Go to Knowledge4Africa.com

Douglas Livingstone


More challenging questions!

Keith Tankard
Updated: 4 March 2014
Contact the English4Africa Subject Coordinator

It is with great sadness that we have to announce that the creator of Knowledge4Africa, Dr T., has passed away. Helping people through his website gave him no end of pleasure. If you had contact with him and would like to leave a message, please send us an e-mail here.


A lone prospector is searching for wealth in precious stones. It is excruciatingly hot and dry. The prospector is suffering from heatstroke. Mirages and hallucinations begin to cloud his vision.

Eventually he is overcome with thirst. He scrabbles for water in a dry riverbed and finds wealth beyond his wildest dreams. Or is it a vision of wealth? Or is it death?


Douglas Livingstone was born in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in 1932. He came to South Africa with his family at ten years of age when his father was captured by the Japanese. He would settle in Natal where he went to Kearsney College.

He attended university in what was then Salisbury, Rhodesia -- now Harare, Zimbabwe -- where he trained as a bacteriologist. He was later awarded a PhD in Science from the University of Natal.

Livingstone was employed as a marine biologist at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in Durban.

He produced several volumes of poetry and wrote radio plays -- winning several awards, the highest being an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Natal.

He died in Durban in 1996.

Have you looked at the questions
in the right column?
Read the left column and then answer
the following questions:

In the opening stanza, the poet paints a picture of a prospector who is already in a most desperate situation?
  • Explain what techniques the poet uses to achieve this. (4)

[Need help?]

"Waterless, he came to where
a river had run, now a band
flowing only in ripples
of white unquenchable sand."
  • Why does the poet begin this stanza with the word "waterless"? (4)

[Need help?]

  • The river is presented almost as a sinister trick of nature? Explain how. (4)

[Need help?]

"Cursing, he dug sporadically
here, here, as deep as his arm,
and sat quite still, eyes thirstily
incredulous on his palm."
  • What feelings are revealed in the description of the prospector's behaviour in the first two lines of this stanza? (4)

[Need help?]

  • Why is he cursing? (4)

[Need help?]

  • Why does the poet repeat the words "here, here"? (4)

[Need help?]

"A handful of alluvial
diamonds leered back, and more: mixed
in the scar, glinted globules
of rubies, emeralds, onyx."
  • Give a good scientific reason why the handfuls of precious stones he has found must have been an illusion. (4)

[Need help?]

"And then he was swimming in fire
and drinking, splashing hot halos
of glittering drops at the choir
of assembled carrion crows."
  • Why does the poet speak of a "choir" of crows? (4)

[Need help?]

  • Is the poet trying to make us laugh at this conclusion, or is this too an illusion? (4)

[Need help?]

  • Comment on the play on words in the title "Sunstrike". (4)

[Need help?]

Try another worksheet?

See also:
This document is copyrighted. No part of it may be reproduced in any form whatever without explicit permission in writing from the author. The sole exception is for educational institutions which may wish to reproduce it as a handout for their students.

Contact the English4Africa Subject Coordinator