Under the Shadow of the Oath

The poet and diarist Mary Casey (1915-1980) was the niece of the writers John Cowper, Theodore Francis and Llewelyn Powys. After her marriage to Gerard Casey she followed him to Kenya, where he was working as a farm assistant for her uncle and godfather W.E. (Will) Powys. The title of this selection from Mary Casey’s African journals Under the Shadow of the Oath refers to the Mau Mau Uprising, which started in 1952. By then the Caseys were well established on their own farm on the slopes of Mount Kenya just above a forest reserve, a hiding-place for dangerous wild animals as well as the Mau Mau, but as Mary Casey writes ‘ … if you have to spend your days with people who have taken blood-curling oaths for your destruction the only possible way to carry on is as if everything was as usual, apart from what seem reasonable precautions.’ Her journals offered often a refuge and meant to her ‘above all a transmutation by poetic thought of grief into some kind of tragic drama; of joy in the elements into song’.