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Short poem

Kingsley Fairbridge (1885-1924)

Magwere, Who Waits Wondering

              1Among the smooth hills of Manika,
              2Near the edge of the big swamp where cane rats live,
              3Grew Magwere the mealie.

              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,
            24While she pick'd mowa for the pot.

            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.

            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,
            40Hot and hard-handed, from the kraal,
            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?"'

            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.


1] Manika: African region near Mashonaland.

3] Magwere the mealie: maize or corn, a South African name.

24] mowa: "a wild spinach of Rhodesia" (Author's note; not in OED).

40] kraal: native African village, huts surrounded by a fence, with an area for livestock.

Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

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.
First publication date: 1909
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: RPO 2000.
Recent editing: 2:2002/4/18

Form: triplets and quatrains
Rhyme: unrhyming

Other poems by Kingsley Fairbridge