The Tollund Man: A Definition of the Soul

The dead man who lay there was two thousand years old. A few hours earlier he had been brought out from the sheltering peat by two men…. As they worked, they suddenly saw in the peat layer a
face so fresh they could only suppose they had
stumbled on a recent murder.

P. V. Glob

Now you have reached me
may brush if you wish
the caked clay from my
thin trimmed moustache
you are too late.

For two thousand years
I lay here entrenched
in this peat bog
waiting in a fetal pose
for redemption,

pegged down, listening
for the crunch of sod
horse’s molars munching oats,
a cold steel spade sliding
ever closer.

I was strangely calm
at the morning rite,
hands cupping the mystic brew,
of finest grain from our
mostly barren fields;

As I sipped the holy potion,
swallowed hard, I stared boldly
at those blank faced elders;
yes, the year had gone bad again
no matter that they always did.

The priest chanted in somber tones
how mother earth would be bribed,
that special fire in his aged eyes
reflecting scintillas
of ancestral faith;

From behind a quick loop
snapped my neck rope tight,
the bowl floated from my hands;
the marsh faded as I
marveled at the public good.

after they lashed me down
sacrificially in the sacred swamp
I waited expectantly for
the mud wife goddess to claim me
from my solitude.

Piety flowed through my veins,
gave way to passion
for her lusty arms,
her nibbling lips
she never came.

Centuries I waited
while nations raged;
kings thundered my tomb,
the sighs of grieving wives
infested my stone sleep.

Little at a time I turned
as winter by winter
peasants sliced away
the congealing bogs
to warm their crude thatched huts.

Now you have come,
but too late to save me
though my cap is in place;
tediously pick earth from my ears
I cannot hear you;

carve me out if you like
to warm your hearth
some hoary night;
preserve me in wine,
encase me in glass;

display me for your
snickering children
on their forced marches
through time,

some miracle the earth has wrought,
their hope of immortality,
then lift a lid
to show what’s missing.

John S. Hatcher, A Sense of History, pp. 21-23

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