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South Africa's best poet, Roy Campbell is dead 58 years this year and he hasn't got a murmur in the press.

South Africa's best poet, Roy Campbell is dead 58 years this year and he hasn't got a murmur in the press.

As a young man he was ranked up along with Dylan Thomas and Edith Sitwell and admired by TS Eliot. But his refusal to accept left-wing politics ensured that as soon as he was dead his poetry would die with him.

The intellectuals of South Africa as a body detested Campbell because he wrote so much better verse than they did, but also because he didn't support their efforts to turn their country into what they thought would be a comfortable socialist dictatorship. How unfair they were. Roy Campbell fought the Nazis during the Second World War and ended up decorated and with a gammy leg.

He was very conscious of his Irish ancestry. When I visited his nephew 15 years ago in South Africa, the house I knocked at was named Carndonagh by their great grandfather, the first Campbell, who had come from there.

He made me promise to visit his family home when I got back, after telling me how much my accent reminded him of his relative.

Today in the new South Africa Roy Campbell is looked on proudly by most as one of the country's best poets.

Here is a poem of his about zebras that literally zings off the page so that you can see the striped animals running across the field in front of you as you read the singing lines.

Savour that marvellous rhyme in the last four lines of "fillies" and "lilies" evoking the delicate trot of those ferociously fast beasts. Truly, South Africa's poet.


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