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William Plomer

Wild doves at
Louis Trichardt

More questions of an easier nature!

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:

Oven of afternoon, silence of heat.
In shadow, or in shaded rooms,
This face is hidden in folded arms,
That face is now a sightless mask,
Tree-shadow just includes those legs.
The people have all lain down, and sleep
In attitudes of the sick, the shot, the dead.
  • Explain the metaphor "Oven of afternoon". (2)

[Need help?]

  • Why are the people all resting? (2)

[Need help?]

  • What figure of speech is contained in the words "The people . . . sleep in attitudes of the sick"? (1)

[Need help?]

And now in the grove the wild doves begin,
Whose neat silk heads are never still,
Bubbling their coolest colloquies.
The formulae they liquidly pronounce
In secret tents of leaves imply
(Clearer than man-made music could)
Men being absent, Africa is good.
  • List THREE words or sets of words which indicate that the call of the wild doves has a cooling effect on the mind. (3)

[Need help?]

  • Why does the poet remark, "Men being absent"? (2)

[Need help?]

  • The word "colloquy" means:
    a song;
    a noise;
    a conversation;
    or a cool bubbling stream? (2)

[Need help?]

  • Quote a phrase which indicates that the poet deeply admires the sound of the dove-song. (1)

[Need help?]

  • Quote the phrase in not more than THREE words which indicates that the poet probably cannot see the wild doves. (1)

[Need help?]

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