Caroliniana Columns
Newsletter of the University South Caroliniana Society
Autumn 1999

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Library Commemorated in Poem, ca. 1940s

The following poem, in the style of Clement Clarke Moore's "The Night Before Christmas," was found among World War II-era letters written by former South Caroliniana Library student assistants serving in the U.S. Armed forces. The letters were addressed to Dr. Robert L. Meriwether, the Library's first director; Margaret Babcock Meriwether, his wife; and Thelma M. Reid, the assistant director.

Though 'twas dark in the stack room,
Through the rest of the house,
Not a creature was stirring,
Not even a mouse.
The attendant was draped
By the Call Desk with care,
Hoping his patrons
Of heavy books would beware.
And close by the Charge Desk,
So carefully kept,
Were such stacks of old newspapers
No athlete could have leapt.
The attendant herself
Was alert and spry,
In the event a visitor
That way should pass by.
In less than a flash,
Her X-ray vision could tell
If 'twere a book-poacher
Or mere harmless bibliophile.
They wait by their desks,
Unflinching and sure;
(No sentinels to their posts
Could ever be truer.)
But, Hark! - on the stairway,
A foot-fall is heard;
The attendant looks up
With a glance and a word,
But the visitor passes,
On tiptoe, within,
And, soon, silence unruffled
Reigns once again.
The hour grows late;
The moon climbs in the sky.
A low mutter is heard,
And then a long sigh -
The attendant grows weary;
Her interest doth fail,
And she looks with repulsion
At a 1905 Daily Mail.
At ten on the dot,
A quiet whisper is heard,
And visitors file out
With a soft farewell word.
"Now dash away, dash away,
Dash away, all";
The bolt has been slipped,
And dark is the hall.
'Tis dark in the reading room -
The attendants have fled,
And now each is deep snuggled
In his own little bed.
But friend, but 'tis not sugarplums
that dance in their dreams,
'tis the vision of a paycheck
that in the haze gleams!

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