They are the last earthly traces of the dead, and seem to last forever: bones symbolize the indestructible life (it represents ressurection in Jewish tradition), yet also may represent mortality and the transitory. Flesh and bones can symbolize the earth. In general speech, can connote lack of flattery or the truth.
In William Blake it refers to the past, tradition that often has to be broken.
In T.S. Eliot, thoughts of something beyond the flesh, historical knowledge
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