Monday, September 15, 2008

"This Perpetual Fight" at the Grolier Club

New York readers and friends,

There is an extraordinary exhibition opening at the Grolier Club tomorrow: This Perpetual Fight: Love and Loss in Virginia Woolf's Intimate Circle. It was curated by a close friend of mine and if you are a fan of Bloomsbury or Woolf, it is a must-see collection of first editions, letters, photographs and other ephemera. To whet your appetite, below is a lovely little poem written by Clive Bell (who married Virginia's sister, Vanessa), which he presented to Virginia in December 1909 with the gift of a book. Whenever I give or receive a book, I think of this poem.

Books are the quiet monitor of mind,
They prompt its motions, shape its ways, they find
A road through mazes to the higher ground,
Whence to explore the sky-bound marches.
about us lie the open downs. Our days
Still ask a guide and goad. Wherefore always
We meditate wise thoughts and passionate lays;
Wherefore I send a book.

Books are the mind's last symbol. They express
Its visions and its subtleties—a dress
Material for the immaterial things
That soar to immortality on wings
Of words, and live, by magic of the pen,
Where dead minds live, upon the lips of men
And deep in hearts that stir. Wherefore do I,
Drawing a little near, prophetically,
Send you a book.

Books are the heart's memorial. They shall measure,
In after days, our undiscovered treasure,—
Thrilling self-knowledge, half-divined untold
Yearnings, and tongueless agonies, shall unfold
Or half unfold to half-illumined eyes.
The cypress shadows creeping gnomonwise
Still stretch their purple fingers down the hill
That hangs above Fiesole; and still
Your English fireside glows. Do you most dear
—Sometimes just guessed at, sometimes very near—
Yet always dear and fairest friend, do you
Recall the sunlight and the firelight too?
Recall the pregnant hours, the gay delights,
The pain, the tears maybe, the ravished heights,
The golden moments my cold lines commend,
The days, in memory of which I send
A book?

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