A Far Cry from Africa Summary, Themes, & Analysis: Derek Walcott

Read our detailed notes on the poem “A Far Cry from Africa” by Derek Walcott. Our notes cover A Far Cry from Africa summay, themes, and analysis.

A Far Cry from Africa Poem by Derek Walcott:

A wind is ruffling the tawny pelt

Of Africa. Kikuyu, quick as flies,

Batten upon the bloodstreams of the veldt.

Corpses are scattered through a paradise.

Only the worm, colonel of carrion, cries:

“Waste no compassion on these separate dead!”

Statistics justify and scholars seize

The salients of colonial policy.

What is that to the white child hacked in bed?

To savages, expendable as Jews?

Threshed out by beaters, the long rushes break

In a white dust of ibises whose cries

Have wheeled since civilization’s dawn

From the parched river or beast-teeming plain.

The violence of beast on beast is read

As natural law, but upright man

Seeks his divinity by inflicting pain.

Delirious as these worried beasts, his wars

Dance to the tightened carcass of a drum,

While he calls courage still that native dread

Of the white peace contracted by the dead.

Again brutish necessity wipes its hands

Upon the napkin of a dirty cause, again

A waste of our compassion, as with Spain,

The gorilla wrestles with the superman.

I who am poisoned with the blood of both,

Where shall I turn, divided to the vein?

I who have cursed

The drunken officer of British rule, how choose

Between this Africa and the English tongue I love?

Betray them both, or give back what they give?

How can I face such slaughter and be cool?

How can I turn from Africa and live?


A Far Cry from Africa Introduction:

The poem A Far Cry from Africa belongs to post-colonial poetry. Principally the poem talks about the occasions of the Mau uprising in Kenya in the mid-1950s. It was a grisly fight amid the 1950 between the European pilgrims and the local Kikuyu clans in Kenya. Kikuyu was the biggest and most instructed clan in Kenya. As the English individuals attacked increasingly their territory they ridiculously responded. The Kenyan clans opposed the English who stole the country of them. The insubordination was under a mystery association called Mau. It is assessed a substantial number of Kikuyu and in addition whites were butchered amid the procedure.

A Far Cry from Africa Summary:

Lines 1-3

The initial three lines portray the poem’s setting on the African plain, or veldt. The country itself is contrasted with a creature (maybe a lion) with a “twany pelt.” Brownish is a shading portrayed as light darker to caramel orange that is basic shading in the African scene. “Kikuyu” fills in as the name of a local clan in Kenya. What appears an untainted depiction of the African plain rapidly moves; the Kikuyu are contrasted with flies (humming around the “creature” of Africa) who are bolstering on blood, which is available in sufficiently huge in adding up to make streams.

Line 4-6

Walcott shatters the picture of a heaven that many connect with Africa by depicting a scene covered with carcasses. He includes a sickening point of interest by alluding to a worm, or parasite, that reigns in this setting of rotting human substance. The worm’s exhortation to “waste no compassion on these separate dead!” is perplexing in that it suggests that the casualties by one means or another got what they merited.

Lines 7-10

The specify of the words “justify” and “colonial policy,” when taken in setting with the former six lines, at last clears up the correct occasion that Walcott is portraying—the Mau Uprising against English pilgrims in Kenya amid the 1950s. Where prior the speaker appeared to accuse the casualties, he currently accuses the individuals who constrained the frontier framework onto Kenya and enraptured the populace. They can’t legitimize their activities, on the grounds that their reasons will never matter to the “white child” who has been killed—just due to his shading—in striking back by Mau warriors or to the “savages,” who—in as bigot a state of mind as was taken by Nazis against Jews—are regarded useless, or disposable. (“Savages” is a dubious term that gets from the French word savage meaning wild, and is presently entirely defamatory in English. Walcott’s utilization of “savage” capacities to exhibit an English colonialist’s bigot perspective.)

Lines 11-14

Walcott changes gears in these lines and comes back to pictures of Africa’s untamed life, in an update that the ibises (since a long time ago charged swimming winged creatures) and different brutes governed this land some time before African or European development existed. The artist additionally depicts a centuries-old chasing custom of locals strolling in a line through the long grass and beating it to flush out prey. Such slaughtering for sustenance is set against the silly and irregular passing that local Africans and European pilgrims execute upon each other.

Lines 15-21

These lines are at the same time pr0-natural nature and anti-culture. Creatures slaughter simply for sustenance and survival, however people, having idealized the ability of chasing for nourishment, stretch out that brutal demonstration to different zones, utilizing power to apply control—and demonstrate prevalence over—other individuals; they look for heavenly nature by choosing who lives and who bites the dust. Amusingly, wars between individuals are portrayed as following the beat of a drum—an instrument made of a creature cover up extended over a chamber. Walcott additionally brings up that for whites, generally, peace has not been the outcome a trade off with an adversary, however a circumstance landed at in light of the fact that the restriction has been squashed and can’t avoid any longer.

Lines 22-25

These lines are hard to translate, yet they give off an impression of being gone for those judging the Mau uprising from a separation—onlookers who could some way or another acknowledge ruthlessness as vital and who know about a critical circumstance yet wipe their hands, or decline to end up required, in it. The writer seems to denounce such a mentality by contrasting the Mau Uprising with the Spanish Common War (1936-39). Pioneers of France and Awesome England needed to maintain a strategic distance from another war that would inundate all of Europe, so they presented an apathy agreement that was marked by twenty-seven countries. Regardless, the Extremists, or Patriots, (under the initiative of General Francisco Franco) were supported by and gotten military guide from Germany and Italy. The Followers, or Republicans, had no such support; they battled valiantly however were outmanned, lost domain, and were in the end vanquished in spring of 1939. Line 25 exhibits a pessimistic perspective of the Mau Uprising as simply one more pilgrim strife where gorillas—adversely animalized Africans—battle with superman—a negative portrayal of Europe.

Lines 26-33

This stanza is a difference in scene from essentially that of Africa, to that of the artist. Walcott, being a result of both African and English legacy, is torn, in light of the fact that he doesn’t know how to feel about the Mau battle. He unquestionably isn’t happy with the stock reaction of those all things considered. Walcott is sickened by the conduct of Mau similarly as he has been disturbed by the English. Before the end, the artist’s predicament isn’t accommodated, however one gets the feeling that Walcott will surrender neither Africa nor England

The poem begins with the excruciating jolting cruel experience of the insubordination that changed the quiet tranquil setting of the nation. The country itself contrasted with a creature, as it shows it is a creature like a lion. “twany pelt” And how Kikuyu began the wicked fight. The Kikuyu are contrasted with flies who are encouraging on blood. Next we are educated the consequence of the resistance. The poet depicts that the nation before the contention was a ‘paradise’ and with an unexpected remark he demonstrates the demise, brutality and devastation happened in the land. There is the juxtaposition of the contention against something divine with the picture of carcasses scattered through a heaven. The worms that can be viewed as a definitive image of stagnation and rot, cries at the useless demise. Wryly poet shows how the people are lessened to measurements. What’s more, in the meantime however researchers legitimize the nearness of white men in Africa and the way toward cultivating the locals, the artist demonstrates the way that it was a disappointment with the severe demise of the little white youngster and his family. Individuals act like creatures ‘savages’ implies and remind us the mistreatment persisted by the Jews. Jews were killed in millions because of their ethnicity amid the season of Hitler. In spite of the fact that the time and the place is diverse a similar sort of circumstances rehash on the planet time to time. Next the writer makes a photo of white men in looking for locals who are taking cover behind the brambles. The sound of ‘ibises’ indicates a terrible sign. Again the reiteration is appeared through the word ‘wheeled’. The acculturated men flourished with vanquishing others. This procedure of savagery and vanquishing each different demonstrates the law of the wilderness. The savagery of ‘beast on beast’ can legitimize as indicated by the law of nature, the law of wilderness. However it can’t be connected to the ‘upright man’ who are extending themselves to come to the ‘divinity’. Aside from the errand of extending themselves to achieve ‘divinity’ they wind up with ‘perpetrating torment’ which is executing and which is the law of wilderness; slaughtering for prey. They require the slaughter they make by executing as war. Amusingly, wars between individuals are depicted as following the beat of a drum — an instrument made of a creature stow away extended over a barrel. In spite of the fact that the locals think the demonstration of executing white men brings them ‘courage’ it winds up with fear. Besides the artist stresses the way that however the locals legitimize their assignment saying it as a ‘brutish necessity’ and considering it as a national reason they simply clean their hands with ‘the napkin of the dirty cause’. So the writer proposes the way that the locals’ motivation is messy and monstrous however they think about it as right and across the country. He sees a correlation with the West Indians who had their offer of unforgiving encounters with Spain. The battle is similarly as the gorilla grapples with superman. The gorilla in this setting is contrasted with locals and superman is contrasted with white men. The last two lines show the circumstance of the writer, as he has a place with the two societies how he feels mediocrity in regards to the circumstance. The blended legacy of the poet makes him unfit to choose to which he ought to be incomplete. The title itself too demonstrates the perspective clash of the writer, a cry from an incredible separation away and besides it demonstrates the distance and the mediocrity of the artist. The ballad closes with a photo of viciousness and remorselessness and with hunting down personality.

A Far Cry from Africa Themes:

Main theme:

Split identity, anxiety, isolation, cruelty, violence, religion and love are the major themes of the poem. Walcott belongs to both African and European roots and he identifies himself as a mongrel; both grandmothers were African and both grandfathers were European. Walcott’s hybrid heritage prevents him from identifying directly with one culture and creates a sense of anxiety and isolation. The wind “ruffling the tawny pelt of Africa” refers to the cruelty of Mau Mau insurrection against the violence of British colonialism. The words “corpses, paradise, dead, Jews and cursed” create an atmosphere of religion in the poem. Walcott’s feeling of affection for Africa and fondness for English tongue propagate the theme of love.

A Far Cry from Africa Analysis:

  • There is no set regular rhyme scheme in this poem but there are certain lines that have full rhymes and others that have slant rhymes.
  • The dominant meter is iambic pentameter.
  • The title of the poem involves an idiom: “a far cry” means an impossible thing. But the poet seems to use the words in other senses also; the title suggests in one sense that the poet is writing about an African subject from a distance. Writing from the island of St. Lucia, he feels that he is at a vast distance- both literally and metaphorically from Africa
  • Walcott uses religious symbolism all through the lyric in his investigation of African life. Through the juxtaposition of “corpses” and “paradise”, Walcott is investigating the connection amongst life and demise, grotesqueness and excellence. By connecting the two words, Walcott is investigating the dumbfounding connection between death in a “corpses” and life in “paradise” after death. There is further utilization of religious symbolism in the initial two lines of the second stanza as “necessity wipes its hands”. This allusion to Pontinus disavowing Jesus’ blood before his torturous killing, shows an affirmation of results yet not of duty. In this way the exemplification of “brutish necessity” has been utilized to separate the storyteller of obligation regarding the activities depicted in the primary stanza.
  • “A Far Cry from Africa” uses metaphors, such as “colonel of carrion” , and ironic statements, such as “corpses are scattered through a paradise”, to describe the death and destruction and inhumanity that has occurred in both Africa and Europe

Literary Devices

(i) Cacophony: Kikuyu quick

(ii) Alliteration: “Batten upon the bloodstreams”, “colonel of carrion cries”.

(iii) Rhyme Scheme: Scattered rhyme ABABBC…., forced rhyme “again …. Spain”

(iv) Rhyming Couplet: “dead ….dead”

(v) Anaphora: “How can I ….. How can I”

(vi) Metaphor: Africa is compared to a lion and worm is a metaphor for British colonizer.

(vii) Illusions: Jews (Holocaust), napkin of a dirty cause (British mannerisms), Spain (Spanish Civil war 1930)

(viii) Play on Words: Colonel (colonial), Brutish (British or Brutus)