The Jewellery Box

The twelfth century gold jewellery box, back lit in its cabinet, held my attention. It was evenly covered on its rectangular lid and four sides with tiny square turquoise tiles. I made a rough estimate of how many by counting the number over a small area and factoring up. Eight or nine hundred. I could not imagine how the tiles had been placed so precisely, nor how fixed, and there was no way that I knew of finding out. But as I considered the skill of the anonymous craftsman, I felt oppressed by the exigencies of his task. And all to provide a passing delight to a spoilt noblewoman or courtesan. Perhaps. Although possibly a treasured possession passed feelingly from mother to daughter and beyond.

I looked longer. One tessella was paler and greener than the others and lay unassertively on the lid. Had its colour been degraded by a defect in its substance which had gradually appeared during the centuries since the box’s making? I preferred to think of it as the personal mark of its maker, unnoticed by the rich and carefree, but a salute to any future goldsmith, initiate to the mysteries of their guild. So that someone in the distant past might have recognised it as a sign of fellowship arriving from a still more distant past.

Published by davidcookpoet

I am a husband, father and grandfather. I retired from a busy working life as an adult psychiatrist in 2014. My interests are in literature, philosophy, modern jazz and horse racing. I might represent those four fields by Shakespeare, Kant, Charlie Parker and Lester Piggott. Like nearly all of us, I can identify a number of formative experiences, one of which was a psychotic episode in my first year as a psychiatrist. This reinforced an already established interest in mystical experience, and a sense of how little human beings know. My intellectual bugbear is reductive materialism, and I am surprised at the lack of moral imagination of those who promulgate such views. It seems to me they need to consider ,perhaps by exposure, just why totalitarianism is so horrific.

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