South –Kamau Brathwaite (2024)



The persona speaks about the fact that today he is recapturing the beauty of the island of his birth. He reflects on the fact that he has travelled to the lands of the north, which appeared to be the very opposite of his island. The persona appeared, at that point, to be homesick for his island and resented the ease and comfort that the Northerners’ felt towards their land. He then shifts back to the present where he appreciates certain features of the island, particularly those that remind him of his past on the island.


•Stanza 1, lines 1-2: The sound that the alliteration elicits, when spoken, is a positive one. This is the case because the alliteration forces the reader to sound cheerful, thereby facilitating the interpretation that the persona is happy to be home.

•Stanza 1, lines 4-5: This alliteration, again, draws the reader through the sound that it elicits. One can almost hear the sound that the sea makes through the repetition of the ‘s’ sound. It emphasizes the joy that the persona feels to be home.

•Stanza 2, lines 13-14: This alliteration, when spoken, is staccato. It literally emphasizes the persona’s discomfort, and dislike, of the new context that he is faced with. It is alien to him, as seen when contrasted with the scene that he describes in the first stanza.

•Stanza 4, line 33: This device gives the reader a visual image of the scene. It is simple image that highlights the persona’s excitement at being home and seeing scenes, even seemingly inconsequential ones, that he knows and loves.

•Stanza 5, line 43: This alliteration gives the reader a visual of what the persona sees as pleasant and calming, as opposed to the alliteration in stanza 2. The sound that the alliteration illicits is a calm one, implying that the persona is at peace.

•Stanza 1, lines 6-7: This device gives a beautiful impression of the effect that the island had on the persona. He felt whole when he was there, at peace.

•Stanza 2, lines 16-17: The shadows, in this context, represents his past life and experiences on the island. The memories of his island elicits feelings of sadness, even homesickness. These memories cast an oppressive shadow over his life in the north. 3.SIMILE
The persona compares the flowing of the rivers, which represents the north, to his longing for his island home. This comparison indicates that his longing is an intense one, he is homesick.

The word capture means to take possession of something or someone. Therefore, when the persona says that he is recapturing his island, it implies that he is taking back possession of what he once owned.

5.’Since then I have travelled’
This line indicates that the persona did not remain on the island of his birth.

6.’sojourned in stoniest cities’
This highlights a contrast between the persona’s island and the cities that he visited. His island has beaches and oceans, while the cities that he visited were concrete jungles made of stone.

7.’We who are born of the ocean can never seek solace in rivers’
The persona refers to the north, and its populace, as rivers, while the south, and his island, is the ocean. This line highlights the persona’s discontent in the north.

8.’reproves us our lack of endeavour and purpose’
Reprove is to reprimand. Therefore, the line is saying that the flowing river, the north, reprimands the ocean, the south, for its lack of effort and resolve. This implies that the persona might be homesick and, therefore, not functioning at full capacity in the new northern environment.

9.’proves that our striving will founder on that.’
The term founder literally means the owner or operator of a foundry. This has little to do with the context of the poem, therefore, it can be assumed that poetic license was utilized at this point. Contextually, the line can be interpreted as meaning that the persona’s subsequent striving, or efforts, will be founded on the reprimand made by the river, or the north.

The emphasis placed on this word, through the use of italics, highlights the fact that the persona is both happy and excited to be home.

11.’and look!’
The exclamation mark emphasizes the persona’s enthusiasm, and excitement, when he identifies a scene that is reminiscent of his past.

The mood of the poem is reflective. The persona is thinking about his island home, as well as places that he has visited in the north.

The tone of the poem goes from being reflective, to being elated.

Patriotism, places, desires and dreams

South –Kamau Brathwaite (2024)


What is the theme of the poem South by Kamau Brathwaite? ›

The poem describes the speaker's journey from his homeland in the Caribbean to traveling abroad. He feels oppressed in the cities and forests he visits. However, in the end he decides he wants to return to his homeland by the sea, where he is welcomed back by the fishermen and children as someone who belongs.

What is the simile in South by Kamau Brathwaite? ›

Using a simile, he says rivers' "flowing runs on like our longing." As the rivers are always traveling towards the sea, slowly and patiently, they remind the poet of his desire to be at home, at the ocean's edge.

What year was the poem South by Kamau Brathwaite written? ›

"South" is a poem by Kamau Brathwaite that was written in 1967. Brathwaite was a Caribbean poet and scholar who was born in Barbados in 1930. He spent much of his life studying and writing about Caribbean culture, history, and identity.

What does Kamau Brathwaite mean by nation language? ›

Nation language, on the other hand, is the submerged area of that dialect which is much more closely allied to the African aspect of experience in the Caribbean. It may be in English: but often it is in an English which is like a howl, or a shout or a machine-gun or the wind or a wave.

What is the main message theme of the poem? ›

The theme of a poem is the message an author wants to communicate through the piece. The theme differs from the main idea because the main idea describes what the text is mostly about. Supporting details in a text can help lead a reader to the main idea.

What is the poem "A Lesson for This Sunday" about? ›

This poem explores themes of humanity's cruelty towards nature. In the first stanza, the narrator lies in a hammock enjoying the summer grass and butterflies. Two children, a boy and girl, chase and dissect a yellow-winged butterfly. When the black maid sees this, she stops them, but the girl begins screaming.

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