• TATAMKHULU AFRIKA
“All we see of someone at any moment
is a snapshot of their life, there in riches
or poverty, in joy or despair. Snapshots
don't show the million decisions that
led to that moment.” Richard Bach
“Did universal charity prevail, earth would
be a heaven, and hell a fable.”
Charles Caleb Colton
Figure of speech activity
• Find examples of :
– Simile (3)
– Alliteration (3)
– Personification (1)
– Metaphor (1)
• Choose any 2 figures of speech and explain
what you think they mean
BACKGROUND OF THE POET:
• Novelist and prize-winning poet,
Tatamkhulu Afrika was born in Egypt
• He came to South Africa as a young
• He was a veteran of World War 2 and
an Umkhonto we Sizwe activist in the
South African struggle.
• Tatamkhulu Afrika means
“grandfather” or “old man” of Africa
LINES 1 – 3
1. When I passed
2. the bus-stop, his black
3. as biltong hand
1. I = A personal experience
3.1. ‘black/as biltong’ = figure
of speech. SIMILE.
His hand is being compared to
characteristic is the colour
2. His = clue to the beggar’s
3.2. Black = a reference to race?
Is it describing the beggars
Lines 3 – 4
4. thrust out,
5. demanding alms.
4. Thrust = A sharp forward
Begging is usually seen as a
submissive, pleading activity –
however this beggar THRUSTS his
hand forward. A very forceful
5.1. Demanding: Requesting
urgently and forcefully.
5.2. Alms: Voluntary
contributions to aid the poor
The speaker thinks the beggar
should be more humble and
passive as he is not in any position
of power – to make demands.
Lines 5 – 8
5. Beneath the grime,
6. he was a yellow man,
7. and small,
8. and crumpled as a towel,
5. Grime = dirt
6. 1. The beggar is NOT a black
man – he is simply covered in
grime which hides his real race.
Yellow = coloured
7/8.These lines are giving
further details into the
beggars appearance –
from the speakers
7/8. Simile: Comparing the
man’s appearance to a
small, crumpled towel.
What does this tell us about
Lines 9 – 10
9. eyes receding into bone,
10. shivering, too thin frame
11. denying the truculence of the hand.
9. Receding – Pull/move backward. Further continues the image of the
beggar being ill/weak.
10.1. Why would the
beggar be shivering?
10.2. Too thin frame: The beggar has a very emaciated
body – due to a lack of food possibly… OR?
Denying: Contradicting the truculence: defiant aggressiveness of the hand
The beggars physical characteristics (weak, ill, small) oppose the strength he
shows by his thrusting hand (line 4).
12. “No,” I said,
13. and walked on,
14. annoyed that I was annoyed,
Lines 12 – 16
The speaker is so irritated that he is abrupt.
Do you think the speaker made eye contact as he
The speaker is irritated by the beggar BUT he is upset that he feels this way.
Is the speaker justified in feeling annoyed?
Why is he feeling guilty?
15.swatting off shame
16.all the way into town.
Swatting = image of getting rid of an
The speaker ‘scolded’ himself all the
way into town.
17. Coming back,
18. the day-long drizzle stopped
19. and a suddenly clear
20. sky sang**
Lines 17 – 20
On the speaker’s return, we are given an indication of
the environment: day-long drizzle
environment linking to
his inner turmoil.
The day has been miserable and wet
and suddenly the clouds clear up – a
possible link to a sudden moment of
Indicates a shift of mood – the poem was
rather serious until this moment.
Singing is usually a way to express feelings of
joy and happiness. This is in direct contrast to
the desperate poverty of the beggar and the
anger the speaker feels.
**Sky sang =
22. of summer round the bend,
23. white sails in the Bay,
24. birds grown garrulous again.
Lines 22 – 24
These lines discuss what it is that the sky ‘sings’ about:
The season is about to change from a rain-filled spring to summer.
Bay = capitalized: indicating the importance of the bay to the community. The
sails could be pleasure boats, but also indicate a fishing culture.
Birds returning to their former garrulous (chatty) selves. Summer is a much
“lighter” season – the world seems to find renewed energy and joy.
25. I looked for him.
26. He was lying on his back in the sun,
27. eyes closed,
Lines 25 – 27
The speaker, having mentioned external (environmental) changes, now
indicates a possibly changed attitude toward the beggar. In line 14 – the
speaker walked away from this man, yet he is now seeking him out.
Why do you think he seeks the beggar out? (For what purpose?)
Lying in the sun = creates the image of
relaxation and contentment.
Eyes closed = either unconscious or
IRONIC: The speaker has been
criticising himself since he left the
beggar, while the man himself appears
to be totally carefree and unconcerned
with the speaker’s pervious actions.
28. stretched out long as a spill,
29. hardly* distinguishable**
30. from any of the other
31. drifts of debris in the lane.
Lines 28 – 31
Simile – the position in
which the beggar lies
seems to be as careless
as something spilled.
**Capable of being
differentiated from your
* The beggar can barely be
seen as separate from…
Debris: The remains of something that
has been destroyed or broken up.
The beggar has lived for so long under
these conditions, that he has become
like the broken-down objects/junk that
32. “Drunk again,” I thought,
33. and paused, then pressed
34. my penance into his palm.
Lines 32 – 34
All beggars are alcoholics/addicts
of some kind.
This links to line 25 – a change of the
speaker’s attitude. He does not just
walk past as he has done before.
Pressed: links to the idea of
exerting force. N.B. NOT
Penance: Voluntary self-
punishment in order to make
right some act of wrongdoing.
This idea links largely to the
Catholic Church but many
other religions demand their
own forms of penance.
POINTS TO PONDER:
1. What is the penance that the speaker
2. Why would he need to forcefully give his
penance to the beggar?
35. Quick as a trap,
36. his fingers lashed
37. over it: surprised
Lines 35 – 37
Trap: A device in which something
(usually an animal) can be caught.
The beggar reacts immediately to
the pressure of the speaker’s hand
& money on his own.
Lashed: To bind together using a
Although the speaker believed that
the beggar was asleep (line 27) and
therefore drunk (line 32) – his
speedy reaction to the money lets
us all know he was neither.
Was the beggar surprised
because he recognised the
Is it because very few people
actually stop to give him
38. sober eyes blessed
39. me for being kind.
Lines 38 – 39
Confirmation that the beggar is the
exception to the stereotype (L32). He is
Reinforced link to religion =
confess, do penance and receive
The beggar has so little material wealth,
yet he is able to offer the speaker the
blessing (and absolution*) that he
seems to so desperately need.
*The condition of
forgiven by a priest
It appears so easy to be kind, but, as the
speaker shows us, it often requires a lot
of the person involved.
The beggar believes the speaker is being
kind, but is that really his main
40. Then he slept again,
41. fist wrapped tight,
42. about the bribe my guilt refused,
The decision to give the beggar some
money was a difficult one for the
speaker. The beggar does not have to
deal with any such worries and
returns to a peaceful sleep quite
The beggar appears to be worry-
free, but the fact that he holds the
money so tightly, lets us know that
he really does have to struggle and
fight to survive.
Bribe: Payment made to a person in a position of trust to corrupt his judgment.
The speaker says he gave the beggar the “bribe my guilt refused” – creating the idea
that, although the money is HIS, keeping it will be like accepting a bribe to refuse
assistance to the beggar. His feelings of guilt override the “bribe.”
Lines 40 – 42
Guilt: Regret caused by
feeling responsible for an
Why does he feel guilty?
43. limbs thrown wide
44. as though a car had flung him there
45. and left him to a healing of the sun.
Lines 43 – 45
Again the image of carelessness –
not trapped by society’s rules.
Could this represent freedom? OR
Image of an accident scene – a pedestrian knocked down and flung: Thrown with
force or recklessness - showing very little value of his life because the image
The ‘car’ has left the injured beggar at the scene – to be healed by the sun – a most
impractical and ineffective idea.
Symbolism: What does the car represent in relation to the speaker?
• The poem is literally dealing with the speaker’s
experience with a beggar and the process he
goes through while giving away the money.
• Figuratively, the poet is making a statement
about Apartheid South Africa. The beggar
symbolises the masses – who were either
ignored or forgotten by those in power.
These people had real problems, but there were no
feasible solutions from the government. In essence,
they were suffering due to Apartheid policy, but, in
return, were simply dismissed and left to“a healing
of the sun.”