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De Amicitiis

 Though care and strife
Elsewhere be rife,
Upon my word I do not heed 'em;
In bed I lie
With books hard by,
And with increasing zest I read 'em.
Propped up in bed, So much I've read Of musty tomes that I've a headful Of tales and rhymes Of ancient times, Which, wife declares, are "simply dreadful!" They give me joy Without alloy; And isn't that what books are made for? And yet--and yet-- (Ah, vain regret!) I would to God they all were paid for! No festooned cup Filled foaming up Can lure me elsewhere to confound me; Sweeter than wine This love of mine For these old books I see around me! A plague, I say, On maidens gay; I'll weave no compliments to tell 'em! Vain fool I were, Did I prefer Those dolls to these old friends in vellum! At dead of night My chamber's bright Not only with the gas that's burning, But with the glow Of long ago,-- Of beauty back from eld returning.
Fair women's looks I see in books, I see them, and I hear their laughter,-- Proud, high-born maids, Unlike the jades Which men-folk now go chasing after! Herein again Speak valiant men Of all nativities and ages; I hear and smile With rapture while I turn these musty, magic pages.
The sword, the lance, The morris dance, The highland song, the greenwood ditty, Of these I read, Or, when the need, My Miller grinds me grist that's gritty! When of such stuff We've had enough, Why, there be other friends to greet us; We'll moralize In solemn wise With Plato or with Epictetus.
Sneer as you may, I'm proud to say That I, for one, am very grateful To Heaven, that sends These genial friends To banish other friendships hateful! And when I'm done, I'd have no son Pounce on these treasures like a vulture; Nay, give them half My epitaph, And let them share in my sepulture.
Then, when the crack Of doom rolls back The marble and the earth that hide me, I'll smuggle home Each precious tome, Without a fear my wife shall chide me!

Poem by Eugene Field
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