The Rich Man's Library
: Literary Fables Of Yriarte
In Madrid, there was a rich man--and, they say,
That ten times as stupid, as rich, he was too;--
Whose magnificent mansion made ample display
Of furniture gorgeous and costly and new.
"It vexes me much, that a house so complete,"--
To this wealthy dolt, said a neighbor one day,--
"Should a Library lack,--an ornament great,--
So useful and elegant, too, by the way.
"To be sure," said the other, "how strange that the case
To me never occurred; I'll supply the want soon.
There is time enough yet; and, in the first place,
I devote to the purpose the northern saloon.
Send a cabinet-maker to put up some shelves,
Capacious, well finished,--no matter for cost,
Then, in buying some books, we will busy ourselves;--
To make it all perfect, no time shall be lost."
The cases are done; the owner he comes,
Inspects and approves: "And now,"--said the snob,--
"I must go out and look up some twelve thousand tomes.
'Pon my honor, 'twill be a pretty good job.
I am almost discouraged--of money a deal
It will take; and 'tis work for a century, too.
Will it not be much better the cases to fill,
With books made of pasteboard, as good to the view?
Just think now--why not? A painter I know,
For such little jobs precisely the man;
Can write titles out fair, and make pasteboard to show
Like leather or parchment, if any one can."
And now to the work,--books precious and rare,
Both modern and ancient, he caused to be painted;
And, besides printed volumes, he also takes care
To have manuscripts, too, in same guise represented.
The precious old fool then, each day, set apart
Some hours to wander his library round;
Till, learning the titles of many by heart,
He thought himself grown to a scholar profound.
Truly, what better needs the student,--contented
Of books, nothing more than their titles, to know
Than to own a collection right skilfully painted,
Of genuine volumes presenting the show?