Meditation on a bone

By A.D.Hope

 

A piece of bone, found at Trondhjem in 1901,
with the following runic inscription (about AD 1050) cut on it:

I loved her as a maiden;
I will not trouble Erlend's detestable wife;
better she could 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 write 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?

(Trondheim, a town in Norway)


The poem is copied from "Australian Poetry. Classics from the Hazel de Berg Collection. Selected by Geoff Page."  National Library of Australia. Canberra 1996. - The selected poems were published on a cassette tape.

The primacy of A. D. Hope: http://tls.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,25345-2184667,00.html

The poem "Crossing the frontier" (commented): http://www.cs.rice.edu/~ssiyer/minstrels/poems/1812.html

A. D. Hope Building: http://campusmap.anu.edu.au/displaybldg.asp?no=14

(with portrait picture): http://www.ebscobooks.com/books/ProductDetails.asp?CatalogID=346726

On Geoff Page: http://www.austlit.com/a/page/index.html

The picture on the top of this page is by the Norwegian artist Roar Ydse presented on the cover of a Norse saga book.

 

Hugen