102 (in that early dusk)

IN THAT EARLY dusk of a distracted age,

When God in scorn of his own workmanship

violently shook his head at his primitive efforts,

an impatient wave snatched you away, Africa,

from the bosom of the East,

and kept you breeding in a dense enclosure of niggardly light,

guarded by giant trees.

There you slowly stored

the baffling mysteries of the wilderness

in the dark cellars of your profound privacy,

conned the signals of land and water difficult to read;

and the secret magic of Nature invoked in your mind

magic rites from beyond the boundaries of consciousness.

You donned the disguise of deformity to mock the terrible,

and in a mimicry of a sublime ferocity

made yourself fearful to conquer fear.

You are hidden, alas, under a black veil,

which obscures your human dignity

to the darkened vision of contempt.

With man-traps stole upon you those hunters

whose fierceness was keener than the fangs of your wolves,

whose pride was blinder than your lightless forests.

The savage greed of the civilised stripped naked its unashamed


You wept and your cry was smothered,

your forest trails became muddy with tears and blood,

while the nailed boots of the robbers

left their indelible prints

along the history of your indignity.

And all the time across the sea,

church bells were ringing in their towns and villages,

the children were lulled in mothers' arms,

and poets sang hymns to Beauty.

Today when on the western horizon

the sunset sky is stifled with dust-storm,

when the beast, creeping out of its dark den,

proclaims the death of the day with ghastly howls,

come, you poet of the fatal hour,

stand at that ravished woman's door,

ask for her forgiveness,

and let that be the last great word

in the midst of the delirium of a diseased Continent.