“I who am poisoned with the blood of both
Where shall I turn, divided to the vein?” (27-28)
Derek Walcott’s poem “A Far Cry from Africa” deals with the poet’s inability to resolve his hybrid inheritance causing conflict between his loyalties to Britain and native Africa. Derek Walcott (1930- ) born in St. Lucia, spent most of his life in Trinidad and was also a recipient of Noble prize in literature in 1992. Belonging to both Anglo-European and Afro-Caribbean heritage, his duality in origin gave birth to a sort of identity crisis within himself. Most of his writing is a painful and jarring depiction of ethnic conflict and divided loyalties which earned him international fame in regard to ...view middle of the document...
The poem brings one specific event in history; the Mau Mau Uprising, an extended and bloody battle during the 1950s between European settler especially against the British colonialism and natives of Kikuyu tribe of Kenya which ended with the estimated number of 12000 African and little over 100 European dead (Dawoud, 2012). The poem brings both internal as well as external conflict to the speaker and reveals about the how in the name of anti-colonial policy brought destruction to “paradise” Africa. However, Walcott is in complete dilemma as he cannot be either part of outsider or insider and he is unable to sympathize either British or African. He cannot defend the uprising or completely condemn it.
Walcott begins his conflict by describing the state of Africa and by describing the power of African “as something living and vital “the tawny pelt”, and the “wind of change” of the African to gain independence from colonial conquest and occupation” (Dawoud, 2012). However, he is not taking side of anyone rather exploring the strength and the weakness of the British and the African (Dawoud, 2012). Although the poet portrays the painful exploits of the British on the native African without any sympathy, the poet also states the reason for this cruel exploitation of the African. Walcott also describes the African Kikuyu as:
"flies/Batten upon the bloodstream of the veldt" (3)
The African is compared to that of primitive savages who abuse the fertile resources of their native plains (Kishor, 2014). So in this matter, the arrival of the British and the British colonizing the Africa is seen as the “blessing in disguise” as it appears to benefit not only the people but also the land can be make use of.
Walcott brings in the relationship between the colonizers and the colonized and he shares British (the colonizer) inflicts pain in the name of civilizing the “savages.” Because of the lack of “pure” blood, and his division due to his biracial heritage and his mixed ancestral heritage, it allows Walcott to “contemplate the faults of each culture without reverting to the bias created by attention to moral considerations” (Kishor, 2014). Not able to take side of any, he is displaced from his identity and thus he is isolated.
While the poet’s stand remains unclear, the poet continues describing British as both saviour and slayer. Describing the colonizing British as “worms” in the line:
“Only the worm, colonel of carrion, cries:
"Waste no compassion on these separate dead!" (5-6)
It describes the authoritative nature of the British in foreign land comparing British to that of “worms” which are in the lowest level in the evolutionary ladder. Despite this, Walcott's feelings about his heritage remain ambiguous.
Walcott faces the clashes rather than rationalize them away from the cultural clash on two sides of the nation. Walcott breathes two different traditions; he highlights the historical dilemma between races when his conflicting subconscious asks him about...