Relationship of Walcott's Poetry with History Essay

1062 Words 5 Pages
Discuss the relationship Walcott’s Poetry has with History. How is this demonstrated in his poetry?

‘I have Dutch, nigger and English in me, and either I am nobody, or I am a nation.’ This is a quote from ‘Shabine’, a Walcott persona. A central theme that runs through Walcott’s poetry is his search for identity. In many of his poems he focuses on an internal dissonance between established cultural heritage in his African, English and Caribbean ancestry in developing one that encompasses each one without disregarding another. He appears to be in constant pursuit of a feeling of atonement; one it seems he can only gain from returning to his pre-slave trade ancestors. Walcott also refers to the past so he can begin to understand and
…show more content…
Betray them both, or give back what they give?’ the origins of this belief could be because of conflicts England and Africa has had in the past. It seems he feels the need to return to past conflict to determine where his loyalties lye; having a compromise of both does not seem to be an option for Walcott.

There is a recurring reference to history in ‘Ruins of a Great House’ as Walcott discovers the repercussions of decolonisation. Walcott is angry at what now remains of the collapsing empire; a symbol of both huge material wealth and the remains of an economy built on slave trade. ‘The leprosy of empire’ describes a self corrosive, contagious disease that spreads, contaminating everything it touches. ‘Deciduous beauty prospered and is gone’ relates to the passing of time, this is also represented in the poems opening lines with a bitterness of what once existed; the ‘smell of dead limes’, the ‘bright girls gone’, replaced with ‘moth like girls’. Walcott refers back to history in this poem towards the end to justify and understand the reasons for this derelict landscape, ‘but still the coal of my compassion fought, that Albion too was once a colony like ours,’ there is a feeling of reconciliation in this line; as if, when he remembers that the colonisers experienced colonisation as well, it provides an excuse or rationale. This creates some kind of ease within

Related Documents