The growing idleness of summer grass With its frail kites of furious butterflies Requests the lemonade of simple praise In scansion gentler than my hammock swings And rituals no more upsetting than a Black maid shaking linen as she sings The plain notes of some Protestant hosanna— Since I lie idling from the thought in things— Or so they should, until I hear the cries Of two small children hunting yellow wings, Who break my Sabbath with the thought of sin. Brother and sister, with a common pin, Frowning like serious lepidopterists. The little surgeon pierces the thin eyes. Crouched on plump haunches, as a mantis prays She shrieks to eviscerate its abdomen. The lesson is the same. The maid removes Both prodigies from their interest in science. The girl, in lemon frock, begins to scream As the maimed, teetering thing attempts its flight. She is herself a thing of summery light, Frail as a flower in this blue August air, Not marked for some late grief that cannot speak. The mind swings inward on itself in fear Swayed towards nausea from each normal sign. Heredity of cruelty everywhere, And everywhere the frocks of summer torn, The long look back to see where choice is born, As summer grass sways to the scythe's design.
A wind is ruffling the tawny pelt
Of Africa. Kikuyu, quick as flies,
Batten upon the bloodstreams of the veldt.
Corpses are scattered through a paradise.
Only the worm, colonel of carrion, cries:
"Waste no compassion on these separate dead!"
Statistics justify and scholars seize
The salients of colonial policy.
What is that to the white child hacked in bed?
To savages, expendable as Jews?
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.
The violence of beast on beast is read
As natural law, but upright man
Seeks his divinity by inflicting pain.
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.
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.
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 choose
Between this Africa and the English tongue I love?
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?