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The Compendium of Knowledge

From The Seattle Star, November 16, 1912. By Berton Braley.

 I bought a cyclopedia
     (Ten volumes, bound in calf).
 Said I, “My reading’s been too light;
     All froth and useless chaff;
 I’m really ignorant, I’ve been
     Too frivolous, by half!”
 Upon the shelf I placed the set
     And gazed on it with pride,
 And I was awed to think how much
     Of wisdom was inside;
 What harvestings of wondrous lore,
     That came from far and wide.
 Upon that self-same shelf it stands,
     And it will linger there;
 For, though I studied patiently,
     Then wept and tore my hair,
 At last I gave the problem up,
     In anguish and despair.
 For every highbrow in the world
     Had writ of various things,
 “Of ships and soap and sealing wax,
     And cabbages and kings.”
 I couldn’t understand a word,
     And still my poor head rings.
 They wrote in seven syllables,
     With formulae abstruse;
 They wallowed deep in Delphic words,
     Which scared me like the deuce.
 Among their curves and diagrams,
     I muttered, “What’s the use?”
 From out its shelf that set of books
     Looks down with aspect grand
 And, gazing at it, I remark:
     “Is there no soul at hand
 To write a cyclopedia
     Which folks can understand?”

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