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This article is taken from PN Review 55, Volume 13 Number 5, May - June 1987.

At Jorvik Museum Iain Crichton-Smith

We enter the small chair, we glide along the rails. The faces of the present disappear. We are in a room: it stinks, I hear voices, they are talking Norse. There are leather skins, the face of a dead fox, needles, women knitting, men hunting. This is a rank rank room with the smell of grain, of blood. There are hens, chickens. Two women gossip in a strange dialect.

Who is that in the helmet with the nosepiece protecting him? He is saying, perhaps, We shall stand to the end in the ring, till it fades like the moon, till we are bones among the cans of coca cola, till the workmen emerge out of the dust with shovels, till they beat at our heads.

See, we are bargaining. The city walls protect us. We bring vases, ornaments, we bring the sniff of the future. They cannot protect themselves from that, from everything else but that. The wind is shrieking through the walls, it is changing the fashions; after it has been there there will be no more farriers, no more fletchers, no more guilds.

The children are playing a game that we do not understand. Look, their heads are thorny. The side of one head is shaven, the colours of the other are orange red and blue. They are punching at computers in the dung, with the dead stinking oxen beside them. The dog raises its head, lowers it again: the cat ...


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