Saturday, April 05, 2008

There is no frigate like a book — a National Poetry Month post

I spent today in the company of readers. Passionate readers. Indeed, passionate re-readers, as I spent the afternoon with Jane Austen fans, and many if not most of them have read all her novels more than once. Our speaker was Claudia Johnson, the Murray Professor of English at Princeton University and chair of their English department. Claudia (in the process of final edits on her forthcoming book, Jane Austen's Cults and Cultures) spoke about Victorian opinions of Jane Austen and her work, and on the ability of Austen's books to transport us to a different place and time.

So I got to thinking of one of my favorite poems about the magic of books. It's by Emily Dickinson, and is her poem #99. As a bonus, it's got a bit of slant rhyme in it in the first stanza (away and poetry):

There is no frigate like a book
To take us lands away,
Nor any coursers like a page
Of prancing poetry.

This traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of toll;
How frugal is the chariot
That bears a human soul!

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