Today, I find myself in the LaTrobe Reading Room in the State Library of Victoria, better described by its diminutive 'The Dome'. It is exquisite, this spacious place– high espaliered walls rising white and etched with the words of those who have been here before and those who have rhapsodised about books, followed up then by books themselves, 'the children of the brain' (Jonathan Swift). Their spines bristle in faded colour in their orderly rows across wooden shelves, tucked behind decorative balustrades as if they were taking in an opera. Perhaps they watch us, we scattered scholars bent over our flattened pages or our laptops, oddly redundant in this majestic space.
How futile the plastic covers against clothbound volumes that have stood sentry here for years. How insignificant the weak backlit glow underneath the sheltering arms of the glass dome, pouring cool clean light over our bent heads. I tried to photograph it using Instagram but there was too much beauty to squeeze into that matchbox square. Even now, I suspect my words cannot distill the serene loveliness here.
It is a glass heart. It holds the brimming promise of a day of writing poured forth, of the delight of reading taken headily again and again. I feel as though I am in a spacious well but swimming with words rather than any substance so heavy as water, and excitement shudders in my blood.
The wall nearest to me, the wall is inscribed with these words,
The studious silence of the library... tranquil brightness James Joyce To slide into the domed reading room at ten each morning, specially in summer, off the hot street outside was a sensation as delicious as dropping into the water off the concrete edge of the Fitzroy Baths Helen Garner But words are things, and a small drop of ink, falling like dew, upon a thought, produces that which makes thousands, perhaps millions, think Lord Byron Come, and take choice of all my library, and so beguile they sorrow William Shakespeare
I will beguile my sorrow here, and let fall words in drops of ink, and I will revel.