The poet surveys South Africa during the deepest, darkest days of apartheid and prays that God may
intervene to bring about the salvation of its people.
A NOTE ON THE POET
Frederick Guy Butler was born in January 1918 of an 1820 Settler family. He was educated in Cradock
in the Eastern Cape and thereupon attended Rhodes University where he received a Masters degree in
English in 1938.
He married Jean Satchwell in 1940 -- with whom he would eventually have three sons and a daughter
-- but soon after the wedding he left to fight in World War II.
Once the war was over, he sojourned for a time in England to attend Brasenose College of Oxford
University where he read for a Doctorate in English Literature, graduating in 1947.
He returned immediately to South Africa to lecture at the University of the Witwatersrand, before returning
to Rhodes University in 1952 as a Senior Lecturer in the Department of English.
Almost immediately he was promoted to the rank of Professor where he would remain until his retirement
in 1987. As with most retiree professors at South African universities, he became an Emeritus Professor
and an Honorary Research Fellow.
Butler wrote several autobiographies -- like Karoo Morning, Bursting World and
Stranger to Europe -- as well numerous poetry and plays.
According to Rhodes University, nearly a third of his poems are about "death or loss", and many
of the rest are about "parting failure or difficult self-denial". His poetry is said to be thoughtful and
the result of a deep religious introspection.
Butler helped revive the National Arts Festival at the 1820 Settler Monument that looms over
Grahamstown, and was a prime mover behind the National English Literary Museum (NELM) as well as
the Institute for the Study of English in Africa (ISEA). He was the founder of the influential poetry
publication, New Coin.
Indeed, his lifelong concern was to promote South African writers in the writing of English, an occupation
which was to lead him to being attacked as a representative of the "Anglophone white cultural
His insistence upon what he called "standards" was seen as yet another, if more subtle, means of
excluding black expression during the peak years of apartheid. This criticism pained him because that
certainly was not his purpose.
Butler was recognised for his work in the English Language by receiving Honorary Doctorates from Natal
University, the University of the Witwatersrand and from Rhodes itself.
He died in Grahamstown in April 2001. He was 83 years of age.
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