La Poesie: Poem With No End

I read you as I read my favourite book:
Oft I return to the familiar pages;
I smooth the creases; through the shade of ages
I always recognise your youthful look.

You are only work that never ends;
You as an author leave my critic’s smitten;
Your name’s a secret; and the text’s rewritten
So many times, and yet as new it stands.

I would that I have now learnt and known
All of your signs, and words, and twists of story, –
But memory fails me, and to your glory
I hungrily devour you till dawn.

Those readers are the happiest of all
Who find the new delight in known chapters.
And I will read this novel thereafter,
However many more there are, both new and old.

I read you as I read my favourite book.

© Julia Shuvalova 2007-2008
English translation © Julia Shuvalova 2008

It is probably no wonder that someone like me, with this all-absorbing love for literature, would compare an object of affection to a book. There is this colloquial comparison that men use of women: the most desired female is like “an unread book” – not in the sense that the book never gets to be read, but rather that some mystery always remains. Obviously, this should not be applied only to women, but to men, as well, yet this mystery originates from a strong personal sense of inviduality, whereby one can never entirely sacrifice their interests, passions, and therefore one always remains one’s own person. At the same time, W. H. Auden said that the work of literature is certainly very valuable if every time we read it we can find something new there. I wrote in a miniature work called “On Love” (in Russian) that when we read a book that we love we naturally skip something, not only because we love it so much, but because the book apparently exceeds the scope of our attention, and however much we love it we can never learn it by heart. Thereby we acquire the reason to return to the book, and we return to it as often as we experience the influence of the book on our life. You may have noticed that I often refer to W. S. Maugham’s novel “Theatre”, and indeed, I cannot help feeling some affinity to Julia Lambert. On another hand, I recently began to think just how far a book can influence one’s life, and if it may actually make sense to choose the books depending on the result we want to achieve. The only problem with this for me is that such is a very simple way out.

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