The 2 poems I am going to compare are Vultures and Nothings Changed. Vultures was written by a Nigerian tribesman named Chinua Achebe. Achebe was born in Ogidi, Nigeria in 1930. He was christened as Albert Achebe. He is one of the most admired African novelists who writes in English. On the other hand, Nothing’s Changed was written by Tatamkhula Afrika, born in Egypt and came to South Africa as a child. Nothing’s Changed is an autobiographic poem and follows the journey of Afrika as he returns back to his home town after the Apartheid is over.
However, he fails to see how the abolishment of the Apartheid has changed District Six of Cape Town, where he lived as a child and grew up, as there is still a division between the whites and blacks. This is shown by comparing the posh “whites only inn “and the “working mans cafe selling bunny chows”. Whereas Achebe’s poem, Vultures, give us an insight into how 2 different sides of people or animals can exist. The vultures of the title may be birds of prey but Chinua Achebe used to represent people of a certain kind. Achebe kinks his poem to World War 2.
He wrote Vultures shortly after the end of the war. H makes references to “Belsen Camp, “trench” and other words that can symbolise evil or relate to the war. “Charnel house”, a vault where dead bodies or bones are piled. Also, “Belsen Camp” where 50,000 Jews (including Anne Frank) were killed. We can also relate “kindred” to the theme of World War 2 and evil, as this means blood related or close family. The whole cause of World War 2 was impurity and inequality between Jews and ‘pure blood’ Germans. Achebe also thinks about, not just World War 2, but all the unlikely places in which love can be found.
This could either mean there is some good in every creature OR that those who are all loving are also capable= of evil. For example, Hitler. Adolf Hitler was said to love all children and animals but he was still mainly evil. The poem has no true elation to the Vultures in the first stanza and as the title; the poem is really about good and evil’s places in society. A quote from Tatamkhula Afrika, about his poems Nothings Changed. “Entirely autobiographical… nothing has changed, not only in District Six … is racism in this country absolutely redolent…
shocking, saddening and terrible. Afrika’s one hope was that the inequality between blacks and whites would come to an end. He helped bring to an end the Apartheid; however he did not feel this was enough. He carried on by writing this poem about hid journey back to District Six. Vultures and nothings changed use a lot of imagery. Vultures, however uses a lot more. “His smooth bashed-in head, a pebble on a stem rooted in a dump of gross feathers”. The reader would be piecing together the vultures as the description goes on.
On the other hand, in nothings changed, the poet uses more cryptic imagery to make the reader think in more depth and be more engaged in the poem. “Small round hard stones clicked under my heels”. Me, as the reader, could put myself in the poet’s shoes and experience the whole poem as Afrika. The vultures would be perceived as horrible evil vermin due to the negative description. “Bashed in head… in a dump of gross feathers” They would be seen as ugly creatures, in contrast to the loving description of them earlier on in the poem.
“Perched high… nestled close to his mate”. In the 1st part of vultures, the poem is written in past tense. These changes at “thus the commandment… ” to present tense to create immediacy. Vultures is set into 2 stanzas. The first stanza is all about the daily routine of 2 vultures and a commandment at Belsen death camp. The second stanza however sums up not just the vultures but also all inequalities “that grants even an ogre, a tiny glow worm tenderness encapsulated”. It is also written in free verse, with lines of different lengths.
The lines are short so we can read the poem slowly and can appreciate its full horrors. In Nothings Changed, there are 7 stanzas, each stanza showing a different part of Afrika’s journey back to District 6. The first 3 stanzas show the white area of District 6 whereas the last 3 stanzas represent the black’s area of the District. The centre stanza, “No sign says it is, but we know where we belong”, represents the centre of the poem. The point that the poem revolves around. Vultures has no real structure to it. I believe this represents the life if the commandment at Belsen Camp.
The way he has no set routine to his day but has the power to do anything he wants. In contrast, Nothing’s Changed sticks to rhythm and represents the blacks of Cape Town, having to stick to the rules and being restricted into a routine. Also, in Nothing’s Changed, the balance in the stanzas symbolises the way Tatamkhula Afrika wants the blacks and whites to be equal. The centre stanza,”No sign says it is… ” is seen as a pivot on a pair of weighing scales. The balance of the stanza stands for inequalities, which should be balanced, as Afrika sees it should be.
Vultures should be read in a cold, dead tone, to emphasise all the horrors. The poem begins with a cold depressing tone, “greyness” “drizzle” “despondent”. However, towards the end, the tone changes to a softer tender tone to emphasise the different sides of people, or in this case, Vultures. Also, the ending of Vultures is ambiguous; this suggests the reader can have 1 of 2 understandings of the poem. The mood lifts slightly when the words “love”, “affectionately”, “tender offspring” and “daddy” are incorporated in the poem.
The final line “evil” ends the poem with a depressed tone. In contrast, Nothings Changed starts with a normal everyday tone, but slowly evolves into a quick angry tone to show Afrika’s true feelings of the unevenness between blacks and whites. Vultures are used in the poem as a symbol of evil and to introduce the theme to us. Vultures does not fit neatly alongside Nothing’s Changed and is difficult to compare in some contexts. However, it does have a clear theme, which looks at the paths of both good and evil.
It also looks at human behaviour and the choices that people make may they be good or evil. A slight theme of Christianity runs through Vultures, using terms such as “bounteous providence” which suggests what follows is provided by God. Also, “if you will” Achebe leaves the reader the choice of whether to thank God for this evil aspect of human nature. “Perpetuity” indicates that the poet accepts that evil is one of the aspects of humanity that will never end; and again the reader is offered a choice to make “or else”.
This suggests the poet may be undecided or plans to leave you thinking about the final decision of the poem to make you remember his poem. Nothing’s changed however has a theme of division. “I see them”; them are seen, as a different group of people classed as something not close in personality to them of the poet. Towards the end, there is a theme of violence, as Afrika imagines himself breaking the window in the “Whites only inn” which would therefore break the divide. Both the poems have a conclusive theme of inequality. Tatamkhula commented on his poem “I am full of hope, but I won’t see it in my lifetime.
It’s going to take a long time” Tatamkhula is waiting for the change in inequality to come, however he realises there is a lot of work to be done and the inequalities, between the blacks and whites which will not be over in his lifetime. I think Afrika wrote this poem to outline just how bad the problems are in, not just District Six and Africa but all over the world. Although the poem was written in 1990 and the ‘weighing scales’ have had 18 years to equal out, the closeness between the blacks and whites is still not there.
Today, as you walk around any town, you will see acts of racism, or evil as we take into account Vultures. Achebe wrote Vultures to make the reader think about subjects that are only thought about momentarily. The subject of good and evil is not thought about enough. Achebe wrote this to highlight things in human nature that are forgotten about. After analysing both poems, I have to say Vultures is my favourite as it has more background to it, it has more room for exploration into the poem itself.