The Library "The Lasting Mansions Of The Dead"

Timothy Steele

"The Lasting Mansions Of The Dead"

Context: In 1780–1781 George Crabbe was poverty-stricken, and publishers refused him any help. In despair he wrote to Edmund Burke, whom he did not know personally. Burke, moved by the poet's plight and his appeal, sent money and a promise of influence. As a result of the great man's help, The Library was published, and, urged by his benefactor, Crabbe became an Anglican clergyman and received the post of curate at Aldeburgh, his native town in Suffolk. In this poem he discusses many topics related to a library, such as the consolation to the mind afforded by books, an author's hope of speaking through his writings to posterity, the arrangement of books on the shelves, the mode of publishing in pamphlet form, books on medicine and law, and the apprehensions suffered by authors. The quotation is from his discussion of how writers speak to later generations through their works. The poet says, "Delightful prospect! when we leave behind/ A worthy offspring of the fruitful mind!" He goes on to comment, however, that all books are not noble products; some works are better guides than others. He observes that people come to a library and its books for many reasons. Some come to escape their griefs, others to feed their curiosity and assuage its hunger, and still others to find inspiration. The poet then speaks of his own feelings about a library:

With awe, around these silent walks I tread;
These are the lasting mansions of the dead:–
"The dead," methinks a thousand tongues reply;
"These are the tombs of such as cannot die!
Crown'd with eternal fame, they sit sublime,
And laugh at all the little strife of time."