The Bookworm's Story

Thro ' Papyrus with wisdom stored
In ancient days my way I bored;
Ah, mem'ry of that far-off time,
And succulence of Nilus' slime!
'Twas nature's paper bred my kind
And nurs'd fat worms of rev'rent mind!
The giants we before the flood,
With reptiles bred in Egypt's mud! —
Lost kindred mine that went to ash
With Alexandria's lore and trash.
You'd scarce believe the diet strange
Thro' which the Bookworm now must range.
Cotton paper was plaguy stuff;
And linen rag was bad enough;
But things have come to such a pass
That paper's made of straw and grass!
Esparto, ramie, young bamboo,
All these and more I've eaten thro'! —
But soft; for now I must relate
Th' apotheosis of my fate:
Dyspeptic 'mid these modern books,
I sought old haunts and shady nooks,
Intent on ancient tomes forgot
That oft had been knocked down by lot;
But mov'd — by what I cannot tell —
Unless its most unusual smell —
I tried a book of goodly size,
The hardest it of all my tries!
Away I bored, but I was floored,
Ye Gods! the thing was made of board .
Yes, wood must now their paper give —
Stuff that ye may not eat, and live!
In fearful pain I lay me down,
And dreamt as people do who drown:

I dreamt of Egypt's sunny clime,
The Bookworm's ancient halcyon time.
Of modern ink the first time quaffed,
And once more rued the fiery draught.
This strange admixture seems to be
Much like the mortal's eau-de-vie ;
It makes one gay and feel so queer,
I oft have crow'd like chanticleer!
Once more 'mid cobwebs, dry-rot, dust,
I bored thro' Gutenberg and Fust.

On Caxton fed and Pynson, too,
And many an Elzevir drilled thro';
So dreaming, I quite vainly tried
To rouse myself — I nearly died!
For Something held me in its thrall
That made me grow both stout and tall!
Then I awoke, and with a shock —
It was the hand of E LLIOT S TOCK ;
I rubb'd my eyes and gaz'd around,
Books lin'd the walls from ceil to ground.
Thro' many I had bor'd my way!
You'll scarce believe me when I say
The knowledge I had eaten thro'
Straight to my brain now upward flew!
New life and purpose thro' me ran —
I found myself a living man!
S TOCK moved his hand, and, smiling, said,
" Interpret now the mighty dead!
The world we live in disbelieves
In ancient books and yellow leaves:
Arise! unlock the B OOKWORM'S store,
And tell us of the books of yore! "
He gave me paper, quills, and ink,
While I could only stare and blink;
Command and will were in his eye,
As he resum'd, without reply:
" Once foe of books, as friend now live
To all who need, good book-lore give;
Then you we'll hail as chief book-lover,
And place your portrait on the cover.

So here T HE B OOKWORM toiling spins,
To expiate his many sins.
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