Yet Could We Turn The Years Again

Why did you and I shed a tear when Madiba died a few days ago?

Was it because he was a hero of our generation?

Was it because he was “the most complete man”, as many have said?

Was it because he could forgive, and unite, where others would revenge, and tear apart?

Perhaps. But many past heroes have shared those qualities.

What sets Nelson Mandela apart for us?

It is this. He was alive, on this earth, when we were here too. We lived and suffered and triumphed with him and through him. He was our father, and our grandfather.

Why don’t we cry for past heroes, long gone?

W. B. Yeats wrote about Irish heroes in his ‘September 1913’, set exactly a century ago, bemoaning that “…they were of a different kind, the names that stilled your childish play”. Nelson Mandela stilled our childish play.

Yeats himself shared “all that delirium of the brave” at the time, a hundred short years ago. Nelson Mandela stirred that delirium of the brave in us.

Others joined Yeats and cried and wondered and wrote poetry about their heroes that lived among them. Just as we do for Nelson Mandela now.

And Yeats pleads in his last stanza:

Yet could we turn the years again,

And call those exiles as they were

In all their loneliness and pain

But we cannot.

We cannot turn the years again. Neither will those that come after us.

We are but grateful that we shared the earth of our time with Nelson Mandela.


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