Speaking with Spirits
I wander into the library and instantly smell it. A scent that is musty and stale, yet oddly pleasing, for its aroma is so well known that it fills my being with comfortable familiarity. Looking around me, I see the cause of it. Books. Hundreds and thousands all within reach, their soft covers caressing my vision and luring me towards them. But worse is the bait they use. One so irresistible that I know I can't live without. Words. Each book's call slowly drawing me in; the books ready for me to release their contents. I pick one off the shelf, and free its coating, a shell of murky, dark colors. As though I had just liberated a force field, any sound, the creaking of the wooden floors, or the turning of pages in the background is muted, and my eyes are hypnotized by the pages' black and white whorls. In the frame of my psyche, I hear a sound. A sad, frail sound, one filled with great loss and regret, one I can barely make out… until it grows stronger. Then distinctly I hear it mutter, like a raven, quick to flutter,
"From childhood's hour I have not been
As others were – I have not seen
As others saw – I could not bring
My passions from a common spring –
From the same source I have not taken
My sorrows – I could not awaken
My heart to joy at the same tone –
And all I ever lov'd – I lov'd alone –
And at the end, so tired, so weary,
The soft head bows, the sweet eyes close;
The faithful heart yields to repose.
But this was not to be so,
For my soul acquired tone,
I went abroad,
I took vigorous exercise,
I breathed the free air of Heaven,
And I read no bugaboo tales – such as this.
In short I became a new man,
And lived life."*
Having completed its mission, the book seems to shut itself and fall asleep, the dark, sad voice pulling away from my mind like darkness pulls away from light. The book rests in my hands, exhausted, and enjoys a respite from its storytelling while I lay it back on the shelf. Then, filled with a new wisdom I have not known before, I sigh, close my eyes, reopen them, and choose another book. This one, golden-rimmed, and wrapped in blue lace, radiates a feeling of summer, feelings, cleverness, and wit. Liberating its internal soul, comes a voice soft and musical, filled with spirit and character.
"Pemberley was now Georgiana's home; and the attachment of the sisters was exactly what Darcy had hoped to see. They were able to love each other even as well as they intended. Georgiana had the highest opinion in the world of Elizabeth; though at first she often listened with an astonishment bordering on alarm at her lively, sportive, manner of talking to her brother. He, who had always inspired in herself a respect which almost overcame her affection, she now saw the object of open pleasantry. Her mind received knowledge which had never before fallen in her way. By Elizabeth's instructions, she began to comprehend that a woman may take liberties with her husband which a brother will not always allow in a sister more than ten years younger than himself. "**
Putting the book away, I find myself staring straight ahead, yet at nothing in particular. Smiling, I experience only one sensation: happiness. And I walk out of that library radiating pure, unadulterated joy.
* = "From childhoods hour…" to "…I lov'd alone" is from the first half of Edgar Allan Poe's "Alone."
"So tired, so weary…" to "…heart yields to repose" is from the very end of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Beloved Physician."
"For my soul acquired tone…" to "…And I lived" is from the very end of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Premature Burial."
** = This excerpt (beginning at "Pemberley was now…" and ending at "…a sister more than ten years younger than himself.") is from chapter 61 of Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice."