Magwere, Who Waits Wondering

Original Text: 
Kingsley Fairbridge, Veld Verse and Other Lines (London: David Nutt, 1909): 56-58. Cf. Veld Verse (London: Oxford University Press, 1928): 41-42.
2Near the edge of the big swamp where cane rats live,
4The crows who nest on the Peak,
5And the striped field-mice from underground,
6And the thin-nosed shrew that dies on footpaths,
7Had miss'd Magwere when she was sown.
8Therefore the mealie grew
9In the moist earth on the swamp edge
10With many of her sisters;
11And threw up gay leaves, yellow-green,
12That glitter'd brightly in the sunshine,
13And always laugh'd when the wind blew,
14And lisp'd, day long, in the ears of her sisters.
15And Madongwe, the red locusts,
16Found not the green leaves of Magwere,
17Who flourish'd on the swamp edge.
18Kwagudu, the old wife, with her hoe
19That was worn blunt-nosed with use,
20Weeded all day the fields of her husband,
21And hoed the weeds from the roots of Magwere.
22And Wanaka, the young mother,
23Left her baby in the shade of Magwere,
25And the fat baby laugh'd greatly
26At the green leaves that waved so, --
27So gaily in the cool wind
28That set all the mealies a-rustling.
II
29But Dzua the Sun, who lives beyond the sky line,
30Laugh'd in the sky, and sent words by the wind,
31And the Wind whisper'd in the ear of Magwere.
32`O Magwere,' the Wind said, `thus says the Sun: --
33"Ha, ha, Magwere, by the swamp edge!
34Smile now, Magwere, while you can,
35For the time of harvest is very close.
36"Then will your flowers die, Magwere,
37Your brown leaves sing only of death,
38And your shiny beard will wither and turn brown.
39"Madzua Nipi, or some other maiden,
41Will pluck you from your stalk, and tear your sheath
42That hides the softness of your golden grain.
43"What will Madzua Nipi do with you?
44Roast you upon the coals, and shred your grains
45Into her hand, and throw them in her mouth!
46"Or will Marumi come, the husbandman,
47Saying, `This cob is good,' -- and put you by
48To sleep awhile and wake again in Spring,
49To blossom gloriously an hundred-fold?"'
III
50Magwere answer'd nothing, standing still
51And very rigid in the mocking sun;
52And knew not any answer for the wind.
53And very dry her leaves grew in the sun,
54And very brown her stalk, her sheath, and beard;
55And all her joy drew back into her heart
56That swell'd so sorrowful beneath its sheath.

Notes

1] Manika: African region near Mashonaland. Back to Line
3] Magwere the mealie: maize or corn, a South African name. Back to Line
24] mowa: "a wild spinach of Rhodesia" (Author's note; not in OED). Back to Line
40] kraal: native African village, huts surrounded by a fence, with an area for livestock. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
1909
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
RPO 2000.
Rhyme: