A poem about treasures C. Louis Leipoldt

There is a small section on the gravel path that circles Deer Park (formerly Van Riebeeck Park) above Vredehoek, on the slopes of Table Mountain, which must have been constructed using compacted rubble from an old dumpsite.

Sometimes, after strong rain and the subsequent disturbance of the top surface of the path, one or two small pieces of old porcelain or bits of broken pipe stems get exposed.  The dumpsite from where the rubble  was taken must have been near the sea shore, because there will also be found tiny shells, broken pieces of bigger shells and very occasionally an intact shell that has been worn smooth and rounded.

Along another small stretch of this path, a few indigenous trees still survive. These create a dark bower that compels a sensitive walker to stop, for the atmosphere is quite different to that among the planted pines along the next part of the walk. Further on, if you stand in a particular place, among protea bushes, you can obscure from your view all the distant buildings of the city. This gives a sense of what it must have been like to look across the base of Table Mountain towards the sea, before urbanisation.

So a short walk can reveal quite a bit of history. The ‘archaeological’ site on the path speaks of a time when white, long-stemmed pipes were fashionable among smokers, and when people dined off blue-and-white crockery that came from China, delivered by sailing ship. It brings up all sorts of questions about collectables. It provokes thoughts about the beautiful things that survive the passing of time, things kept safely for generations in trunks, boxes and display cabinets. It makes one wonder about those items that don’t survive, but which end up broken, tossed onto a dump, and afforded a possible resurrection only when one tiny fragment is picked up and admired for the beauty it once expressed.



Grandmother’s workbox
C. Louis Leipoldt

Inlaid with ivory from Indian elephants,
And mother o’pearl from Malayan seas;
A sandalwood sanctuary, finely carved
With beetles and Bhuddas arranged in threes.
It stands by the window, beside her mittens,
And Grandmother opens it now and then,
While we crowd around her to stare and wonder
At its quaint adornments of beasts and men.
It holds a motley, a rare collection
Of odds and ends of a time long fled,
The still loved remnants of what had meanings
Years, years ago, but that now are dead.

A fat jade idol with eyes of garnet;
A piebald toadstone, a seashell rare;
A shower of gemstones green and crimson;
A trifle of dainty porcelain ware;
Needles and knitting pins, foreign pennies;
A piece of eight and a golden doubloon;
Silk from Benares, a quiz from Paris;
And – bought at Burgos – her christening spoon;
Buttons and buckles her father wore –
He died at Florence, a Jacobite –
A Mulready card and a shrapnel bullet
Picked up on the field of some foreign fight;
Scents of sandal and opodeldoc
With orris and cinnamon bark combine;
Balsam of Tolu and attar of roses
With violets plucked on the German Rhine.
These and more in Grandmother’s workbox
Screen and comfort what lies below,
Hidden from prying eyes and fingers
The ivorine portrait of Grandpa Joe.

Grandpa Joe, who came out, a settler –
Not that he settled, he roamed and ranged,
Seeking fortune and finding sorrow,
Bearing all with a faith unchanged.
Grandpa Joe who was tracked by Bushmen,
And shot a lion on Loubser’s Hill
Raced a rhino on Troe-troe’s townlands,
And planted the oak near the water-mill.
A fat faced youth in his father’s suit,
Tight above and too wide below –
A clerk in the India Company’s House –
Whatever made Grandmother love him so?

C. Louis Leipoldt (1880-1947) was a renowned, award-winning Afrikaans poet and editor who had been a Balkan War correspondent. He wrote novels, plays, stories, children’s books, cookbooks, medical articles and a travelogue.

Grandmother’s workbox by C. Louis Leipoldt is included in Africa! My Africa! an anthology of poems selected by Patricia Schonstein, sold to raise funds for Seed Readers.

Seed Readers is a project that will produce story books based on principles of peace, non-violence, non-racism and care of the earth. They will seed an understanding of our true role as custodians of the earth and oceans. They will inspire children to live ethically and in a sustainable manner.

Please email Afpress@iafrica.com to place your order
R295 plus R55 postage & packaging.

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