Archive for Oswald Mtshali

The Birth of Shaka

Posted in Poetry with tags , , on April 14, 2012 by telescoper

His baby cry
was of a cub
tearing the neck
of the lioness
because he was fatherless.

The gods
boiled his blood
in a clay pot of passion
to course in his veins.

His heart was shaped into an ox shield
to foil every foe.

Ancestors forged
his muscles into
thongs as tough
as water bark
and nerves
as sharp as
syringa thorns.

His eyes were lanterns
that shone from the dark valleys of Zululand
to see white swallows
coming across the sea.
His cry to two assassin brothers:

“Lo! you can kill me
but you’ll never rule this land!”

by Oswald Mtshali (b. 1940)

Shaka was a Zulu chief of the 19th Century who built such a  giant empire in what is now South Africa that he became known in Europe as the Black Napoleon. He was eventually killed by his half brothers, but the Zulu empire crumbled soon after when the British Army took it on.