He came through the misty morning,
Pierced with the dry-bone splinters of the Highveld heat,
And the lazy wind whipped the curls of graying hair,
And stung the pains of cruel defeat.
On Sundays he would wander down
To the wind-whipped ripples of the stream,
And while his favourite pet
Soothed the sun-soaked blisters of his skin,
Gaan would stand and dream.
When, because of rain, the workmen stopped the fields,
Gaan would climb the lofty crags of Mount Maree,
And, etched against the soiled clouds that lashed
With rain the punished earth, Gaan would sit,
And cry with tears that he was free.
His favourite stories were from his youth,
Which he recounted in the fading light,
Stories told round flickering fires,
Painted on a purple canvas
Etched against the night.
And I remember well the tales that he told,
Sprinkled with a nervous eye or a twitching frown,
Until the day he closed the book,
And we laid Gaan, the Zulu, down.