Everything Has Changed (Except Graves)

Everything Has Changed (Except Graves)

By Mzi Mahola

I stood at the ruins
of my former school
where I was patiently moulded;
wild plants own every space now;
my soul was paralyzed.
What happened to the roofs
the doors and windows?
Can these dumb lonely walls
still recognise me?
Everything has changed;
the ground where we ran and laughed
and the corner of the playground
where I pummelled a schoolmate almost to pulp
are scarfed with wattle
to conceal my shame.
A short distance away
stands a renovated Church
(a Dutch Reformed formerly,
now Methodist)
embraced by a mute little cemetery
that claims the past
(the dividing fence has vanished)
though growth strangles it to near extinction;
cold names of departed whites
who were part of this community
and made monumental contributions
are etched on the headstones.
Sometimes whites come here
to clean and put flowers
on their family graves;
a voice whispers next to me
but I do not recognise its face
because Lushington has changed
except the graveyard.

Summary of Everything Has Changed (Except Graves)

  • Popularity of “Everything Has Changed (Except Graves)”: This narrative poem is written by Mzi Mahola, a renowned South African writer. Everything Has Changed (Except Graves) is a reflective literary piece about memories and recalling the past. It was first published in 1994. The poem expresses the writer’s memorable visit to his childhood village which has witnessed a seachange in its looks and outlook. It also explains how various constructions have turned into ruins now. The poem’s phenomenon deals with inevitable death.
  • “Everything Has Changed (Except Graves)” As a Representative of Life and Death: The poem accounts for the writer’s past and how it influences him. The poem begins when the writer is standing in the ruins of his school. He wonders how man’s construction has been replaced by vegetation. To his surprise, the walls that once resounded with their laughter are silent today, and the grounds where they once had a vibrant life are deserted today. Even the church near the school building has lost its past glory. However, the cemetery where whites and blacks are resting in their graves is a sign of the past. The names of the departed souls are engraved on the headstones. Meanwhile, an unrecognized voice that brings him back to the present disturbs his meditative mood and he realizes that everything in his village has changed except the graves. The poet narrates the stark comparison between life and death.
  • Major Themes in “Everything Has Changed (Except Graves)”: The changing nature of time, death, and memories are the major themes of the poem. This seemingly simple text talks about a man who revives his childhood memories by paying a visit to his childhood village. To his surprise, things are not the same; the buildings, people, and even the holy places have lost their real essence. However, one thing that he finds the same is the graveyard, where people are lying without any prejudice or racial differences. On a deeper level, the speaker highlights that everything in the universe changes. Man creates and recreates things in the universe; he even changes his abode many times. However, only death is the fact from which man can neither escape nor change.

Analysis of Literary Devices Used in Everything Has Changed (Except Graves)

literary devices are modes that represent the writer’s ideas, feelings, and emotions. It is through these devices the writers make their few words appealing to the readers. Mzi Mahola used some literary devices in this poem to make it appealing. The analysis of some of the literary devices used in this poem is listed below.

  1. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line such as the sound of /a/ in “the ground where we ran and laughed” and the sound of /ai/ in “Sometimes whites come here”.
  2. Alliteration: Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line in quick succession such as the sound of /m/ in “and made monumental contributions.”
  3. Allegory: It is a figure of speech in which abstract ideas and principles are described in terms of characters, figures, and events. This is an allegorical poem that talks about the constantly changing nature of time.
  4. Enjambment: It is defined as a thought in verse that does not come to an end at a line break; rather, it rolls over to the next line. For example,

“I stood at the ruins
of my former school
where I was patiently moulded;
wild plants own every space now;
my soul was paralyzed.”

  1. Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. For example, “wild plants own every space now”, “Sometimes whites come here/to clean and put flowers” and “A short distance away/stands a renovated Church.”
  2. Personification: Personification is to give human qualities to inanimate objects. The poet has personified walls in the eighth line of the poem. For example,

Can these dumb lonely walls
still recognise me?”

  1. Rhetorical Question: Rhetorical question is a question that is not asked to receive an answer; it is just posed to make the point clear. The poet posed rhetorical questions at many places in the poem to emphasize his point. For example, “What happened to the roof/the doors and windows?” and “Can these dumb lonely walls/still recognise me?”
  2. Symbolism: Symbolism is using symbols to signify ideas and qualities, giving them symbolic meanings that are different from the literal meanings. “school” “little cemetery” and “Church” symbolize different parts of the speaker’s life.

Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in Everything Has Changed (Except Graves)

Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is the analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem.

  1. Free Verse: Free Verse is a type of poetry that does not contain patterns of rhyme or meter. This is a free-verse poem with no strict rhyme or meter.
  2. Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. It is a long poem with no stanza break.

Quotes to be Used

The lines stated are suitable for a student after he pays a visit to his or her school long after they have completed their education.

“I stood at the ruins
of my former school
where I was patiently moulded;
wild plants own every space now;
my soul was paralyzed.”