This direct, no nonsense opinion, written in a firm hand on a memo card of a noted Chicago legal firm, was left in a copy of Cry, the Beloved Country on the shelves of The Hidden Room bookstore in South Haven, Michigan. The owner of the bookstore sent the memo card to me with the message: "This note from one of my customers was in Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton. Thought you might enjoy it." Enjoy it! I envied it; for I had written much on Alan Paton's, novel—but never in words so memorable as this.
If the novel, in fact, reads "like a lovely poem," it may be because inside Alan Paton, in whatever role we encounter him—teacher, penal reformer, biographer, novelist, or foe of apartheid—there is always a lyric poet and a passionate orator. Long before he set pen to his now famous novel, Paton was a lover of language and of the spoken word. From early childhood he delighted in words and in melodious verse, as he also delighted in the sights and sounds of nature: "I cannot describe my early response to the beauty of hill and stream and tree as anything less than ecstasy," he says in his autobiography.
What part did poetry play in Paton's life? What other poems captured Alan Paton's imagination? Learn more about the impact of poetry on his life and novels:
Cry's Poetic Journey
The Poetry and Drama of Alan Paton
Paton and Robert Louis Stevenson
Paton and Walt Whitman