By Dennis Brutus
Sleep well, my love, sleep well:
the harbor lights glaze over restless docks,
police cars cockroach through the tunnel streets;
from the shanties creaking iron-sheets
violence like a bug-infested rag is tossed
and fear is immanent* as sound in the wind-swung bell;
the long day’s anger pants from sand and rocks;
but for this breathing night at least,
my land, my love, sleep well.
Nightsong: City is essentially a love-song to the writers’ homeland, South Africa. The title can be interpreted to be sounds of South Africa as the city. The apartheid is the basis of this poem and illustrates the problems that the black South Africans dealt with on a day-to-day basis. The imagery described in this poem describes the sounds of a typical night in a South African shanty. The first stanza begins with a soft tone, however the message of the poem describes the harsh realities that black South Africans must face daily. In the second stanza Brutus writes that, “. . . fear is immanent as sound in the wind-sung bell. . .” This statement points out that fear is an inherent factor in the life of the black South African during the time of apartheid. Brutus wants the reader to experience what the black South Africans delt with everyday through his words. In spite of the similes exhibiting the problems of day-to-day life, the writer longs for the homeland to rest, to have a break from all of the problems, as written in the third stanza “. . . my land, my love, sleep well. . .” The poem is ultimately a contrast. The writer recognizes, and lives, all of the problems and inequities of apartheid (at least for blacks), but holds a deep and abiding love for his home.
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