NECO/WAEC POEM 2016-2020
AFRICAN POEM: VANITY –BY BIRAGO DIOP, AUTHOR’S BACKGROUND, SUBJECT MATTER, THEMES, LITERARY DEVICES USED IN THE POEM.
AUTHOR’S BACKGROUND: The poem ‘’Vanity’’ was written by Birago Diop. Birago Diop was born in 1906 in Dakar, Senegal. He was educated in Senegal and France where he qualified as a veterinary surgeon. He had interest in folklore which he learnt from his grandmother and aunt. While learning in France, he teamed up with other Francophone African Writers in Paris, Senghor which later led to the ‘’Negritude Movement”. He was conscious of his race, culture and wrote with the theme of ancestors and historical legends. A pervading motif in Birago Diop’s poetry is that of the continued presence of the ancestors. Therefore, his desire was to recreate old tales and to write poems which speak not only of the ancestral heritage of the African but also dealt with ordinary human situation.
THE SUBJECT MATTER OF THE POEM: In this particular poem there is a warning that if we failed to heed the voice of the ancestors we have lost our hope of protection, of psychological defence against the changing fortunes of life. The poet concerned was to promote the necessity for Africans to remember their roots, to maintain close relationship with and learn from the wisdom of our ancestors. In general, the poet used the traditional belief in the spirit of the ancestors as a means of reflecting upon the continuity of human experience and suffering. Only our dead have known the whole of life, without their communion, we are pitifully alone.
THEMEES FROM THE POEM:
LAMENTATION: The poet lamented that our voices cannot be heard again as a result of our follies[line 3]
DESERTION: The people failed to listen to the ancestors and become lost children.
DISAPPOINTMENT: The ancestors were disappointed because we did not listen to them. They called us deaf and unworthy sons . [lines 20-24]
LITERARY DEVICES USED IN THE POEM:
REPETITION: ‘’If we’’ was repeated several times to emphasize that the ancestors were angry with us. Lines 1, 6, 27, 28.
METAPHOR: In line 4, the poet compared the people with beggars who arle not happy most of the time. ‘’sad complaining voices of beggars’’.
OXYMORON : In lines 8-9, the poet described their mouths as laughter of big children: children cannot said to be big. It is an opposite of what is said. Another one is the use of pitiful anger. Anger cannot express pity.
SIMILE: In lines 12-13, the poet compared the people’s anger like tumour. That is something that increased tremendiously despite their loud noise.
ALLITERATION: In line 15, ‘’Dead’’ was alliterated to show emphasis. This is also used to express anger and disappointment.
SYMBOLISM: In line 14, the passage of the gullet remains dark to us since we cannot see through it. It means our voices cannot be heard no matter how hard we tried. ‘’In the black depth of our plaintive throats’’?
RHETORICAL QUESTIONS: Lines 5, 10, 14, 29, 30. These were questions that demand no answers. It shows the confused state of the mind of the people.