It isn’t unusual for docents like Malcolm O’Hagan to find that they have inspired visitors after a tour of the Thomas Jefferson Building. (I have written about such inspiration before.) It is, after all, one of the great buildings at the heart of one of the great institutions of the world.
But what wasn’t expected was that a visitor would be inspired to set his inspiration down in verse.
A man named Bob Bein recently went on such a tour led by Malcolm and was so moved that he wrote the poem “The Library of Congress” in July 2008. We reproduce it here with Bob’s permission, for which we are grateful:
Oh such grandeur at the temple entrance,
symbolic stone figures flank
majestic marble staircases,
statues with torches blaze the path to wisdom,
skylights brighten layers of understanding.
Truly a temple of knowledge,
human gods of arts and sciences look on
thirsty believers eagerly awaiting
meager droplets of passed down lore.
Even higher are images of human aspirations—
Understanding, to lift a curtain of ignorance,
Encouragement, pushing Man closer to perfection.
This is the inside of a brain:
an enormous domed space,
grand art inside the skull,
study desks ringing
the central station,
axon-like conveyor belts speeding
expertise to anxious disciples.
Classic pneumatic tubes
carry nerve impulse notes
demanding diverse media
following searches of endless
brain cell card catalogs and appeals
to new computer circuitry.
Genuflect, and respect
the sum of stored knowledge,
despite how much more will accrete
we will always feel incomplete:
the notion of infinity
includes infinity plus three.