Lament to a BookBinder, and My Reply

31 01 2010

Well, it’s a new year and time for a new look on the blog.  I’ve had the same template since 2007, and things have changed around here!

I found this on my pages, and didn’t want to lose it from the web completely, so it will now live here as a post, with this caveat:

Potential Clients – please don’t let this frighten you. Too much 🙂

In 2003, this was posted to the Book Arts List. Bieler Press has printed a broadside of Non Libri Sed Liberi , known as the Lament To A Bookbinder, from Kenneth Grahame’s essay of the same title (from The Pagan Papers, 1898)

Writing in 1898 Kenneth Grahame noted that:

“As a general rule, the man in the habit of murdering bookbinders, though he performs a distinct service to society, only wastes his own time and takes no personal advantage”

In 1904 Grahame expanded on that thought, perhaps because some book had still not been completed/delivered

“Not in that he bindeth books – for the fair binding is the final crown
and flower of painful achievement – but because he bindeth not: because
the weary weeks lapse by and turn to months, and the months to years,
and
still the binder bindeth not: and the heart grows sick with hope
deferred.

Each morn the maiden binds her hair, each spring the honeysuckle binds
the cottage porch, each autumn the harvester binds his sheaves, each
winter the iron frost binds lake and stream, and still the binder
bindeth
not.

Then a secret voice whispereth: ‘Arise, be a man, and slay him! Take
him
grossly, full of bread, with all his crimes broadblown as flush as May;
at gaming, swearing, or about some act that hath no resish of salvation
in it!’

But when the deed is done, and the floor strewn with fragments of
binder –
still the books remain unbound…”

And I replied:

The BookBinder Cometh
in her good time
Be ye faithful and rest
knowing the Muse guides
the binding hand
Should not a work of excellence
be worth the wait,
even as the maiden’s hair does grey,
and winter’s frost deepen?

As Seasons do they turn
so coins turn, from palm to palm
golden in the sun,
and When they drop
from thy purse
as apples drop in
bountiful harvest
Know thy book will
be come to thee.
Tell me not of your
overwrought spending,
when I spend bone and
finger and breath
without recompense
for your Reward.

As for slaying,
that choice be mine
for the frequency with which
seeking boots cross
the threshhold
Beware, for sharpened knives
rest atop my bench.
I would as soon slit flesh
than paper.
Begone, beggar,
and return when you
are sent for.

(beth heller, 2003)

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3 responses

5 02 2010
Beth Doyle

This is a beautiful poem Beth. I’m going to print it out and put it on the wall by my bench. And when someone comes looking for something I’ve had for so long, I’ll just point with my knife and say “read that and begone.”

5 02 2010
bethhellerconservation

Ha! Thanks! It was a lot of fun to write. Also, I love the image of you waving your knife a people,

18 02 2014
sagoontuesdaysonya

bahahahahahaha – it is lovely to know that tardiness , both professional and financial, is a loving tradition of our dear trade 😉

I have shared your lovely poem on my blog, with acknowledgement, of course . x

Sonya
Sago on Tuesdays bindery, Australia.

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