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Meditation on a Bone

by
 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?

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