I recently came across this poem, “The Library” (1781), written by George Crabbe (1754-1832) while reading an article about reading. It is a lengthy poem, which concerns the soothing effect books have on us in this world of misery and trouble. Immediately I fell in love with it. It takes some slow and careful reading to absorb Crabbe’s thought and point, but it is worth it! I will only quote a portion of the poem, but you can find the entire poem online at places such as Project Gutenberg (here).
Also, here is a biographical piece on Crabbe found on Wikipedia:
He was born in Aldeburgh, Suffolk, the son of a tax collector, and developed his love of poetry as a child. In 1768, he was apprenticed to a local doctor, who taught him little, and in 1771 he changed masters and moved to Woodbridge. There he met his future wife, Sarah Elmy, who accepted his proposal and had the faith and patience not only to wait for Crabbe but to encourage his verse writing. His first major work, a poem entitled “Inebriety”, was self-published in 1775. By this time he had completed his medical training, and had decided to take up writing seriously. In 1780, he went to London, where he had little success, but eventually made an impression on Edmund Burke, who helped him have his poem, The Library, published in 1781. In the meantime, Crabbe’s religious nature had made itself felt, and he was ordained a clergyman and became chaplain to the Duke of Rutland at Belvoir Castle in Leicestershire.
Not Hope herself, with all her flattering art, Can cure this stubborn sickness of the heart: The soul disdains each comfort she prepares, And anxious searches for congenial cares; Those lenient cares, which with our own combined, By mix'd sensations ease th' afflicted mind, And steal our grief away, and leave their own behind; A lighter grief! which feeling hearts endure Without regret, nor e'en demand a cure. But what strange art, what magic can dispose The troubled mind to change its native woes? Or lead us willing from ourselves, to see Others more wretched, more undone than we? This BOOKS can do;--nor this alone; they give New views to life, and teach us how to live; They soothe the grieved, the stubborn they chastise, Fools they admonish, and confirm the wise: Their aid they yield to all: they never shun The man of sorrow, nor the wretch undone: Unlike the hard, the selfish, and the proud, They fly not sullen from the suppliant crowd; Nor tell to various people various things, But show to subjects what they show to kings. Come, Child of Care! to make thy soul serene, Approach the treasures of this tranquil scene; Survey the dome, and, as the doors unfold, The soul's best cure, in all her cares, behold! Where mental wealth the poor in thought may find, And mental physic the diseased in mind; See here the balms that passion's wounds assuage; See coolers here, that damp the fire of rage; Here alt'ratives, by slow degrees control The chronic habits of the sickly soul; And round the heart and o'er the aching head, Mild opiates here their sober influence shed. Now bid thy soul man's busy scenes exclude, And view composed this silent multitude:- Silent they are--but though deprived of sound, Here all the living languages abound; Here all that live no more; preserved they lie, In tombs that open to the curious eye.