His Fingerprints Upon My Soul


The warship took a sudden turnabout

Gun smoke and sea spray clouded vision

Cries of the wounded drowned out by cannon fire

Far below decks a small wooden box held fast, with metal hinges and latch

It carried a sailor’s simple treasures

Amongst the cache, a pair of illegal dice, his mother’s rosary, a spare pair of shoes, his dish, spoon, and a thimble

This pewter thimble worked its way to the bottom of the sea chest

The sailor had to search for it every time he needed to mend a tear in his jerkin, shirt or cap.

He was so proud the day he was commission aboard The Mary Rose, the second most powerful ship in King Henry’s navy

Now he lay on deck, lead shot searing his flesh, hot in his shoulder

The Barber – surgeon who bent over him, packed salt and linen into the wound trying to staunch the flow of blood

During the heat of battle this practitioner worked frantically to get the wounded back to their stations as quickly as possible

It was a bloody affair working with torn flesh and broken bone

He preferred quieter moments

When the men came with more mundane matters

Just this morning the cabin boy had tapped gently on his door

A splinter in the boy’s foot needed attention

The captain had ordered he seek treatment, the child would never venture to the fearful Barber-surgeon on his own

The boy submitted as the shaft of wood was pulled from the his toe

With a steady, gentle hand, the man wiped a greasy salve along the wound easing the soreness

By the end of that same day in 1545

French fire would leave the vessel a floundering wreck, so close to home

The men and equipment kept on board were destined to sink

Left buried in the cold clinging mud of The Solent for 437 years, before being salvaged

By then the sailor, the Barber-surgeon and cabin boy were long gone

But the sea chest, its contents along with many other articles were found, conserved and treasured

Each one revealed a great deal about Tudor life

So fascinated by this discovery, I determined to visit the exhibition of The Mary Rose when it came to the Far Side of the World

I was not disappointed

I bought a replica of a thimble found amongst the wreckage

I love it and use it regularly

When I do I cannot help but think of the ship wreck and the original thimble that went down with it

But I know nothing of the man who owned and used that thimble

I look closely at it and find the tooling to be rough almost primitive compared to the machine thimbles I own

Back in Tudor times a craftsman proud of his accomplishments would have worked hot metal by hand to create a practical and workable thimble

He even decorated it with emblems of the King

Even though a replica, the one I own works very well

The exhibition and all it revealed was fascinating

However it was a small jar of salve that captivated me

This jar of ointment still held a fingerprint of the man who used it

The Barber-surgeon would have done a difficult job, in trying circumstances

To find something, so personal as his finger print, is stunning

I think of canon, clothing, shoes, dishes, coins and a little pot of salve settling with the timbers of that hefty ship, far below the waves

Ages passed

Storms and tides swept around it all

So many wars raged overhead

I, with my family, sailed over it one calm summer’s day

Without knowing

And that finger print remained

My prayer is that God’s Fingerprint has been left upon my soul

In spite of all that happens to me or around me

Somehow in ages yet to come

This Fingerprint of the Almighty Creator will still remain

Identifying to whom I belong

That He knows me full well

That I am His

Words and Pictures © Denise Stanford 2010

~ by Denise Within the Vine on 21/04/2010.

2 Responses to “His Fingerprints Upon My Soul”

  1. wonderful blog. I join you in your prayer

  2. Thanks Tom may you hear God whispers, even now

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