Thursday, January 29, 2009

To an Old Book,
by Edgar Greenleaf Bradford

This poem, from Howard S. Ruddy's compilation, Book Lovers Verse (Bowen-Merrill, Indianapolis, 1899), speaks to all bibliophiles in describing that instant bonding experienced with the serendipitous discovery of an interesting old book.
Old Book forlorn, compiled of ancient thought,
Now bought and sold, and once more sold and bought,
At last left stranded, where in time I spied,
Borne thither by an impecunious tide;
Well thumbed, stain-marked, but new and dear to me,
My purse and thy condition well agree.
I saw thee, yearned, then took thee to my arms,
For fellowship in misery has charms.
How long, I know not, thou hadst lain unscanned,
Thy mellow leaves untouched by loving hand--
For there thou was beneath a dusty heap,
Unknown. I raised thee, therefore let me reap
A harvest from thy treasures. Thee I found--
Yea, thee I'll cherish; though new friends abound,
I'll still preserve thee as the years go round.
So who was Edgar Greenleaf Bradford?

A forgotten poet of the late nineteenth century, it appears, though he shares an unusual middle name with a fellow poet of the same century, who "made it," the better-known John Greenleaf Whittier. Was the 19th century not big enough for two Greenleafs?

I can only find a few fragments about Edgar Greenleaf Bradford, one of which was a review of his book, Search Lights and Guide Lines, circa 1890s. The reviewer's comments on Bradford's writing style are not flattering:
"The author has rather a cumbersome vocabulary, and in his endeavors to be concise is sometimes obscure."
So in this modern age of the google search, that's all that can be found about a published poet's work? Sad. But his stuffy Victorian language still gave a good account of what it feels like to find an old book to your liking.

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