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He Denies Involvement


The Voynich Manuscript, which used to be considered a hoax,

was said to have been created by Edward Kelley, an alchemist

who worked with Elizabeth I’s royal magus, Sir John Dee. Recent

research suggests it’s genuine, but written in an unknown language.


I wish it had been mine, so full of curiosities,

pulling down the heavens, pulling up the mandrakes,

sketching them in all their personalities,

to say nothing of the baths of naked women.


It’s not a finished text, there’s no refinement

in the pages, the margins don’t align, the characters

spread round the illustrations like afterthoughts.

This is the notebook of an alchemist, a wizard,


but it’s not my work, I have no skill to draw these things,

to formulate this script. It’s not a hand I’ve ever seen

and though I’ve read a hundred books in Hebrew

and Sumerian, I can’t decrypt this codex.


If I could find a register, compare this text with others of its time,

perhaps I’d find the secret of these herbs, but not of women.

copyright © 2015 Simon Williams.

First appeared on a poster for Poems for Queen Bess, Oxford, 2015



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