Tuesday, 8 June 2010

When is a Book more than a Book? : Penny Dolan

Came across this 10th Century riddle* in Dublin’s Book of Kells Museum a fortnight ago:

One of my enemies ended my life
Sapped my world strength, afterwards staked me
Wetted in water . . .

Set me in the sun where soon I lost
The hair which I had.
And then the hard knife edge cut me . . .

Fingers folded me, and feather of a bird
Traced all over my tawny surface
With drops of delight . . .

Then, for trappings, a man
Bound me with boards, bent hide over me,
Glossed me with gold and so I glistened
Wondrous in smith-work, wire encircled.

Say what I am called,
Useful to man. Mighty my name is,
A help to heroes, and holy am I.

Can’t quite see the e-reader being written about with such awe, can you?

(Wish I wasn't posting this on a day when such grim "plans" for libraries are being broadcast.)

*The poem is about the making of a vellum book.


Linda Strachan said...


Penny Dolan said...

Thanks, Linda!

Savita Kalhan said...

I love your post. I used to make batiks based on celtic designs, some from designs in the Book of Kells - but never a book, and I have never come across that riddle.
It's given me lots to think about, so thank you.

Penny Dolan said...

Thanks, Savita. I always feel there's something mystical and mesmeric about celtic poetry and art. Your batiks must have taken lots of work and been beautiful!