A Far Cry From Africa by Derek Walcott summary and analysis

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“A Far Cry from Africa” by Derek Walcott is a complex and thought-provoking poem that addresses the issues of colonization and its impact on African societies. Here we have covered A Far Cry from Africa by Derek Walcott summary and analysis |A Far Cry from Africa by Derek Walcott summary and line by line analysis. A Far Cry From Africa by Derek Walcott summary and analysis


“A Far Cry from Africa” by Derek Walcott is a complex and thought-provoking poem that addresses the issues of colonization and its impact on African societies. The speaker of the poem, who is of mixed race, is torn between his loyalty to Africa and his love for the English language and culture. The poem presents a vivid and graphic image of the violence and brutality that characterized the colonial period in Africa, depicting the savagery of the colonizers and the suffering of the colonized.

The opening lines describe a wind blowing across the African savannah, stirring up the fur of wild animals and the blood of the Kikuyu people. The poem then shifts its focus to the violence and death that have become a part of everyday life in Africa, with corpses scattered throughout a paradise. The speaker reflects on the brutality of colonial policy and the disregard for human life that it entails. He questions the statistics and justifications used to defend colonialism and wonders what they mean to the innocent victims of violence and oppression.

The second half of the poem focuses on the violence that is perpetuated by human beings, both against each other and against nature. The image of the ibises flying over the African landscape is contrasted with the brutality of human warfare, with the drumbeat of war drowned out only by the sound of death. The speaker reflects on the complexity of his identity, and the conflict between his African heritage and his love for the English language and culture. He is torn between betraying his homeland and betraying the language and culture that he has come to love.

The poem ends on a note of despair and uncertainty, with the speaker questioning how he can live with the knowledge of the violence and suffering that he has witnessed. He is haunted by the memory of Africa and struggles to find a way to reconcile his conflicting loyalties and emotions. Ultimately, the poem presents a powerful indictment of colonialism and the legacy of violence and suffering that it has left behind.

Line-by-line explanation:

“A wind is ruffling the tawny pelt of Africa”

The first line sets the scene and creates a sense of movement and change in Africa. The use of the word “ruffling” suggests a disturbance or disruption of the natural order. Tawny Pelt is the name of an animal. Here Africa is compared with Tawny Pelt.

“Kikuyu, quick as flies, batten upon the bloodstreams of the veldt”

The Kikuyu are a tribe in Kenya, and their quick movements are compared to those of flies. The image of the “batten upon the bloodstreams” suggests a parasitic relationship and the idea of predation and violence.
Veldt” is the open grassy land. Once this ” Veldt” place or Africa was a land of nature but now become a battlefield.

“Corpses are scattered through a paradise”

This line presents a stark contrast between the beauty of the African landscape and the violence that is taking place within it. The word “paradise” creates an image of a beautiful and idyllic place, but the presence of corpses suggests that this is far from the truth.

“Only the worm, colonel of carrion, cries: ‘Waste no compassion on these separate dead!’”

The worm is presented as a symbol of decay and destruction, and its call to “waste no compassion” on the dead suggests a cold and unfeeling attitude towards death.

“Statistics justify and scholars seize the salients of colonial policy”

This line suggests that the violence and exploitation of colonialism are justified by those in power through the use of data and intellectual arguments.

“What is that to the white child hacked in bed?/To savages, expendable as Jews?”

The speaker questions the moral justification for colonialism and suggests that the suffering of those who are exploited is ignored in the pursuit of power and profit.

“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”

These lines present an image of nature being disturbed and destroyed by human activity, and the cries of the ibises suggest a sense of loss and mourning.

“The violence of beast on beast is read/As natural law, but upright man/Seeks his divinity by inflicting pain”

The speaker contrasts the natural violence of animals with the deliberate cruelty of human beings and suggests that humans seek to elevate themselves through acts of violence.

“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”

These lines continue the theme of violence and suggest that war is a destructive and irrational force that is driven by fear and a desire for power.

“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”

The speaker suggests that violence is often justified by those in power as a necessary evil, but in reality, it is a waste of human compassion and causes immense suffering.

“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 to choose/Between this Africa and the English tongue I love?”

The speaker presents himself as torn between his African heritage and his love for the English language and culture, and suggests that his identity is deeply conflicted.

“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?”

The speaker is struggling with the question of how to reconcile his conflicting identities and the violence and suffering he sees in Africa. The final lines suggest a sense of despair and a feeling


“A Far Cry from Africa” by Derek Walcott is written in free verse, which means that there is no regular pattern of rhyme or meter.

“The Far Cry From Africa” by Derek Walcott is a complex and multifaceted poem that explores themes of identity, history, and violence. Here are some of the literary devices used in the poem:

Imagery: The poem is rich in imagery, with vivid descriptions of African landscapes, animals, and people, as well as scenes of violence and brutality. Examples include “the thin trees / with white-streaked trunks”, “the hills brimming with slaughtered men”, and “the furred and enraged leopard”.

Metaphor: The poem uses metaphor to describe the relationship between Africa and Europe, such as “the shadow of a hawk/eagle poised on the mountain crag” and “the bleeding orchid of the English / flag”. These metaphors highlight the power dynamic between Africa and Europe, as well as the cultural and historical tensions between the two continents.

Personification: The poem personifies nature and animals, such as “the furious/young nostrils curving against the sky”, “the leopard in desolate places”, and “the antelope who leaps / into eternity”. These personifications emphasize the idea of Africa as a wild and untamed continent, as well as the inherent violence and brutality of nature.

Symbolism: The poem uses symbolism to represent complex historical and cultural concepts, such as the “tide of events” that washes over Africa, the “ferocious solitude” of the leopard, and the “bleeding orchid” of the English flag. These symbols represent the forces of history, violence, and identity that shape the African experience.

Irony: The poem uses irony to highlight the contradictions and complexities of the African experience, such as the fact that Africans fought for Europe in World War II despite their oppression and exploitation by European powers.

Allusion: The poem makes several allusions to historical events and figures, such as the Mau Mau rebellion in Kenya, the death of Patrice Lumumba in the Congo, and the poet T.S. Eliot. These allusions highlight the historical and cultural context of the poem, as well as its connection to broader themes of colonialism, violence, and identity.

these literary devices contribute to the complexity and richness of “The Far Cry From Africa” by creating a vivid and memorable portrait of the African experience and its relationship to history, culture, and violence.

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