Derek Walcott was born in 1930 in Saint Lucia. Belonging to both Anglo-European and Afro-Caribbean heritage, the duality in origin gave birth to a sort of identity crisis within the poet. The main theme of the poem is split identity and anxiety faced by the poet, caused due to mixed heritage. therefore the poem highlights the conflict between his loyalties to Africa and to Britain.
In other words the poem draws an accounts of the Mau-Mau uprising, an extended and bloody battle between European settlers and the native Kikuyu tribe (what is now the republic of Kenya), In the early 20th century the first white settlers arrived in Kanya forcing the Kikuyu people off their tribal lands. Europeans took control of their government. One faction of the Kikuyu people formed Mau-Mau a terrorist organization intent on removing all European influence from the country, but the less strident Kikuyu attempted to remain neutral or help the British defeat Mau-Mau.
Derek due to his mix heritage could side with neither party i.e., neither the Europeans nor the Native tribe. “I who am poisoned with the blood of both Where shall I turn, divided to the vein?” (27-28) The above line shows the poet’s inability to resolve his hybrid inheritance. Derek says that as he has blood of both Europe and Africa running through his vein he cannot choose a side. This pessimistic image illustrates a feeling of displacement and isolation within Walcott. It seems that Walcott feels foreign in both cultures due to his lack of “pure” blood.
Derek is torn between his love for his land Africa and his love for English language. Derek questions the reader about his decision to choose between the two: “…,how choose Between this Africa and the English tongue I love? ”. The poem shows the poets displacement and isolation.
The intricate relationship between the colonized and the colonizer and the ways in which the Caribbean self-embraces and split between different places loyalties are central theme of Walcott’s writings.