Rhyme/Game – South Africa

A flock of birds before my eyes,

When will be my next surprise?

This little verse has been passed down from generation to generation. Every time a flock of birds flew by in the sky the first child to see it would announce it to the rest of the group or the other members present. Anyone else in the group then randomly shouted out a time. The person who saw the birds originally would then wait for the time to come and see if anything special happens and if their surprise occurs.

My mother originally played this game in South Africa as a child and then taught me and my sister the game at an early age. She cannot recall from whom she learned the poem but rather it was a well-known game by her, her family, and all of her friends.  Although for her there was no deeper meaning, she taught it to us as it caused excitement and anticipation. Although she knew that the future occurrences were not based off one person reciting this little poem, it was still an enjoyable as well as fun activity to participate in.

Although a few people might be aware of this poem in the United States, I have never heard anyone but South Africans recite it. Mostly, I have heard this quote used by my immediate family members throughout my childhood. However I never considered the meaning behind the saying. It was something I never questioned but rather just a comment that I began using myself. However upon hearing this quote used a few weeks ago by my mother I reconsidered the meaning behind the quote and realized the incongruity in the wording.

Birds are often an omen foreshadowing something bad that will be occurring. Therefore it is interesting that the surprise that the person is referencing is a good surprise. It is ironic that a flock of birds causes excitement and hope for a pleasant occurrence in the future.

Yet a flock of birds signifies that a handful of individual birds have come together in order to fashion one assemblage. Instead of flying alone they have joined forces to create one large force.

Metaphorically speaking, eyes are often the mirror to the soul and so it is possible that the quote serves a purpose of showing the inner desire for acceptance and a group, and the positives that will occur when working collectively with other individuals.