Cicely Fox Smith
Great Zimbabwe (Southern Rhodesia) - Poem by Cicely Fox Smith
Who were the builders of Great Zimbabwe?
No man knows . . .
Who were those
That quarried, chiseled, hewed,
Laid stone on stone,
Till the high wall stood
And their task was done?
Who and when
No man knows
Only that many men
In a time long gone -
Hundreds of years, thousands of years,
It is all one -
Under the terrible, fierce
Sweted and wrought in their day,
And went their way . . .
But to what end they fashioned
High wall, strong tower,
Altar and citadel,
By what urge impassioned,
Desire of gold or power,
No man can tell.
Who were the dwellers in Great Zimbabwe?
No man can say
What manner of folk were they,
Nor what dark dynasties
Of blood and fear
Held, as they should not cease,
Before - how swiftly, how slowly
No man can say,
Famine, pestilence or the foe,
No man can know -
The doom swept them wholly
And for ever away,
Leaving to time and decay
And the years' slow silt,
The gods to whom they prayed
And the strong places they had built
And everything they had made . . .
Empty as a bleached skull
Of the loud life,
The voices and the trafficking and the strife
That fills it full . . .
Empty and alone,
Empty of life, empty of memory, empty of all -
Only the wild fig, self-sown,
Clings with knotted fingers to the wall,
And the bright lizards on the sun-baked stone
Flicker, gleam for a moment, flash and are gone . . .
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