The Birth of Shaka

His baby cry
was of a cub
tearing the neck
of the lioness
because he was fatherless.

The gods
boiled his blood
in a clay pot of passion
to course in his veins.

His heart was shaped into an ox shield
to foil every foe.

Ancestors forged
his muscles into
thongs as tough
as water bark
and nerves
as sharp as
syringa thorns.

His eyes were lanterns
that shone from the dark valleys of Zululand
to see white swallows
coming across the sea.
His cry to two assassin brothers:

“Lo! you can kill me
but you’ll never rule this land!”

by Oswald Mtshali (b. 1940)

Shaka was a Zulu chief of the 19th Century who built such a  giant empire in what is now South Africa that he became known in Europe as the Black Napoleon. He was eventually killed by his half brothers, but the Zulu empire crumbled soon after when the British Army took it on.

19 Responses to “The Birth of Shaka”

  1. A very beautiful piece this is. I’ll be using it as an extra aid in my history lessons on Shaka. I just love it.

  2. Mphahlele monene Says:

    How could the half brothers of shaka do this to him#sad#

  3. hey i jst looooove dis piece nw i knw a lil bit smthn abt shaka atleast i cn write questions reffering to the poem with knowledge.

  4. i didnt c the sumary of the poem

  5. josias matsepane Says:

    summary abt dr birth of shaka

  6. I love this poem it is the reason why I passed my matric English FAL with flying colours.<3

  7. I like a poem BuT I have few questions what is the theme of this poem? 2 what is the tone of this poem?

  8. what is the tone of the poem

  9. Flavia Ainembabazi, Muk Says:


  10. im so inspired by this poem… of the reasons i write poetry

  11. can someone who writes poems inbox me via Whatsapp:0764763059

  12. Where is the analysis?

  13. Even the summary of the poem is not there

  14. i like that but whats the central idea in this poem

  15. jackie moloto Says:

    this poem is very deep in language I think it need a genius to consider this…

  16. In stanza 1,shaka is compared to the lion.what does this reveal about him?

  17. […] referred to in the song is none other than the famous Zulu king Shaka Zulu (the subject of this famous poem) who acquired legendary status after his death. Rather like King Arthur, there was a folk belief […]

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