The sunlight filters through the panes
of book-shop windows, pockmarked grey
By years of grimy city rains,
And falls in mild, dust-laden ray
Across the stock, in shelf and stack,
Of this old bookshop-man who brought,
To a shabby shop in a cul-de-sac,
Three hundred years of print and thought.
Like a cloak hangs the bookshop smell,
soothing, unique and reminding:
The book-collector knows its spell,
Subtle hints of books and binding—
In the fine, black bookshop dust paper,
printer’s-ink and leather,
Binder’s-glue and paper-rust.
And time, all mixed together.
‘Blake’s Poems, Sir—ah, yes, I know,
Bohn did it in the old black binding,
In ’83.’ Then shuffles slow
To scan his shelves, intent on finding
This book of songs he has not heard,
With that deaf searcher’s hopeful frown
Who knows the nightingale,
a bird With feathers grey and reddish-brown.
The British cricket commentator – I can remember him on the radio (in the UK) as a child, but not being a cricket tragic I never knew that he wrote poetry, until years later.
As I looked at the books stacked on the pavement near Churchgate in Bombay (Mumbai now), his poem came to mind. Must admit I couldn’t remember it all, and had to look it up.
He originally wrote it for a friend, after seeing more than fifty book shops in Hay on Wye, on the boarder between England and Wales.
Pavement book sellers Mumbai – blue tint due to the bus windows.
The above book seller in Hay on Wye was not happy with Kindle, he calls himself Prince Derek Fitz-Pitt Booth Addyman – the self proclaimed King of Hey on Wye – he proclaimed his title in 1977.
In the mid 60’s he visited the US to collect books from libraries that were closing, and he shipped the old books back to Hey on Wye to help create what we know today.
Hay on Wye sellers could be a standard shop or just an open stall in the grounds of the old castle.
Each year they hold a festival of books , which President Clinton refereed to in 2001, as the ‘Woodstock of the mind’.
Hey on Wye is in Wales, but the Royal Mail considers it is still in Herefordshire –
As we walked in to the town we ‘crossed’ the border . . .
There was no misunderstanding for this home owner as to which country he lived in – the house was right on the border. The Welsh Dragon said it all . . . .