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William Plomer

Wild doves at
Louis Trichardt

Easier questions to cut your teeth on!

Keith Tankard
Updated: 18 January 2014
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This is a deeply descriptive poem set in the heat of summer somewhere near Louis Trichardt. The poet dwells on the intense midday heat which causes all human activity to grind to a standstill.

Nearby, however, he hears the gentle cooing of a flock of wild doves, their sound bubbling forth as a cool cascade of pleasure to the ears.


William Charles Franklyn Plomer -- pronounced "Ploomer" -- was born in Pietersburg in the Northern Transvaal in December 1903. Today it is known as Polokwane in the Limpopo Province.

Because his father -- a magistrate -- wanted the best possible education for him, he was home-schooled at first and then sent to England at a very early age. Later he would return to South Africa, where he would graduate from St John's College in Johannesburg.

He turned down an offer for a degree at Oxford University but instead became a farmer in the Stormberg region of South Africa.

He later forces with poet Roy Campbell to edit an Afrikaans literary journal known as Voorslag but the magazine was not popular, and Campbell and Plomer had a falling-out over objectives.

Plomer became a loner, possibly because of the early separation from his family, but he also developed an overt homosexual tendency, something which he made no attempt to hide.

He won fame in South Africa for a novel based on an interracial relationship, a theme which was new at the time but which later became common.

He spent some years in Japan teaching at Tokyo School of Foreign Language and then at a private high school but in 1929 returned to England which he made his base, although frequently returning to South Africa.

He had diverse literary talents which included writing poetry, novels and even the librettos for several of Sir Benjamin Britten's musical compositions.

He was the recipient of several honours such as an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Durham as well as the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry. In 1968 he was awarded the C.B.E.

Plomer died in England 1973 at the age of 70.

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

Where is Louis Trichardt? (2)

[Need help?]

In what season of the year is the poem set? How do you know? (2)

[Need help?]

What does one call a poem in which there is no rhyming scheme? (1)

[Need help?]

Morning is busy with long files
Of ants and men, all bearing loads.
The sun's gong beats, and sweat runs down.
A mason-hornet shapes his hanging house.
In a wide flood of flowers
Two crested cranes are bowing to their food.
From the north today there is ominous news.
  • Why does the poet compare men and ants? (2)

[Need help?]

  • Why does the poet particularly mention the "mason-hornet" instead of merely calling it a "hornet"? (2)

[Need help?]

  • What figure of speech is used in the words "his hanging house"? (1)

[Need help?]

  • What does the poet mean when he says, "From the north today there is ominous news"? (2)

[Need help?]

Midday, the mad cicada-time.
Sizzling from every open valve
Of the overheated earth
The stridulators din it in
Intensive and continuing praise
Of the white-hot zenith, shrilling on
Toward a note too high to bear.
  • Quote THREE words or sets of words which indicate that the day is very hot. (3)

[Need help?]

  • What is a cicada? (2)

[Need help?]

  • Quote THREE WORDS or SETS OF WORDS from this stanza which tell you that cicadas make a great deal of noise. (3)

[Need help?]

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