Thursday, December 26, 2013

"The Song of the Books" by Isabella R. Hess (1902)


With eyes that were weary and red,

        And a mind that was far from bright,

A man he sat by his study fire

        In the lonesome hours of night.

                Read! Read! Read!

So jaded and worn he looks

        That I almost shrank as I heard him sing

This mournful "Song of the Books.

                Books, books, books!

On the table, shelf, and floor!

                And books! books! books!

You can't even count them more!

        And the presses work night and day,

And pour them out like a flood,

        And they crash on us weary readers

With a great and awful thud.

                Read! Read! Read!

You haven't got time to wink!

                Read! Read! Read!

You can't even stop to think!

        For the books they pour right on

In a strong, resistless stream,

        Till they fill the blessed hours of day,

And they color the nightly dream.

And you dream of the ladies and lords

        With a stiff, uncommon way

That you learned to know in the novel

        That you read but yesterday;

And you knew, as you turned the pages,

        If they could come back to life

They'd finish that daring author

        If they had to use a knife.

And the days of the dear old colonies!

        You dream of them, every one!

For the quaint colonial novels

        Are sold in the bulk by the ton!

And you blush as you dream about them,

        For you never knew before

That Washington died at Gettysburg

        In the French and Indian war.

And Benjamin Franklin, respected,

        So dreadfully was he love-lorn

That he loved a historical lady

        Twenty years before she was born.

And your dream is of crimson color,

        For the pages with blood were dim,

And the hero had lives so many

        That a cat wasn't in it with him.

O Thackeray, Dickens, and Eliot,

        In bindings unfingered and prime,

Don't fancy that you are forgotten;

        We'll read you whenever there's time!

                Oh, books, books, books!

We can't read the best amongst you,

        For we've got to be up to date!

And there are books of poetry, too,

        Of their manifold wonders we've heard,

And we've got to wade through them all,

        Tho' we don't understand a word!

O William the Great, of Avon!

        Up there so calm on the shelf!

Why can't you be reincarnated

        And teach them a thing yourself?

And the wondrous books with a purpose,

        A full dozen score, or more,

That make you pore over questions

        That ne'er troubled man before!

Has the spinster the right to marry?

        Is Wagner good for the soul?

And if women are given the ballot

        Should the babies go to the poll?

                Oh, books! books! books!

        It ends with a doleful wail!

                Oh, books! books! books!

        What an awful grewsome tale!

How the writers, they write! write! write!

        And the printers, they print! print! print!

And the readers, they read! read! read!

        And add to the publishers' mint.

O writer, with restless pen,

        Have ye no heart in your breast?

And printer, with hungry press,

        Don't you fancy that you need a rest?

Just give us a chance to breathe

        Before you go at it again!

Do you think we are reading machines,

        Or just plain, every-day men?

                Oh, books! books! books!

        What don't they do in your name?

                Oh, books! books! books!

        Who can it be that is to blame?

With brain that was all worn out,

        And with wan and weary looks,

That man collapsed by his study fire

        While singing the "Song of the Books."

                ISABELLA R. HESS.

Read before Troy Literary Association in May, 1902.

The Jewish Messenger. August 8, 1902: 1 cols 1-2.

"The Library Committee reported that 35 books had been purchased and added to the East Side Branch of the Troy Public Library as a memorial to Miss Isabella R. Hess and Miss Agnes C. Sims.

"East Side Group Lists Winners in Poster Contest." Times Record. May 25, 1940: 3 col 5.

"The Sisterhood of the Third Street Temple opened the year with a meeting in the vestry rooms last night conducted by Mrs. John K. Newell. Miss Frances Joseph read a tribute to Miss Isabella R. Hess and the group discussed a memorial plaque to be presented during the coming holidays."

"Sisterhood Opens Season at Meeting." Times Record. September 7, 1939: 18 col 4.

        Miss Isabella R. Hess, teacher of English in the Troy public schools for forty years, most of the time at the East Side's School 16, died at her late home, 39 Pinewoods Avenue, yesterday afternoon following a long illness.

        Born in Troy, she had been a resident of the city all her life. She retired from the teaching profession in October, 1935.

Active in P.-T. A. Work.

        The Parent-Teacher movement spread to Troy early in her career as a teacher, and she took an active part in helping interested parents and other teachers to establish the young organization on a sound basis. She took a particular interest in the Parent-Teacher Association of School 16. She was once vice president of the association, which honored her several years ago with a life membership.

        Miss Hess also was one of the founders of the Elementary Teachers' Association.

        Interested in civic affairs, Miss Hess was an active member of the East Side Community Association and at the time of her death was a member of the board of directors and library committee of the association.

Was Intensely Religious.

        Intensely religious, she was the author of several hymns that now appear in the hymnal of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations. She also edited and was one of the founders of "Young Israel," a publication for young Jewish children. She was a member of the Third Street Temple and, for a long time, was a member of the board of directors of the Temple Sisterhood. For many years she was superintendent and teacher of the Sunday school.

        Survivors are a sister, Miss Cora Hess of Troy; four nieces, Mrs. Myron W. Jacobs, Miss Rosa H. Jacobs and Miss Jeanette I. Jacobs of Troy, and Mrs. Harold A. Gordon of Schenectady, and a nephew, Milton A. Wertheim of Schenectady.

        The funeral will be held tomorrow at 2:30 p.m. with Rabbi Alan S. Green, D.D. of the Third Street Temple, officiating.

"Isabella R. Hess, Long in Schools, Dies at Residence; Funeral of Retired Teacher Will Be Held at 2:30 P.M. Tomorrow; Ill Long Time." Times Record. August 3, 1939: 10 col 1.

The Ark, like Young Israel, was published in Cincinnati by Simon Bacharach. When Bacharach died in 1923, one writer testified that he had been the Ark’s guide and inspiration. For its entire existence, the Ark was under the managing editorship of Isabella R. Hess (Hess as a young child had been a reader of the Sabbath Visitor). She was a frequent contributor to the magazine — almost every issue carried at least one story or poem she had written — and besides other original contributions, she drew material from printed books, journals, and newspapers.

Cohen, Naomi W. "The Ark: An Early Twentieth-Century Periodical." American Jewish Archives Journal 56(1-2). 3-4.

Isabella R. Hess (1872-1939)

Berith Sholom Cemetery, Troy, NY

No comments:

Post a Comment