South - Literature Notes
Please note that the information given on this poem is not meant to replace any material given in the classroom setting. It is a very BASIC giude to enable a literal understanding of the poem. Metaphorical interpretations should be sought in the classroom.
The physical structure of this poem has been altered from the original layout in the text.
1.But today I 4.recapture the islands
bright beaches: blue mist from the ocean
rolling into the fishermen's houses.
1.By these shores I was born: sound of the sea
came in at my window,2. life heaved and breathed in me then
with the strength of that turbulent soil.
5.Since then I have travelled: moved far from
6.sojourned in stoniest cities, walking the lands of the north
1.In sharp, slanting sleet and the hail,
crossed countless saltless savannas and come
to this house in the forest 2.where the shadows oppress me
and the only water is rain and the tepid taste
of the river.
7.We who are born of the ocean can never seek solace
in rivers: 3.their flowing runs on like our longing,
8.reproves us our lack of endeavour and purpose,
9.proves that our striving will founder on that.
We resent them this wisdom, this freedom: passing us
toiling, waiting and watching their cunning declensions down to the sea.
10.But today I would join you, traveling river,
2.bourne down the years of your patientest flowing,
11.past pains that would wreck us, sorrows arrest us,
hatred that washes us up on the flats;
and moving on through the plains that receive us,
processioned in tumult, come to the sea.
Bright waves splash up from the rocks to refresh us,
1.blue sea-shells shift in their wake
and 12.there is the thatch of the fishermen's houses, the path
made of pebbles, 13.and look!
Small urchins combing the beaches
look up from their traps to salute us:
they remember us just as we left them.
The fisherman, hawking the surf on this side
of the reef, stands up in his boat
and halloos us: a starfish lies in its pool.
1.And gulls, white sails slanted seaward,
fly into limitless morning before us.
Brathwaite, K. 'South' in A World of Poetry. Edited by Mark McWatt and Hazel Simmonds McDonald. Pearson Education Ltd, 2005.
This is the OPINION of one individual, which might not coincide with the views of others.
The persona speaks about the fact that today he is recapturing the beauty of the island of his birth. He reflects on the fact that he has travelled to the lands of the north, which appeared to be the very opposite of his island. The persona appeared, at that point, to be homesick for his island and resented the ease and comfort that the Northerners (www.bulbsoup.com) felt towards their land. He then shifts back to the present where he appreciates certain features of the island, particularly those that remind him of his past on the island.
- Stanza 6, line 41: This alliteration gives the reader a visual of what the persona sees as pleasant and calming, as opposed to the alliteration in stanza 2. The sound that the alliteration illicits is a calm one, implying that the persona is at peace.
- Stanza 1, lines 6-7: This device gives a beautiful impression of the effect that the island had on the persona. He felt whole when he was there, at peace.
- Stanza 2, lines 16-17: The shadows, in this context, represents his past life and experiences on the island. The memories of his island illicits feelings of sadness, even homesickness. These memories cast an oppressive shadow over his life in the north.
- Stanza 4, line 25: The river is said to be patient. This represents a turn in the personas view of the city that he now calls home. There is now respect for it, implying that the persona has decided to really experience the city, as represented by the river.
The persona compares the flowing of the rivers, which represents the north, to his longing for his island home. This comparison indicates that his longing is an intense one, he is homesick.
IMPORTANT WORDS/ PHRASES
The word capture means to take possession of something or someone. Therefore, when the persona says that he is recapturing his island, it implies that he is taking back possession of what he once owned.
5.'Since then I have travelled'
This line indicates that the persona did not remain on the island of his birth.
6.'sojourned in stoniest cities'
This highlights a contrast between the persona's island and the cities that he visited. His island has beaches and oceans, while the cities that he visited were concrete jungles made of stone.
7.'We who are born of the ocean can never seek solace in rivers'
The persona refers to the north, and its populace, as rivers, while the south, and his island, is the ocean. This line highlights the persona's discontent in the north.
8.'reproves us our lack of endeavour and purpose'
Reprove is to reprimand. Therefore, the line is saying that the flowing river, the north, reprimands the ocean, the south, for its lack of effort and resolve. This implies that the persona might be homesick and, therefore, not functioning at full capacity in the new northern environment.
9.'proves that our striving will founder on that.'
The term founder literally means the owner or operator of a foundry. This has little to do with the context of the poem, therefore, it can be assumed (www.bulbsoup.com) that poetic license was utilized at this point. Contextually, the line can be interpreted as meaning that the persona's subsequent striving, or efforts, will be founded on the reprimand made by the river, or the north.
10.'But today I would join, you travelling river,'
The persona has decided to live in his present, instead of looking back at his past. Looking back at the past promotes homesickness, and the persona has decided to move beyond this.
11.past pains that would wreck us, sorrows arrest us,'
These represent experiences that the persona has had while living in the north. He is moving past these experiences in order to embrace more positive ones.
The emphasis placed on this word, through the use of italics, highlights the fact that the persona is both happy and excited to be home.
The exclamation mark emphasizes the persona's enthusiasm, and excitement, when he identifies a scene that is reminiscent of his past.
The mood of the poem is nostalgic. The persona is thinking about his island home, as well as places that he has visited in the north.
The tone of the poem goes from being reflective, to being elated.
Patriotism, places, desires and dreams
Contributor: Leisa Samuels-Thomas