The land is a giant whale
that swallows 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 saber-toothed tiger
that cries deep in the glade
While infants shudder home
the grizzled ones snatch their gut
from bayonets of tribulation
halting venturous walk at dusk
The land is a 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 toward the shore of possibilities.
Ambush is written by Gbemisola Adeoti, a professor of English Language at the Obafemi Awolowo University, (OAU) Ile-Ife (Nigeria) and the director of the Institute of Cultural Studies of the same institution. He is a seasoned poet, a social commentator and writer with many works to his credit.
The poem Ambush portrays the socio-political problems facing Nigeria. The poet describes how lofty dreams, aspiration, visions, and hopes are shattered by the political class that continually plunders the nation’s resources.
In the first stanza, he directly compares the ruling class with a giant whale that swallows the nation’s resources leaving nothing behind: The land is a giant whale/ that swallow the sinker/ with hook, line and bait aborting dreams of a good catch.
By way of allusion, he further relates the Nigerian situation to the Biblical event where Apostle Peter toiled all night on sea without catching any fish until he met Jesus who told him what to do: blue Peter on empty ships/ all Peters with petered out desires.
As a result of the many years of failed governance, the country experiences all kinds of social problems like violence, robbery, insurgence, kidnapping thus becoming a sabre-toothed tiger/a giant hawk. The youths and elder statesmen refrain from agitation for fear of being persecuted or repressed by government: While infants shudder home/the grizzled ones snatch their gut/from bayonets of tribulation/halting venturous walk at dusk.
In the last stanza, while the poet looks forward to a generation that will take the nation out of its hopeless state toward the shore of possibilities, his hope is threatened by the ravenous nature of the ruling class: The land lies patiently ahead/ awaiting in ambush, ready to devour the future change-agents.
It is a four stanza poem arranged in sequence. It does not have a consistent meter pattern or rhythm.
The language is simple but metaphoric. Imagery There are lot of symbolic expressions in the poem which enhance the poet’s message. Examples: “giant whale”, “giant hawk”, “petered out desires”, “sabre-toothed tiger”, “grizzled ones”.
Mood and Tone
The mood is gloomy and sober with a corresponding tone of lamentation and pessimism. There appears to be a shift in tone in the last stanza as he expresses hope but he ends the stanza on a pessimistic note.
Poetic Devices/Figures of Speech
1. Metaphor: This is direct comparison. Examples: The land is a giant whale/ The land is a sabre-toothed tiger/The land is a giant hawk.
2. Allusion: The poet alludes to the Biblical Peter in stanza 1.
3. Alliteration: Examples: that swallow the sinker/all Peter with petered out desires
4. Personification: The poet gives life to land. Examples: that swallow the sinker/The land….hoovers and hoots in space/The land lies patiently ahead.
What other figures of speech can you identify in this poem?