G. Adali-Mortty was born in Northern Eweland in the former British mandated Togoland, now part of Ghana. Educated at Achimota and Cornell University, Geormbeeyi has had a very exciting as a teacher, a social worker, adult educationist and administrator. Until 1968 he was Ghana’s Special Commissioner for Redeployment of Labour. He started writing poetry many years ago, and is known among Ghana’s leading poets. He is a widely-travelled man, with global influence echoing through his poetry. But his heart always stayed in Africa. And through many of his poetic pieces, the vibrancy of the African passion can be felt. The poem illustrated below is one of his classics. It’s amazing how true it hold today.
IN MARS PERHAPS
1 Peace on earth, goodwill to men!
A thousand millennium more
The grasp beyond our reach.
The ‘love’ and ‘peace’ by which we swear
5 Are threadbare with abuse
As freedom and equality
Democracy and the like
Donning ‘peace’ as hood and mask
We mount the booster rockets now;
10 And love’s the nose cone of the megaton load.
In Mars and in the Moon, maybe,
Some day, the reach our grasp!
Adali-Mortty was something of a puritan. He was of the class of poets that I like to call the Perfectionists. This poem reflects a bit of that side of him that always yearned for the better world order.
This poem is a poem of cynicism. The first line is an allusion to the biblical greeting of the angels to lowly shepherds on the announcement of the birth of Christ. And the first word was PEACE. This gives the poem a prophetic tone. Mind that it is a political poem written in the era when much of Africa was still reeling in colonialism and the world itself hadn’t been purged of ceaseless wars.
But Adali-Mortty thinks peace has eluded the world, and rightly so. He calls “the ‘love’ and ‘peace’ by which we swear” (line 4), threadbare. Words with a significance so thin that the world has little meaning for them. He broadens it and chastises the efforts of the world, by likening these words in their wastefulness to freedom, equality, democracy and the like (lines 6 and 7). This is a thousand millennium (line 2) after the heavenly beings have willed peace on us. Elusive.
In the height of his cynicism, he says that we even go on to don peace as a mask and then sit on booster rockets, away to make ‘peace’. And love conspires along with it, as we go making war. We make war in the name of peace and love. The Irony! (lines 8-10)
So, the title is apt. The reach is beyond our grasp. Probably in another planet, we will find our peace. In Mars, Perhaps! But on earth, only heads remain to be shaken.
This poem is beautiful and better understood when you compare it with Kwesi Brew’s The Heart’s Anchor. The themes are different but the conclusions are the same. The grasp is beyond our reach. Someday, perhaps the reach will be our grasp. We will find peace and maybe add goodwill towards all men. Someday, on the Moon or on Mars.