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The poem “It is the Constant Image of your Face” is written by the South African poet, Dennis Brutus. The poem talks about how the persona is divided between his romantic love and patriotic love. He keeps remembering his lover’s face full of grief, but he can not give his lover a precedence over his country.
About the Poet
Dennis Brutus was born in 1924 in Zimbabwe, South Africa. He was a poet, journalist and South African activist who raised a campaign against apartheid. His first poetry collection was published in 1963, which included his works like “Sirens”, “Boots” and “Knuckles”.
The poem is divided into two stanzas. Each stanza consists of nine lines each.
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.
The persona talks about how the face of his lover is a constant image in his mind. He remembers her face as she knelt in front of his chair and cried. He can not forget it as she convicted him of grave accusations of not loving her and committing to her in the way she wanted. But he tells her that she can “claim no loyalty” over him because he is committed to his country.
The persona is univalve to forget his lover’s face when he held her face in his hands as she knelt and begged in front of him. Her eyes looked at him with “grave attention”, which means that she looked at him with deep pain and sadness. She looked at him while he was surrounded by a “world of knives”, which implies that he is surrounded by danger and violence. This image haunts him. His lover accused him of “heart’s-treachery”. This means that the lover felt like she had been wronged by the persona and suffered heartbreak. But the persona says that both of them know the truth and none of them can accuse him. This is because he can “claim no loyalty” because his country is his priority. For the persona his land comes before everything else and that is what he is committed to.
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 I hope that she, my other, dearest love will pardon freely, not attaching blame being your mistress (or your match) in tenderness.
Now the persona talks about how he fell in love with his beloved. He says that he is guilty of loving her. He felt like his heart was blackmailed by her beauty. This made him fall in love with her and he professes this without any shame or remorse. He terms his love as a “fresh treason” against his country and hope that his “dearest love”, his country, will pardon him for doing so.
In this stanza, the persona admits to the crime he has committed. He says that his beloved is an “accomplice of my (his) heart”. He says this because he felt blackmailed into loving her. This is because of her beauty. Her beauty left him no choice but to fall in love with her. This gives him the courage to “confess” without any shame or guilt that he has committed the crime of loving another person. He considers this act a “still-fresh treason” against his country but hopes that the land will understand his situation and not put any blame on him or his beloved.