellum.
How dull and drab novels or newspaper colyums!
    Ye tyros, give ear to us urging instead
The old broken volumes, the vellum-bound volumes,
    The worm-eaten volumes we lug to our bed.

-Keith Preston

Keith Preston (1884-1927) wrote a column for Chicago Daily News, which often included poetry.  I suppose Ogden Nash is the best-known newspaper poet, but it used to be a common genre, and there are a bunch of fun things to be found: Don Marquis, Eugene Field, etc.

That's the Chicago Daily News building up above, where presumably Preston worked. The building's still there, but it's not the Daily News, which folded when I was a teenager, and was my parents' newspaper until it wasn't...