A look at ‘Love Song of a Girl’, a Xhousa(South African Poem)

Photographer/ Ken Lund

I read an interesting poem in an anthology last night and just thought I’d share a few thoughts about it here. Before my commentary on it, here’s the beautiful poem.

Love Song of a Girl

The far-off mountains hide you from me,

While the nearer ones overhang me.

Would that I had a heavy sledge

To crush the mountains near me.

Would that I had wings like a bird

To fly over those farther away.

[Translated by A.C. Jordan]

This very brief poem packs a punch and is kind to our modern hearts and slices our minds into a historical half. A time before modernity, a time where even love had boundaries We still wish to “smash mountains” to get our way at love. So here, I will focus on the emotion of the poem and imagery, briefly.

On initial reading, I understand what the speaker means. There are metaphorical mountains in our way and we would do anything to cross over and achieve our goal of reaching our lover. The speaker admits the mountains are a bit much, “While the nearer ones overhang me”, in the thesaurus, overhang means also to hang over something. So as the speaker laments that her love is far off behind the mountains, her own mountains overhangs her.

Another emotional piece is when the speaker uses action: “Would I had a heavy sledge/ To crush the mountains near me.” She grows tired of the mountains in her way and wishes for a drastic way to rid the world of these confiscating conundrums.

The emotionality of the poem could not have been achieved without a clear picture of mountains, hanging, sledge hammers, wings of birds and of someone flying. All of these terms are what love feels like.

Love feels like a bird and the mountains are forever high to climb and too mighty to break down. A person could be hiding themselves from us…and we use a sledge(metaphorically speaking) to break down those barriers. We talk to one another, wine and dine, we dance, we make love, and then we fight and our mountains grow ever higher.

This may be an ancient poem, but I get what it means.

What other poetic devices do you see being used here? What does the poem say to you?

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

2 thoughts on “A look at ‘Love Song of a Girl’, a Xhousa(South African Poem)

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