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December 12, 2013

Anne Perry’s Most Precious Book of Poems

Posted by emily

Bestselling author Anne Perry has written two acclaimed series set in Victorian England, as well as a number of holiday novels. Her latest, A CHRISTMAS HOPE, is a holiday murder mystery in which Claudine Burroughs must save a poet wrongfully accused of murder from the gallows in time for Christmas. Here, Anne writes about a real-life poet --- Rupert Brooke --- whose poetry has meant a lot to her through the years, and how the book of his poems she received as a gift from her father helps her slow down and appreciate life.

It was so long ago that I don't remember exactly when it was. I think I must have been in my early teens. My father gave me a leather-bound, hand-tooled copy of the memoirs and poems of Rupert Brooke. It had been given to him as a prize when he was a student at university in Cambridge, which was the area where Rupert Brooke had lived and celebrated some of his most famous poems.

It caught me immediately for all the idealistic reasons of hope, romance, beauty and death far too soon that catch most of us when we are young. It seemed to me he said everything I felt, but in words that were music. His memoirs were full of passion and dry humor. And, of course, in the photographs he had a beautiful, dreamer's face. He died in the Greek Islands early in World War One.

The book has been with me everywhere I have traveled since then, even though I know many of the poems by heart and my taste has changed considerably. The leather is worn in places and the book opens too easily in all the most often read poems, but it is a piece of all that I have been, cared about, learned from. It marks things of acute memory, windy skies, ploughed fields “scarred for certain grain,” meetings and partings. Always I think of Brooke’s love of life, how brief and precious it is. So much of the appreciation of it rests with our choice to stop a moment or two and see it, taste it.

Sometimes he was extravagant: "My night shall be remembered for a star that outshone all the suns of all men's days.” Then he goes on to list the things he has loved, and I have seen them more clearly, drunk more deeply and been helped through darker nights because of it.

A book can be a gift beyond price. Now when I travel I take it only if I know it will be safe. It is too precious to trust to luggage that could be lost. But inside I carry it with me always. It is a book, but more than that, it is a memory of countless moments in my life.