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Meditation on a Bone

Meditation on a Bone - Alec Derwent Hope

 A piece of bone, found at Trondhjem in 1901, with the following runic inscription (about A.D. 1050) cut on it: I loved her as a maiden; I will not trouble Erlend's detestable wife; better she should be a widow. 

Words scored upon a bone, 
Scratched in despair or rage -- 
Nine hundred years have gone; 
Now, in another age, 
They burn with passion on 
A scholar's tranquil page.

The scholar takes his pen 
And turns the bone about, 
And writes those words again. 
Once more they seethe and shout 
And through a human brain 
Undying hate rings out.

"I loved her when a maid;
I loathe and love the wife
That warms another's bed:
Let him beware his life!"
The scholar's hand is stayed;
His pen becomes a knife

To grave in living bone 
The fierce archaic cry. 
He sits and reads his own 
Dull sum of misery. 
A thousand years have flown 
Before that ink is dry.

And, in a foreign tongue, 
A man, who is not he, 
Reads and his heart is wrung 
This ancient grief to see, 
And thinks: When I am dung, 
What bone shall speak for me?