My father’s writing box (a Miltonic Sonnet)


Of his possessions it was my favourite –
a writing box divine in marquetry:
with exquisitely crafted lid inlay
opening to green felt whereon words were writ.
At its appearance my eyes would be lit
by rosewood, walnut, and mahogany
holding secrets and curiosity
in sealed compartments kept so well hid.
This box that accompanied him to sea
was sold by maternal grandmother’s haste,
all its glorious magic lost to me –
I fear that it has long since gone to waste.
Still, I’m left to wonder where it may be,
history, I hope, writ a cherished fate.

Captain Howard Joesph Kempton MBE (1905 – 1985) served in the Royal Marines before, during, and after WWII, the writing box must have been a handy piece of carpentry for staying in touch with loved ones, and as a child (my father then retired) I used to marvel every time he brought out the box.


43 thoughts on “My father’s writing box (a Miltonic Sonnet)

  1. very cool… something so personal… sad that it got lost…it would be so cool to find it and read through the old letters.. beautiful work on the sonnet..

    • Unfortunately it was sold some 25 years ago, so I don’t think I’ll see it again, but I have found an almost identical one online (except for the felt colour) and won the bid. So I feel like I’ve swapped my father’s box for someone else’s father’s box 😊

  2. Oh, I hope someone tracks down that writing box. How beautiful it is, and how symbolic. And how sad that your maternal grandmother sold it, as one really could not put a price on such a treasure!

    • Yes it’s sad, but my Gran liked to clear out. After her husband (my grandad died) she cleared out all his possessions, so I should have kept an eye on my Dad’s stuff…oh well…

  3. wow…lots of stories in that box i imagine….and its travelled some miles…its cool the inlaid wood…a family treasure…sadly lost…we had many los tin the flood that took my grammas house….

  4. Is it strange that I wish I could hold the box described? Run my hands over wood worn by a strangers fingers & wonder what could have been written & kept within? Already I’m wondering about missives & journal notes, letters to loved ones and-perhaps-poems and verses dashed out during down-times. Good subject for a quality piece.

    • I know what you mean – I once had a friend who found a small letter hidden in an 1800s book, but he couldn’t read the copperplate writing. I spent a bit of time with it and found it was a little love letter, and in reading the letter I felt they’d come back to life.

  5. I can relate to this very much, Rowan. I think the poetic style in which you chose to write this poem adds to the significance and poignancy of your father’s prized possession being gone.

  6. Beautiful descriptions of a magnificent object both physically and emotionally. One of these splendid yet practical objects of craft and art also drew this child with its subtle secrecy and teasing riddles. No matter its fate; it is clear that its gift has already been passed on– the Captain would be proud (not to mention Milton).

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