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I don’t agree with all the sentiments in this poem, but I love the way the poet shows in form and metre the difference between the small island of England and the vast expanses of Africa. I feel my soul contract with the English stanzas and expand with the African ones!

The Song of an Exile

I have seen the cliffs of Dover
And the White Horse on the hill;
I have walked the lanes, a rover;
I have dreamed beside the rill:
I have known the fields awaking
To the gentle touch of Spring;
The joy of morning breaking,
And the peace your twilights bring.

But I long for a sight of the pines, and the blue shadows under;
For the sweet-smelling gums, and the throbbing of African air;
For the sun and the sand, and the sound of the surf’s ceaseless thunder,
The height, and the breadth and the depth, and the nakedness there.

I have visited your cities
Where the unregenerate dwell;
I have trilled the ploughman’s ditties
To the mill-wheel and the well.
I have heard the poised lark singing
To the blue of summer’s skies;
The whirr of pheasants winging,
And the crash when grouse arise.

But I sigh for the heat of the veld, and the cool-flowing river;
For the crack of the trek-whip, the shimmer of dust-laden noon:
For the day sudden dying; the croak of the frogs, and the shiver
Of tropical night, and the stars, and the low-hanging moon.

I have listened in the gloaming
To your poets’ tales of old;
I know, when I am roaming,
That I walk on hallowed mould.
I have lived and fought among you
And I trow your hearts are steel;
That the nations who deride you
Shall, like dogs, be brought to heel.

But I pine for the roar of the lion on the edge of the clearing;
For the rustle of the grass snake; the bird’s flashing wing on the heath;
For the sun-shrivelled peaks of the mountains to blue heaven rearing;
The limitless outlook, the space, and the freedom beneath.

W. Hamilton
(Died 1917)

From A Book of English Verse for South African Readers, Ed. W.S. Mackie, Macmillan and Co., Limited, 1935



[…] The Song of an Exile by W. Hamilton […]



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