Another poem from the British Museum, this time inspired by an Anglo-Saxon knife, called a seax, that was found in the River Thames. Dating from the 10th Century, it’s of huge archaeological importance because the blade bears the only inscription we have of all 28 letters in the Anglo-Saxon alphabet, or furthorc. The other runic word is Beagnoth, which is the name of whoever made or owned the seax. Who they were and how they were parted from this magnificent weapon, which was used for hunting and fighting, we’ll never know.
Once, it was whetted for war and the hunt,
Its iron blade burnished. Then, abandoned, mislaid
Or hacked from a hand in the heat of a fight,
It spent long dark centuries sunk in the mud
Of the Thames. Disinterred, a lost tongue was revealed:
The furthorc, in full, finely-wrought on the blade.
A plea for protection or profitable hunting?
Unknown and unknowable. But the name, Beagnoth,
Removes the Museum glass, makes it a possession
A person once prized, and part of a story.
A shard from the shadows, time-shattered, the knife
Still pierces perceptions, and presents us a life.