The NaPoWriMo prompt: Today, let’s try another musical form — the ballad. Traditionally, ballads were rhymed poems that told a story of some kind, and were often set to music. They were sometimes set in four-line verses, with an ABAB rhyme pattern, employing alternating 8 and 6 syllable, iambic lines.

Your ballad could be sad, or funny. It could tell a tale of love, or murder, or just something silly. If you have any musical talent, it might be fun to try and actually make a tune for your ballad!

(Now here I have a dilemma.  I have in mind two possible tunes.  One is a traditional ballad-type with a catchy melody, and I would use guitar, violin and flute.  The other would be a more traditional ‘drumbeat’ type of African music, probably mainly featuring a xylophone and drums.  What do you think?)

Shaka statue alone

Shaka -sculptor’s impression.

King Shaka was a Zulu chief,
At tactics rather good,
With cruelty beyond belief –
If he could kill, he would.

He made his warriors stamp round
On lots of vicious thorns –
While redcoats their complaints would sound
If they just suffered corns. 

His ‘impis’ bashed each tribe in turn,
For conquest was his game,
Which made some for protection yearn,
And to the Brits they came. 

While others scooted north at speed,
Right out of Shaka’s range –
That many Zulu-types there breed
Is, therefore, not that strange.


Artist’s impression of charging Zulu. (Now you find them charging – and charging! – in minibus taxis.)

Still, he did conquer quite a lot;
His kingdom grew and grew,
Until he truly lost the plot;
When, shortly, he was through. 

For Nandi, Shaka’s mommy, died;
He took it rather ‘rough’,
And thousands, speared, lost their inside,
Not crying hard enough. 

He then went on a killing spree
f anything unwise
Enough for them to preggie be –
And father also dies. 

Half-brothers thought it overdue
That he became ‘the late’;
Their spears both skewered Shaka through,
And grain-pit was his fate. 

He greatly is admired by
The local people, but
One really has to wonder why –
The fellow was a nut!

Shaka statue - removed.

The original statue at King Shaka Airport, Durban.
I liked it.

However, local sculptor tried
To show a better light
By putting him some stock beside,
To make his head seem right. 

24042013 Cattle statues

What is left of the statue after the silly little Zulu king’s tantrum was heeded instead of him being told to go away and play with all his wives.

The current king then threw a fit,
And toys out of his cot;
He told them to get rid of it –
Now moos are all we’ve got. 

24042013 R and calf

A de-tailed study of the vandalised calf, with young R offering sympathy.

In art appreciation, so,
These people rate a ‘Fail’;
They also let some vandal go
And break off one calf’s tail. 

© Colonialist April 2013 (WordPress)

About colonialist

Active septic geranium who plays with words writing fantasy novels and professionally editing, with notes writing classical music, and with riding a mountain bike, horses and dinghies. Recently Indie Publishing has been added to this list.
This entry was posted in Art, Challenge, Colonialist, verse, writing, music composition, fantasy, Africa, journal., Composition (classical), Current Affairs, Music, Poems, Really Awful Rhyme and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. I vote for the traditional African drums! Last stanza is hoot! 🙂


  2. Bravo, Col! A true ballad. A whole life story in one poem. Excellent.


  3. adinparadise says:

    MMBH and I had such a chuckle over this. Brilliant ballad, Col. 😆


  4. libraschild says:

    like the snippets of history chucked in. ballad i could just about do as it’s iambic – some of your other contributions lately are beyond my ability to work rhythm!


    • colonialist says:

      Actually, I am over-meticulous when it comes to the rhythm – it is good to break it now and again for effect. The schemes I use are often a bit complex, though, so unless one ‘clicks’ with the beats for each line they may well seem disjointed!


  5. optie says:

    A poem and a history lesson in one – great work Col 🙂


  6. adeeyoyo says:

    Very interesting. I take it, based on fact? Beautiful artwork, pity it wasn’t valued enough to protect.


    • colonialist says:

      Facts are disputed by various historians (aren’t they always?) but the Shaka background is based on the research of a friend who wrote AmaZulu. He obtained a good deal of word-of-mouth accounts to back up the written records.
      The statue bit, of course, is a matter of record.


  7. 68ghia says:

    We really live in such a silly country.
    Remember that TV series of Shaka? The guy that played the lead really looked like a king should, and I just loved the theme music.
    As for your ballad, rather succinctly put Col – all the greatness and all the idiocy – one human.


  8. nrhatch says:

    Commendable commendation for Shaku the Nut, Col.
    Especially enjoyed this fatalistic bit:

    Half-brothers thought it overdue
    That he became ‘the late’;
    Their spears both skewered Shaka through,
    And grain-pit was his fate.


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