Damascene tiles, centuries old,
Victorian acquired –
Beautif’ly painted in blue and gold
As fresh as the day they were fired
Geometric, dense and hectic,
Begging to be admired.

But most of all, of all I love,
It is the birds that shine –
Each lark and parrot, peacock, dove,
Are delicately fine –
With vibrant tints and eyes that glint,
Each heavenly divine.

And yet I missed, for all they shone,
(Had not the tour-guide said)
That ev’ry gorgeous bird thereon
Was elegantly dead –
A single stroke had simply broke
Each neck beneath each head.

Apparently, this trick was rife
Throughout the Eastern land –
In Islam, images of life
Were well-and-truly banned.
But corpses were quite de rigueur
And here, the stiffs were grand !

But oh !, those crass colonials,
Those patriarchs on tour,
Who bought up ceremonials
From natives by the score –
They couldn’t see the subtlety,
Or else chose to ignore…

Without the least misgiving
They’d appropriate the style,
But paint their birds as living
On each modern-ancient tile.
Their arrogance had quite by chance
Now caused them to defile.

Or maybe they knew, and rejected –
Just took what they wanted to keep.
And who are we, self-selected,
To label them shallow or deep ?
Well, I for one, see much more fun
In birds who can still go ‘cheep’ !

Damascene tiles, centuries old,
Victorian acquired –
Marvelled, then improved, all told,
As their inspiration fired.
And we in turn must gaze and learn,
Then change to what’s required.

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