Remembering Alan Paton’s ‘The Discardment’

2013-05-17 15.11.32 2013-05-17 15.11.41
In a few months we’re moving… to a beautiful new home, with a wonderful view and lots of clean, white space. In the meantime, we are clearing out cupboards and giving away things we no longer use or want. Having a practical personality and having moved countries twice and homes seven times (this move), I am not controlled by huge bouts of sentimentality….therefore getting rid of “stuff” is relatively easy for me.

Nonetheless there is a tension within …

One of our school set-work poems “The Discardment” by South African literary giant, Alan Paton, still haunts me. It is a brilliant work of words that shaped my social consciousness and influenced my heart towards political activism. Studying it at school changed how I thought and eventually how I acted as a person in apartheid South Africa….It came to mind while I was writing my 5 Minute Friday post on the 17th May: Cry the Beloved Country.
I have wanted to share it ever since…..

The Discardment
We gave her a discardment
A trifle, a thing no longer to be worn,
Its purpose served, its life done.
She put it on with exclamations,
Her eyes shone, she called and cried,
The great bulk of her pirouetted
She danced and mimed, sang snatches of a song.
she called out blessings on her native tongue
She called out to her fellow-servants
To the strangers and passers-by
To all the continent of Africa
To see this wonder, to participate
In this intolerable joy.
And so for nothing
Is purchased loyalty and trust
And the unquestioning obedience
Of the earth’s most rare simplicity.
So for nothing
The destruction of a world.