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It is the Constant Image of Your Face by Dennis Brutus:

It is the constant image of your face

framed in my hands as you knelt before my chair
the grave attention of your eyes
surveying me amid my world of knives
that stays with me, perennially accuses
and convicts me of heart's-treachery:
and neither you nor I can plead excuses
for you, you know, can claim no loyalty -
my land takes precedence of all my loves.

Yet I beg mitigation, pleading guilty
for you, my dear, accomplice of my heart
made, without words, such blackmail with your beauty
and proffered me such dear protectiveness
that I confess without remorse or shame
my still-fresh treason to my country
and hope that she, my other, dearest love
will pardon freely, not attaching blame
being your mistress (or your match) in tenderness.
Dennis Vincent Brutus was a South African activist, educator, journalist and poet best known for his
campaign to have apartheid South Africa banned from the Olympic Games. He lived between 28th
November 1924 and 26th December 2009. He was born in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and had ancestry of
mixed French, Italian and South African.

This poem is a typical Dennis Brutus poem. As is characteristic, he compares his love for South Africa, to
the love he has for some other person. Maybe, a woman!

He opens the poem by saying the constant image (line 1) of his womans face and the grave attention
(line 3) of her eyes which survey him amid his world of knives (line 4), accuse him perennially. This is
all coming to him as a memory because in line 2, he makes the allusion to a period gone when his love
was knelt before him with the frame of her face in his hands. His world of knives can mean so many
things at once. It could mean that Brutus was surrounded by apartheid South Africa with its numerous
brutalities. It could also mean that he was conflicted inside him, in a way that struck him like many knives
piercing at once. Again, he could be talking about the conflict between his two loves as the poem tells us
as we read on. And we are yet to know what she accuses him for, but Brutus doesnt make us wonder
long. She accuses him of hearts-treachery (line 6). No, not even accuses but convicts! He has accepted
that he has been treacherous to his woman, going on to probably share his love with another. But he does
not apologise for it. He tells her that none of the two of them can plead excuses (line 7) for his seeming
infidelity because apparently, he cannot stop his love for his land and she can also claim no loyalty (line
8). I want to risk saying that he is saying that hes not bound to be loyal to her because my land takes
precedence of all my loves (line 9). He loves his land more than all his other loves. His land is his
womans rival.

The second stanza is an attempt to pacify the heart of his woman who has been brought to the saddening
realisation that she cannot have her lover all to herself. He begs mitigation (line 10), meaning that he
admits that he has done wrong but is ready to give reasons for it. He calls her lover an accomplice of my
heart (line 11). That is like saying that she is equally guilty of his betrayal of his greater love. The
woman is so beautiful that she has blackmailed him with her beauty (line 12) and made him a backslidden
lover when it comes to his land. He has given his heart to another one outside his precedent love. In fact,
her love for him has been so sweet and protective that he finds no shame in confessing his denial of his
country. He calls it a still-fresh treason (line 15). But in this confused place, a world of knives, he
pleads, hopes (line 16) that his dearest love (line 16), South Africa, will pardon him freely (line 17) and
not blame his woman. He ends by revealing more of his confusion, saying that South Africa, his first
love, is his womans mistress (or your match) (line 18), not knowing which to say is more tender. He
loves one, he loves the other. One was able to conspire with his heart and steal his affection from the
other, and now he does not even know whether the two are matched or one is dearer to his heart.

The greater emotion here is Brutus guilt of diluting the apartheid struggle with other cares. His love of
his land is shown here overwhelmingly. This poem is another beauty that has added a little more tonnage
to my love for this most romantic of poets coming from Africa.

Lines 4, 6-7: The love interest's eyes constantly accuses and convicts the persona. This device
highlights the extent to which the persona has hurt this person.
Lines 18-20: The persona hopes that his country, his other dearest love, will forgive him for the
treasonous act of loving another. This highlights the patriotism that defines the persona's
relationship to his country.
The term heart's-treachery implies that the heart, something so vital and indicative of love, has
committed a terrible crime. It highlights the heartbreak that the persona has caused his love
3. 'constant image'
This implies that the persona constantly, or always, remembers his love interest's face. It emphasizes the
guilt he feels in relation to this person.
4. 'grave attention'
The love interest's eyes display grave attention. The word grave implies intensely serious, so this person
is truly hurt.
5. 'world of knives'
A knife inflicts pain and destroys. The persona, therefore, is identifying his world with causing pain.
6. 'such blackmail with your beauty'
To blackmail someone is to have something over them that puts their will in your control. The love
interest's beauty has captivated the persona in such a way that he betrays his country with this person.
The mood of the poem is reflective. The persona is thinking about his two loves and how he is torn
between them.
The tone of the poem is sadness and guilt. The persona is guilt ridden over this love triangle and sadness
permeates the words that he uses to describe it.
Love, guilt, patriotism, places, desires/ dreams