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    To the Gentle Reader

    by Andrew Lang
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    'A French writer (whom I love well) speaks of three kinds of companions,--men, women, and books.'

    ~ Sir John Davys.

    Three kinds of companions, men, women, and books,
    Were enough, said the elderly Sage, for his ends.
    And the women we deem that he chose for their looks,
    And the men for their cellars: the books were his friends:
    'Man delights me not,' often, 'nor woman,' but books
    Are the best of good comrades in loneliest nooks.

    For man will be wrangling--for woman will fret
    About anything infinitesimal small:
    Like the Sage in our Plato, I'm 'anxious to get
    On the side'--on the sunnier side--'of a wall.'
    Let the wind of the world toss the nations like rooks,
    If only you'll leave me at peace with my Books.

    And which are my books? why, 'tis much as you please,
    For, given 'tis a book, it can hardly be wrong,
    And Bradshaw himself I can study with ease,
    Though for choice I might call for a Sermon or Song;
    And Locker on London, and Sala on Cooks,
    'Tom Brown,' and Plotinus, they're all of them Books.

    There's Fielding to lap one in currents of mirth;
    There's Herrick to sing of a flower or a fay;
    Or good Maitre Francoys to bring one to earth,
    If Shelley or Coleridge have snatched one away:
    There's Muller on Speech, there is Gurney on Spooks,
    There is Tylor on Totems, there's all sorts of Books.

    There's roaming in regions where every one's been,
    Encounters where no one was ever before,
    There's 'Leaves' from the Highlands we owe to the Queen,
    There's Holly's and Leo's adventures in Kor:
    There's Tanner who dwelt with Pawnees and Chinooks,
    You can cover a great deal of country in Books.

    There are books, highly thought of, that nobody reads,
    There is Geusius' dearly delectable tome
    Of the Cannibal--he on his neighbour who feeds--
    And in blood-red morocco 'tis bound, by Derome;
    There's Montaigne here (a Foppens), there's Roberts (on Flukes),
    There's Elzevirs, Aldines, and Gryphius' Books.

    There's Bunyan, there's Walton, in early editions,
    There's many a quarto uncommonly rare;
    There's quaint old Quevedo adream with his visions,
    There's Johnson the portly, and Burton the spare;
    There's Boston of Ettrick, who preached of the 'Crooks
    In the Lots' of us mortals, who bargain for Books.

    There's Ruskin to keep one exclaiming 'What next?'
    There's Browning to puzzle, and Gilbert to chaff,
    And Marcus Aurelius to soothe one if vexed,
    And good MARCUS TVAINUS to lend you a laugh;
    There be capital tomes that are filled with fly-hooks,
    And I've frequently found them the best kind of Books.
    If you're writing a To the Gentle Reader essay and need some advice, post your Andrew Lang essay question on our Facebook page where fellow bookworms are always glad to help!

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