Here is a brief glossary to help you approach and understand this poem:
gigantic- huge, enormous, massive
scavenging- hunting, searching for food/collecting from rubbish
scurried- hurried, moved quickly
mutilated- severely/violently damaged
untrampled- the oppposite of trampled which means to step heavily
It is important to take note of and think about the context and background of this poem, which is Apartheid South Africa. The speaker writes about a baby that has been abandoned in a poor township area (White City Jabavu, a suburb of Soweto). He describes the township environment, the scavenging dogs fighting over the baby's corpse and the baby's mother.
The tone/mood of this poem can be described as negative, bleak, sombre because of what the speaker describes- the tragedy of the baby abandoned by its mother on a rubbish heap. It is also shocking because of the brutal and disgusting images that the speaker includes, such as the scavenging dogs covered in blood and fighting over the baby and the township as a gigantic sore oozing pus.
Notice the alliterations "morning mist" and "fought fiercely". There are also several similes, "flowed thick yellow as pus oozing from a gigantic sore", "it smothered our little houses like fish caught in a net" and "her heart as pure as untrampled dew".
It's also important to take note of the words written in direct speech: "Oh! Baby in the manger sleep well on human dung". This is a reference to the birth of Jesus who was born in a manger because there was no place for him. What do you think the speaker is trying to say here? Are there similarities between this baby and the baby Jesus?
Further questions for you to consider:
1. How do you think the speaker feels about the abandoned baby? Give a reason for your answer.
2. What is the image of society/people/humankind that is created by the speaker?
3. Do you think "An abandoned bundle" is a good title for this poem? Explain and try to write your own title for this poem.
4. What do you think the poet was trying to say through this poem? Was he successful?