Out of the Shadows (Revised)

Just now the library is full of light. It’s a reference library. As I  look back this place was always in a half light. The titles of the books were barely discernable. It was near my school. Great varnished tables.  Silence.

I visited quite often. I was yearning for something, though I had no idea what. The shelves held navy blue hardbacks from the Oxford University Press. ‘Dominus Illuminatio Mea’. I opened them but I could not read them, take them in. Heavyweight hardback files of current newspapers lay here and there. Silence.

The silence of a library: high ceilings, tall windows. No-one else there. On my way to it once I remember buying a Penguin edition of Wordsworth’s poems. Most of his words were dead on the page to me, yet I sensed a  response to his vision.

And I remember a rambling house in a provincial town. It was always in shadow, its many rooms also full of books. This place was the official bookshop to my University College. I have some of my purchases still – some still scarcely read. This building stood in a broad tree-lined walkway which led from the park above the city to the clocktower. I remember the scent and glow of the October mist as it diffused the mellow light of the street lamps. And I also remember, gratefully, the hot dog stall at the bottom of the hill, near the station.

But the books were then closed to me. The library – and the shop – were in  a  half light. There were other libraries too: some in academe, others within the pomp of Victorian Gothic municipal buildings.

But now I look back to one of them, with its broad tables and bound volumes of newspapers and its books with the motto of Oxford University.

And it is full of light. For a moment I can open and read the books.

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