Recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1992, Saint Lucian native, Derek Walcott, wrote 40 Acres in November, 2008. He wrote this poem in honor of the newly elected president, Barack Obama, and was published the day after the election in the London Times. Walcott introduces the poem with a great deal of imagery and symbolism shown in lines 1-13. “Out of the turmoil” he describes a “young negro”, as an emblem, with a straw hat and overalls on what seems to be a farm. He describes a crowd awaiting their president. In line four he mentions a mule and in line seven he describes a forty acres wide field. This “40 acres and a mule” concept refers to the short-lived policy, during the last stages of the American Civil War in 1865, of providing land and a mule to black former slaves who had become free as a result of the advancement of the Union armies into the territory previously controlled by the Confederacy. He continues by adding menacing characters like the crows, owls, and the scarecrow. The young Negro ignores their “rage” and “predictable omens”. In lines 14-16, the ploughman proceeds with his work “beyond the moaning ground, the lynching tree, the tornado's black vengeance…” This symbolizes the many hardships and obstacles black people faced and had to overcome during slavery and post slavery era. The poem’s tone lightens up as he concludes it in lines 17-20. The young ploughman feels the “change in his veins, heart, muscles…” This change refers to the dawn of a new era sparked by President Barack Obama. Change is always happening and it is not progressive to hold on to the past. We are to accept and embrace change and await the “sower”. 40 Acres - by Derek Walcott
- to honor the Presidential election victory of Barack OBAMA Out of the turmoil emerges one emblem, an engraving —
a young Negro at dawn in straw hat and overalls,
an emblem of impossible prophecy, a crowd
dividing like the furrow which a mule has ploughed,
parting for their...
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