Thursday 27 June 2024

Oxford Bookshops

That they are pleasing, all who ever buy
In Oxford shops can surely testify:
Of all the shops I name or do not name
I and their other buyers can make claim
That, of our purchased parcels laid in pile
Each one was rendered friendly, with a smile,
A charming word or jest that gave a grace
Of silver to the penny’s commonplace,
So that a spirit companied the thing
Borne in the paper package tied with string,
So that it seemed a thing not bought and sold
But given, out of friendship and worth gold.

It is a pleasant pastime to go eyeing
Where things attract and tempt you into buying;
The dustless shining things which subtly wait
Yourself, the willing fish for this the bait.
Among these verses I have written down
The fruits of shopping about Oxford town,
Each with the happy memory of faces
Who greet me friendly at the customed places,
And of the streets in which the windows shine,
That are the magnets to these friends of mine;
For here, new pleasures purchasers attend,
They find the looked-for treasure and a friend.

I seek few treasures, except books, the tools
Of those celestial souls the world calls fools.
Happy the morning giving time to stop
An hour at once in Basil Blackwell’s shop,
There, in the Broad, within whose booky house
Half England’s scholars nibble books or browse.
Where’er they wander blessed fortune theirs,
Books to the ceiling, other books upstairs.
Books, doubtless in the cellar, and behind
Romantic bays where iron ladders wind,
And in odd nooks sometimes in little shelves,
Lintot’s and Tonson’s calf-bound dainty twelves.
From John Masefield, ‘Shopping in Oxford’ in Poems by John Masefield (London: William Heinemann, 1946; 1923), pp. 870-871.