Sunday, 30 June 2013

Cry, the beloved country – Alan Paton 1948

The story of a murderer in South Africa 1948. And how the father oft he murder and the father oft he victim, actually come to the same conclusion, unconditional compassion.

 “The grass is rich a matted, you cannot see the soil. It holds the rain and the mist, and they seep into the ground, feeding the streams of every kloof. It is well-tended, and not too many cattle feed upon it; not too many fires burn it, for the ground is holdy, being even as it came from the Creator. Keep it, guard it, care for it, for it keeps men, guards men, cares for ment. Destroy it and man is destroyed.
Where you stand the grass is rich and matted, you cannot see the soil. But the rich green hills break down. They fall to the valley below, and falling, change their nature. Or they grow red and bare; they cannot hold the rain and the mist, and the strea,s are dry in the kloofs. Too many cattle feed upon the grass, and too many fires have burned it. Stand shod upon it, for it is coarse and sharp, and the stones cut under the feet. It is not kept, or guarded, or cared for, it no longer keeps men, guards men, cares for men. The titihoya does not cry here any more.” (Paton, 1948, p.7).

“And he told them all about these places, of the great hills and valleys of that far country. And the love of them must have been in his voice, for they were all silent and listened to him. He told them too of the sickness of the land, and how the grass had disappeared, and of the dongas that ran from hill to valley, and valley to hill; how it was a land of old men and women, and mothers and children; how the maize grew barely to the height of a man; how the tribe was broken, and the house broken, and the man broken; how when they went away many never came back, many never wrote any more. How this was true not only in Ndotsheni, but also in the Lufafa, and the Inhlavini and the Umkomaas, and the Umzimkulu. But of Gertrude and Absalom he said nothing.” (Paton, 1948, p.22).

“The tragedy is not that things are broken. The tragedy is that they are not mended again. The white man has broken the tribe.” (Paton, 1948, p.25).

“He seeks power and money to put right what is wrong, and when he gets them, why, he enjoys the power and the money. Now he can gratify his lusts. (…) But there is only one thing that has power completely, and that is love. Because when a man loves, he seeks no power and therefore he has power.” (Paton, 1948, p.37).

“Cry, the beloved country, for the unborn child that is the inheritor of our fear. Let him not love the earth too deeply. Let him not laugh too gladly when the water runs through his fingers, nor stand too silent when the setting sun makes re the veld with fire. Let him not be too moved when the birds of his land are singing, nor give too much of his heart to a mountain or a valley. For fear will rob him of all if he gives too much.” (Paton, 1948, p.72).

“For some hours he sat there in the sun, and whether it was the warmth of it, or the sight of the wide plain beneath stretching away to blue and distant mountains, or the mere passage of time, or the divine providence for the soul that is distressed, he could not say; but there was some rising of the spirit, some lifting of the fear.” (Paton, 1948, p.77).

 “And while there is life, there is hope for amendment of life.” (Paton, 1948, p.94).

“When Kumalo had sat down, Father Vincent said to him, Yes, I said pray and rest. Even if it is only words that you pray, and even if your resting is only a lying on a bed. And do not pray for yourself, and do not pray to understand the ways of God. For they are secret. Who knows what life is? – for life is a secret. And why you have compassion for a girl, when you yourself find no compassion? – that is a secret. Any why you go on, when it would seem better to die? – that is a secret. Do not pray and think about these things now, there will be other times. Pray for Gertrude, and for her child, and for the girld, that is to be your son’s wife, and for the child that will be your grandchild. Pray for your wife and all at Ndotsheni. Pray for the woman and the children that are bereaved. Pray for the soul of him who was killed. Pray for us at the Mission House, and for those at Ezenzeleni, who try to rebuild in a place of destruction. Pray for your own rebuilding. Pray for all white people, those who do justice, and those who would do justice if they were not afraid. And do not fear to pray for your son, and for his amendment.
- I hear you.” (Paton, 1948, p.98).

“- And give thanks where you can give thanks. For nothing is better.” (Paton, 1948, p.98).

“ -I am no saintly man, said Jarvis fiercely.
- Of that I cannot speak, but God put His hands on you.
- And Jarvis said, That may be, that may be. He turned suddenly to Kumalo. Go well, umfundisi. Throughout this night, stay well.” (Paton, 1948, p.232).

“It was Msimangu who had said, Msimangu who had no hate for any man, I have one great fear in my heart, that one day when they turn to loving they will find we are turned to hating.” (Paton, 1948, p.235).

I have never been to South Africa, but with this book, I feel I had a glimpse into the culture and tension of this country in 1948.

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