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The gold was grayed and cold; the plates were thin.

What mystery lay captive in their runes?

His fingers, asking, traced them to begin.

Would history unlock its darkness soon?

Embalmed within the metal, robed in glyphs,

The absent millions whisper from the past;

He scans the ancient scrawlings thick with mist

Until their shadows dawn in him at last:

Each thought, unwieldy first, he hefts with sweat,

As though ideas were metal: heavy, dense;

He assays words in dozens, weighed then set

As heaven trains His prophet, seer, and lens.

To craft the words, to tell each symbol’s pith,

The seer-apprentice fashioned, Joseph, smith.


Gideon Burton is an assistant professor of English. This poem was originally published in BYU Studies (vol. 35, no. 2 [1995], p. 272).