memoirs, art and fragments by Thomas Milner

Archive for May 1, 2012

The Bookworm

Today I was flicking through that brilliantly conceived anthology of poems edited by Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes called The School Bag. If ever there was a book designed to be flicked through this is it. I came across this anonymous little verse (in old English) from the tenth century:


A worm ate words. I thought that wonderfully

Strange – a miracle – when they told me a crawling

Insect had swallowed noble songs,

A night-time thief had stolen writing

So famous, so weighty. But the bug was foolish

Still, though its belly was full of thought.


There is a woman here who knows everything – she has no doubts (although she neither reads nor writes). She has swallowed noble songs; she is wise indeed.

I am a foolish shaky man (though my belly is full).

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