The land is a giant whale that swallow the sinker,
with hook, line, and bait aborting dreams of a good catch
fishers turn home at dusk
blue peter on empty ships all Peters with petered out desires.
The land is a sabre-toothed tiger,
that cris deep in the glade. while infants shudder home
the grizzled ones snatch their gut from bayonets of tribulation 13 halting venturous walk at dusk
The land is giant hawk
that courts unceasing disaster as it hovers and hoots in space.
The land lies patiently ahead awaiting in ambush
those who point away from a direction where nothing happens
towards the shore of possibilities.
BACKGROUND OF THE POEM
This is a protest poem which reflects post-independence Nigeria, nay realities on economic and political turf of most Africa countries. The situation in Nigeria, for instance, does not inspire anyone because every day, things are getting worse. The people are disenchanted by myriads of social, political and economic hiccups, here and there. War, kidnaping, terrorism, rioting and joblessness, lack of food and shelter, inadequate social infrastructure, mistrust and mismanagement on governance etc. are all pointer to the worrisome state of affairs in the polity. The gloom and obvious parlous state and uncertainty underscore the thematic concern of the poet in the ambush.
The poem is most likely set in post-colonial and contemporary Africa, nay Nigeria, where live is at its low ebb considering the obvious lack of good infrastructure like constant supply of light, and good roads etc. Indeed, the quality of life is diminishing and majority of the people are sad, hungry and poor. The giant of Africa is Nigeria and the opening part of the poem in page one says “The land is giant whale” a metaphor of Nigeria’s big brother status. This is a strong indication of the locale of the poem, The time frame is the present millennium years of 2000 and now.
The poem opens with an image of self-destruction hence the land is giant whale/ That swallows the sinker. What a hell is such land! If a giant of a fish like whale will swallow the sinker with which the sea animal is to be trapped, then no
one is safe, not even that sea that equally aborts dreams,
which makes the frustration total. No doubt that Nigeria is a destroyer of dreams as no policy remains steady and stable. The nation’s birth at independence came with a lot of hopes and dreams but the passage of time turns the whole prospects and promises into a will-o-the-wisp. What an irony of fate! No doubt that people’s dreams are aborted through the image of fishing as in “hook, line and bait”. The imagery in the following lines depicts lost hopes and wasted destinies and shattered dreams thus “blue peter on empty ships/ All peters with petered out desires”.
A biblical allusion is trite in the above lines. Recall the passage in the bible where peter lost all hope of catching a fish after exhaustive trials until Master Jesus petered him away from frustration and lack to plenty, multiplication and happiness. If our leaders should turn to the biblical Jesus, certainly a definite correction will be fashioned out.
In stanza two, the Land is compared with a sabre-toothed tiger’. A tiger is a ferocious wild animal that preys on other animals and its share cry is a source of worry to other animals. So when the tiger cries deep in the glade’, any animal that is within reach will run for his dear live, that means, ‘infants shudder home/The grizzled ones snatch their gut/From bayonets of tribulation’. Here the young
ones, out of fear, refrain from agitations but the more active time frame is the present millennium years of 2000 and now.
one is safe, not even that sea that equally aborts dreams, which makes the frustration total now. The poem opens with an image of self-destruction hence the land is giant whale/ That swallows the sinker. What a hell is such land! If a giant of a fish like whale will swallow the sinker with which the sea animal is to be trapped, then No doubt that Nigeria is a destroyer of dreams as no policy remains steady and stable. The nation’s birth at independence came with a lot of hopes and dreams but the passage of time turns the whole prospects and promises into a will-o-the-wisp. What an irony of fate! No doubt that people’s dreams are aborted through the image of fishing as in “hook, line and bait”. The imagery in the following lines depicts lost hopes and wasted destinies and shattered dreams thus “blue peter on empty ships/ All peters with petered out desires”.
A biblical allusion is trite in the above lines.
Recall the passage in the bible where peter lost all hope of catching a fish after exhaustive trials until Master Jesus petered him away from frustration and lack to plenty, multiplication and happiness. If our leaders should turn to the biblical Jesus, certainly a definite correction will be fashioned out. In stanza two, the Land is compared with a sabre-toothed tiger’. A tiger is a ferocious wild animal that preys on other animals and its share cry is a source of worry to other animals. So when the tiger cries deep in the glade’, any animal that is within reach will run for his dear live, that means, ‘infants shudder home/The grizzled ones snatch their gut/From bayonets of tribulation’. Here the young ones, out of fear, refrain from agitations but the more active ones, that is, the ‘grizzled’ ones suddenly lost their courage and bearing, as the government crack down on them especially at night.
The penultimate stanza compares the land with a giant hawk. Whenever a hawk hovers and hoots, mother hen protects its chick. So out of fear of the unknown and in such atmosphere of cataclysm, of the land courting ‘unceasing disaster’, the poet merely illustrates the government’s hostile disposition to her citizenry. The last stanza however offers a glimmer of hope. A new generation will come to take the country from a clueless part to a stage of abundance, that is, ‘shore of possibilities’.
Tone/mood: Generally, the mood throughout the poem, which is the state or frame of mind of the poet is that of suspense, uncertainty, fear and delivered in a combined tones of defeat, attack, violence, despair. The tone is also a lamentation on the bad situation of things in the country.
Diction: The poet’s use of words is a necessary clue to the very theme of the poem and the use of metaphor by the choice of words help to give out the immediate thematic concern of the poem. Examples, such words as: ‘giant’ bayonets of tribulation’, ‘unceasing disaster’, ‘ambush’, all show the violence and uncertainty prevalent in the country which the poet describes poetically.
Repetition: Generally, repetition in literature is meant for emphasis and so, in the poem, the following words so repeated added to the intensification of the subject. Such words as: ‘land’, ‘giant’ ‘dusk’ ‘the’ are repeated.
Personification: The use of attributes that belong to human beings or animate beings by inanimate or non living beings is called personification. In this poem, land in every stanza is given animate ability to ‘swallow’, to ‘cry’ (Line), hovers’ and ‘hoots’, and in the last stanza, land’ lies patiently ahead awaiting in ambush’. The use of human attributes for land has made the poem to have emotional effect. Alliteration: Examples of alliterations in the poem which help to make the poem both melodious and rhythmical are as follows:
1. “The land that swallows the sinker” (‘s’ alliterates)
2. “Blue Peter…… all peters with petered out desires” (‘p’ alliterates)
3. “… a giant hawk….. hover and hoots” (‘h’ alliterates)
The use of metaphor: In the following metaphorical expressions. “The land is a giant whale”, “The land is a giant hawk”, and “the land is sabre-toothed tiger”,
Each of these examples of metaphor refers to the negative consequences of the actions of the leaders on the land. Thus the leaders are depicted as ferocious and dangerous animals that use their size and position to destroy the nation. Just as the big whale shatters the dream of the fisherman, so do the big hawk and violent tiger bestride the space and deal a violent attack on the other animals. And so those who are supposed to protect our interest are these who are oppressing and killing the populace.
Imagery: ‘Giant whale” symbolizes great size while ‘giant hawk’ shows the strength of the creature, but apart from these, the imagery adds to the beauty of the poem. The fisherman’s dream to have great catch is being frustrated by the whale’s swallow of the look, line, bait and the rest, so the frustration is clearly made manifest by the use of the imagery.
Allusion: A casual reference made to the biblical Peter as a fisherman who went for a fishing expedition but was frustrated by a lean catch until Jesus stepped in. And here in Africa, nay Nigeria, the political class has dealt a deadly blow to the populace that unless Jesus himself intervenes as he did in the case of the biblical Peter, the people will always hope against hope.
Structure: The poem is a free verse; it does not have a rhyme scheme but has 26 lines of three stanzas and is prose-like. It is full of images which convey the true pictures and meaning of the poem, which is centered on war. The first stanza shows what happens at the ‘dinner’ of death. It is such diner whose delicacies are blood and gun wounds. The wounded are the seen ‘guests’ and often times on the dinner ‘vegetable die on their tongues’.
The second stanza images the horror of war and its attendant diseases, disorderliness, terror, hunger. cataclysm, dangers where ‘crocodiles surf, and ‘guerrillas walk the land. The third stanza captures the resolve of the child soldier who wants to be a revolutionary but lack of support and lethargy weighs him down.
Onomatopoiea: The tendency of words to echo its meaning by the actual sound. Some words in the poem are indeed suggestive of their sound, or meaning, as in:
‘crocodile’, ‘cracked’, ‘scorpions’, ‘guerillas’,
‘revolutionary’, ‘tributaries’, and ‘roadblocks’.
Enjambment/ run-on-lines: The use of run-on lines in the poem helps to make the poem rhythmic and thus musical and the poem achieves a smooth run, example:
“Dinner tonight comes with gun wounds.
tongues lick the vegetable blood-the pepper strong enough to push scorpions up our heads”
“…. When the playground is emptied of children’s toys
who needs roadblocks?……. achieved in the following lines:
Transferred epithet: The use of the literary device is My boot/Have suddenly become Too reluctant to walk me It is the soldier and not the boot that is reluctant to him along.
Caesura: There are internal pauses pauses in the following lines:
Line 2: ‘Gun wounds. Our desert’
Line 4: Blood the pepper” Line
6: Up our heads guests’
Line 12: Surf children from Alphabeta’
Line 13: With us; switchblades in their eyes’
Line 14: ‘Silence in their voice. When the playground’
Line 16: ‘Who needs roadblock? When the hour’
Line 23: Upon its own Nile. On this’
Note that the above internal pauses are used for emphasis and to achieve variety according to the choice and style of the poet.
Metaphor: Metaphorical expressions in the poem help to make the scenes vivid and clear metaphor is a condensed simile. When we say in the field of play that the boy is Ronaldo, we mean he plays as good as Ronaldo. Such expression is a metaphor because we are comparing the boy with Ronaldo without using ‘like’ or ‘as’. So in the poem, the following metaphorical expressions are on hand examples:
1. Crocodiles’ represent evil and corrupt rulers
2. ‘Guerillas’ shows freedom fighters. It can as well represent cruel oppressors
3. ‘Switchblade is a metaphor for frustration,
distraught and fight
4. Dinner is a reference to teats in blood.
5. ‘Scorpions’ Means pains used or experienced
6. Our desert tongues is a reference to gunnfire used in
7. Spilt/Milk of the moon, refers to aborted dreams and human wastages of the youths and also loss on innocence
8. “Cholera……. Cracked lips, means diseases ravaging the people during the war 9. “The hour/to drink poem the cup of life refer to the
hour time of killing somebody in the war
10. “Hut myniler…. Upon its own nile’ could mean will
power which suddenly becomes weak etc.
Euphemism: This is a literary device used to make soft a serious situation or to turn harsh conditions to a lighter one, example:
(1) ‘lover of fire’ refers to solders in war front
(2)’Cracked lips’ is a reference to the sick
(3) ‘milk of the moon’ symbolizes the youth
(4) When the hour to drink from the cup of life’, refers to the time to kill somebody
(5)’Guests’ refers to the wounded soldiers or anyone in pains during the battle
(6) ‘Dinner’ also symbolizes the gathering of the wounded in the war
1. Destruction: Nothing good but destruction and waste are the attendant consequences of war. This is seen in the gun wounds and other forms of sufferings and deprivations that people are subjected to in the battle. The meal and familiar terms people know about in war situation are: ‘gun wounds’, ‘gun fire’, ‘scorpions’, ‘roadblocks’, ‘playground’, ‘children toys’.
2. Theme of suffering: Nothing good comes from war. The word ‘war’ itself connotes suffering. cholera breaks its spell on cracked lips’. Here, no good water is available again for consumption. Even those who thought that war is a tea suddenly discovers that it is not a dance for the upright. The poet who ordinarily promises to be a revolutionary cannot again because he is full with the catch of gun wounds’, even his boots are ‘reluctant to walk, So there is total atmosphere of chaos, cataclysm, fear, danger, scamper, deprivations and violence.
3. Abuse of children: During wars, children and women are normally abused. Children who are supposed to be at school Alphabeta’ are made to be child-soldiers. These school children come with bitterness and anger to the dining table as there is ‘silence in their voices’. The poet himself felt pity for these sordid and ugly development where our children are having their lives or future distorted because his boot could not ‘walk’ him, he is traumatized.
4. Youthful exuberance and revolutionary spirit
Youths all over the world always think they will do better
than their superiors, but often times, they cannot do
better than their forebears. In this poem therefore, we can see the poet’s resolve shattered because those who could support him are not forthcoming, Because in war situation, unity of purpose is absent. The spilt/ Milk of the moon’ which is a reference to the youths caught in the war and massacred. These are further pointer to the challenges and threat faced by war
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