I never warmed to them.
If they were excellent they were petulant
and jaggy as the holly tree
they rendered down for ink.
And if I never belonged among them,
they could never deny me my place.
In the hush of the scriptorium
a black pearl kept gathering in them
like the old dry glut inside their quills.
In the margin of the text of praise
they scratched and clawed.
They snarled if the day was dark
or too much chalk had made their vellum bland
or too little left it oily.
Under the rumps of lettering
they herded myopic angers.
Resentment seeded in the uncurling
fernheads of their capitals.
Now and again I started up
miles away and saw in my absence
the sloped cursive of each back and felt them
perfect themselves against me page by page.
Let them remember this not inconsiderable
contribution to their jealous art.
copyright 1998 by Seamus Heaney