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).