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Douglas Livingstone

Lake Morning in Autumn

Some questions to challenge you!

Keith Tankard
Updated: 18 January 2014
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This is a descriptive nature poem, and not particularly complicated in any way. The poet is painting a picture with words of a stork standing on its long thin legs in the shallow waters of an African lake at dawn.

The stork appears to look both tired and sad: tired possibly because of its long flight to this spot; sad because it is all alone, its companion storks not yet having arrived.


Douglas Livingstone was born in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in 1932. He came to South Africa with his family at ten years of age when his father was captured by the Japanese. He would settle in Natal where he went to Kearsney College.

He attended university in what was then Salisbury, Rhodesia -- now Harare, Zimbabwe -- where he trained as a bacteriologist, eventually becoming a marine biologist. He was later awarded a Ph.D. in Science from the University of Natal.

Livingstone was employed as a marine biologist at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in Durban.

He produced several volumes of poetry and wrote radio plays -- winning several awards, the highest being an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Natal.

He died in Durban in 1996.

Have you looked at the questions
in the right column?
Read the left column and then answer
the following questions:

"Before sunrise the stork was there
resting the pillow of his body
on stick legs growing from the water."
  • When did the stork arrive at the lake? (4)

[Need help?]

  • Why is the stork's body referred to as "the pillow of his body"? (4)

[Need help?]

  • Comment on the poet's word usage: "on stick legs growing from the water". (4)

[Need help?]

"A flickering gust of pencil-slanted rain
swept over the chill autumn morning."
  • What does the image "a flickering gust" tell us about the rain? (2)

[Need help?]

  • What do the words "pencil-slanted" tell us? (4)

[Need help?]

"He, too tired to arrange
his wind-buffeted plumage."
  • Why would the stork be too tired to rearrange his plumage? (4)

[Need help?]

"neck flattened, ruminative,

beak on chest, contemplative eye
filmy with star vistas and hollow
black migratory leagues, strangely,

ponderously alone and some weeks
  • Comment on the use of the words "ruminative" and "contemplative" as they are used to enhance the poet's meaning. (4)

[Need help?]

  • Why is the stork's eye "filmy with star vistas and hollow black migratory leagues"? (4)

[Need help?]

  • How far is a league? (2)

[Need help?]

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