The Oldest Book

By George Sterling

Nor seeking shall you find
The red-bound Book of Elves:
It is not on dusty shelves,
Whose books are for the blind.
It is found, sweet friend,
At a journey's start, not end.
It is nowhere and everywhere—
East, West, North, South.
Its leaves stir in the air
From the loved one's mouth,
As breath moves loosened hair.
When our breaths blend
How shall we read, O friend?
In the heart's need,
How shall we fail to read?
Vainly the scholar delves

In the red-bound Book of Elves:
It is not for his eyes—
The grey elves are too wise.
Blank as the snow each page
That opens to the sage.
He is troubled, for he sees
How we two scan those litanies;
He is angry, for he knows
There are gems beneath the snows.
We shall briefly pity him
Who are as seraphim,
Reading those words of flame,
Ever alike, but never found the same.
Not alone shall you read
The red-bound Book of Elves:
Two shall read, and not one,
But those two are ourselves.
But we shall find no need
For taper, lamp, or sun:
Shut eyes, and it is done!
Only the fall of lid
Reveals the tale there hid.
Then in amazing light
Words of iris leap to sight;
Then indeed that untaught art
Burns deeply in the heart.
Shut eyes and see!
Ah! Read with me!

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