The Water Carrier by Daud Kamal

The Water Carrier poem is written by Daud Kamal, a Pakistani poet. We can see the influence of Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, and W.B. Yeats on his poetry.

A man the colour of dry catch. a stone 
tied to the is( Mali a loin cloth, carries 
his goatskin bag of water like an oversize 
warn peon:ant:fly growing from his back: 
a floating oasis in the Sahara
of thirst, the liquid shadow of a palm tree: 
the water tamer slops through the empty 
afternoon watt like an underground stream. 
Where the sun drives him like is mule 
towards the troughs of the horizon's haze. 
And the sun at night which are also always 
maddeningly hot like the eyes of women. 
Quite in order, then. that man should be 
an itinerant element. a water 
cloud moving over the earth, his feet on fire 
as they nibble the desert sands. 
even if after his long distance haul 
the water earner finds his own thirst 
the greatest of all, a multi-tongued curse 
in the saliva drought of unending desert.

Table of Contents


The Water Carrier by Daud Kamal

“The Water Carrier” by Daud Kamal is a poignant and thought-provoking poem that explores the life and struggles of a man tasked with carrying water in a desert landscape. Through its vivid imagery, evocative language, and thematic depth, the poem invites critical analysis of several key aspects.

It explores the life and struggles of a man tasked with carrying water in a desert landscape. Through powerful imagery and evocative language, the poem delves into themes of endurance, thirst, the burden of responsibility, and the harsh realities of a parched environment.


Symbolism and Imagery:

The poem is rich in symbolic and vivid imagery that enhances its overall meaning. The water carrier, described as “the color of dry catch,” represents the arid environment and the hardships endured by the man. The goatskin bag of water is likened to an oversized worn peon:ant: fly growing from his back, highlighting the burden he carries.

The water itself becomes a symbol of life and hope in the midst of the desert, portrayed as a “floating oasis” and a “liquid shadow of a palm tree.” These images evoke a sense of contrast and emphasize the significance of water in sustaining life.


Themes of Endurance and Sacrifice:

The poem delves into the themes of endurance and sacrifice. The water carrier’s relentless journey through the desert, driven by the sun like a mule, showcases his unwavering commitment to his task.

The poet highlights the physical toll of his efforts, describing his feet as on fire as they “nibble the desert sands.” This imagery emphasizes the immense sacrifice and determination required to fulfill his duty, despite the personal hardships he may face.


Contrast and Irony: The Water Carrier by Daud Kamal

The poem employs contrast and irony to underscore the harsh realities of the desert landscape. The sun, which provides life-giving warmth during the day, is also described as “maddeningly hot like the eyes of women” at night. This contrast underscores the challenging and inhospitable nature of the environment.

Additionally, the irony is present in the water carrier’s own thirst, which becomes the greatest curse in the “saliva drought of the unending desert.” This juxtaposition highlights the irony of his role as a provider of water while enduring his own unquenched thirst.

Social Commentary:

The poem can be seen as a form of social commentary, shedding light on the plight of individuals in arid regions and their struggle for survival. The water carrier represents those who bear the responsibility of securing water, an essential resource, in unforgiving environments.

Through the portrayal of the water carrier’s hardships and sacrifices, the poet brings attention to the challenges faced by communities living in arid regions and the critical importance of water in their lives.

Rhythm and Language: The Water Carrier by Daud Kamal

The poem employs rhythmic language and vivid imagery to evoke the atmosphere of the desert. The flow of the verses mimics the movement of the water carrier and the intensity of the environment.

The poet’s choice of words, such as “floating oasis,” “liquid shadow,” and “nibble the desert sands,” creates a sensory experience for the reader and enhances the overall impact of the poem.

Universal Themes:

While the poem specifically focuses on the water carrier in a desert setting, it touches upon universal themes that resonate with a broader audience.

The themes of endurance, sacrifice, the search for sustenance, and the juxtaposition of life and harsh environments can be interpreted metaphorically, reflecting the human condition and the struggles faced by individuals in various contexts.

Conclusion: The Water Carrier by Daud Kamal

“The Water Carrier” is a poem that masterfully employs vivid imagery, symbolism, and thematic depth to portray the life and challenges of man carrying water in a desert landscape.

Through its exploration of endurance, sacrifice, contrast, and social commentary, the poem invites readers to contemplate the human experience, the value of essential resources, and the resilience of individuals in the face of adversity.

“The Water Carrier” captures the endurance and resilience of a man burdened with the responsibility of providing water in a desert landscape. Through vivid imagery and poignant language, the poem explores the themes of thirst, struggle, and the weight of a life-sustaining task.

It invites readers to contemplate the harsh realities faced by individuals in arid environments and serves as a testament to the indomitable spirit of those who persevere against formidable odds.

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