Shortcut to Afrikaans Literatrure
All short stories and poems prescribed for Afrikaans, (Grade 12 learners - First Additional Language) is discussed and explained in English. It is especially valuable before the trial and final examinations. A revision is much shorter than a study guide.
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Here is a poem from the book for your information:
STAD IN DIE MIS
This poem is about a city, not a specific city, but a city to which people have to go, not because they want to, but because they are forced to, mostly by poverty.
'Mis' means fog. Some cities like London are known for a fog which often settles down upon it, preventing people from seeing properly. The fog referred to in this poem is a metaphor for the hidden truths of the city, that which you cannot see, which might be very unpleasant to you.
The poet shares his dislike for city life here. The poem was written in a time when many Afrikaner people were forced by poverty to move to the cities.
With my tense muscles
do I walk through the fog
because all around me is a prowling animal
under cover of the white darkness
I hear it growling/roaring and in open ditches
does it stagger on pillar legs
and its toppling back of metal:
on street corners, glitter
its bloodshot eyes
and its bite locks steel onto steel.
Let's break it up a bit for the sake of better understanding:
Lines 1 and 2: The poet walks in the city, but his muscles are tense,
indicating that he is scared, that he fears the city, especially the unknown and unexpected. Walking through the fog, indicates that he cannot see the lurking dangers, and because of that, his muscles are tense, he fears the unknown.
Lines 3 and 4: The animal all around him, is the dangers of the city. 'Animal' in this context is something unpleasant. Compare it to a lion prowling a lonely village, waiting to pounce.
The 'white darkness' refers to the fact that one cannot see the animal. The term ,white' is used here, because fog is white, but also because people might not realize there is danger, as opposed to blackness that is normally associated with fear. (White fog gives a false sense of security)
Lines 5, 6 and 7: The ‘roaring animal’, is the sound of cars driving on the freeway. The word moats reminds the poet of the roads. (Moot, -moat in English- is a deep, wide ditch around a castle. It is filled with water.) The steel pillars for legs, refer to the pillars upon which the overhead bridges rest. The staggering metal backs, refer to the uneven ridges of the corrugated iron roofs of the city.
The roaring animal could also refer to the machinery used in cities, the open ditches are the mines and the machines used in the mines. It is also a metaphor for the staggering gait of a machine with steel pillars for legs and a back made of metal. (It reminds one of the machinery being used on roads and in mines.)
Lines 8 and 9: On the street corners one sees the bloodshot eyes of the city. This refers to the red lights of the robots. It also makes one
think of suffering and alcohol abuse (red eyes), both occurrences common to cities – and both associated with red.
Line 10: The steel upon steel bite, refers to those machinery and the sounds it makes when steel meets steel, but it is also a metaphor for the fact that those steel 'jaws' are ready to devour the unfortunate person who has to live in the city.