|The internet’s finest Africa* reference™|
*That’s the song, “Africa”, not the continent, of course
- I know that I must do what’s right
- As sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti
Where to start?
For one thing, Kilimanjaro doesn’t rise above the Serengeti. You can’t even see it from the Serengeti, unless you get in a hot air balloon and take a telescope: they’re about 300 kilometres from each other. Kilimanjaro rises above the Tsavo (see picture).
And Mount Olympus definitely doesn’t rise above the Serengeti. It’s in Greece.
To the extent you could say that something that has just sat there for millions of years does anything as energetic as “rising”, then Kilimanjaro doesn’t rise like Olympus, either. It rises like Kilimanjaro. They don’t look anything like each other. I mean, look.
And we haven’t even got onto the fact that THE LINE DOESN’T SCAN FOR CRYING OUT LOUD.
An unhappy collision of contrary rhythms
So let’s get on to that. Here we cite Adam Bradley’s The Poetry of Pop, a wonderfully patient examination of modern doggerel, to validate our own count: the line scans with an already outrageous fourteen syllables — iambic pentameter it is not — but Paich then jams twenty-one syllables into that space. Bradley drily observes:
- “the rhythmic and melodic structure of the line forces the lead singer, Joseph Williams, into circumlocutions of stress that end up mangling the final word of that longest line; instead of “Serengeti”, the rhythm and melody of the song force him to pronounce it as “Serengeti”... I understand this moment now as an unhappy, though fleeting, collision of contrary rhythms. The song still moves me, however, all the more now for this small window into the world of its rhythm.”
Mr. Bradley is clearly a glass-half-full sort of chap.