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Saturday, 7 March 2015

Hardlines by Gbemisola Adeoti

Literary Analysis (Summary)

Hardlines by Gbemisola Adeoti x-rays the daring nature of the truth in a society where the political system and social institutions are in a shambles and the leaders in positions of authority are doing nothing to salvage the unpleasant situation. The country is enmeshed in mischief and all sorts of indignity. Adeoti reveals how hard it is to voice the naked truth about the dwindling fortune of his homeland, Nigeria, where deceit, lies, pretence and all manners of corrupt practices hold sway. Hence, the truth tends to be bitter and hard to admit, especially when it is blunt.

The first stanza begins with a metaphor that directly compares the truth with “bitter pills hard to swallow with laughter”. Such hardlines are very difficult to accept with an accommodating disposition. To escape from such burdensome truth, is like when someone intends to provide succour to a raging thirst by licking a running sore, instead of drinking water. And so the “embers of thirst” remains unquenched. The bitter truth lingers and stays in the mind for a long time haunting the soul.

When “some lines” are said, they are like wet rocks “hard on the tongue” although it has been “moistened”. It is hard to voice such adulterated truth when the attitude of the recipient may be hostile to things like that. The nature of such truth is described as a “breakfast of toad/ spiced with roasted cockroaches/ washed down with stale wine/ mixed with mucus and urine.” Imagine such a disgusting diet in the mouth of its recipient. Definitely, it will be “hard to swallow with laughter”.  But that is the nature of the truth when it is honestly said without fear or favour. People hardly accept it since the human nature loves to be pampered with flattery and well-spiced lies entwisted in vainglory.

In the poet’s homeland, Nigeria, lack of home truth has become a deficiency to the political leaders because they only surround themselves with bootlickers who only sing their praises, avoiding the truth and telling them the sweet-lies they want to hear while the country is teetering at the brink of regression.

The poet-speaker continues the next stanza with a rhetorical question that suggests hopelessness in the search of the truth-bearer, who will stand up and confront the leaders with the ills facing the nation and point to their shortcomings.

How will a citizen of good moral principle (beauty) “bathe” himself with a poisonous gas that burns the skin (mustard gas) cooked with another chemical element (sodium cyanide) “when heaven hold its tears?” When such an upright citizen faces the people in authority with the audacious truth, exposing their shortcomings, the poet sees the person to be bathing himself with the mustard gas of troubles and tribulations. They won’t take it lightly with him or her. When he or she is being dealt with and haunted for being too straightforward and righteous, even the heavens won’t cry for him for his well-intentioned heroic act. The rivulets (a small stream) that could have helped to douse the venom of the chemical political afflictions are dry. There is no one to help!

Then, that person with high moral “beauty” will scream across the dry stream that could have provided succour to the messy situation he has put himself. Without help from family, friends, human right groups and the providence, he or she is left to hug “the air in anguish.”

Gbemisola Adeoti, however, captures the unpleasant and strange things happening in Nigeria, his “napping homeland”. His country, the most populous black nation, is sleeping (napping) while other third world countries are developing at a faster pace. The political leaders have failed to admit their leadership failure, wide-scale corruption and other unwholesome practices that have brought massive underdevelopment to the country. The reason behind this is not far-fetched. No one is telling them the home truth (hardlines). No one dares face the leaders with the all-inclusive truth because the “truth is hard on the palate”, while falsehood prevails. Instead of “lions’ fiery tales’, that could bring about change, they opt for “fairy tales” of goats from praise singers.

To further show the level of moral decadence in the poet’s homeland, they sing elegies (a poem of lamentation to mourn someone’s death) with joy and merriment to herald the “birth and christening” of a new born child. They engage in repulsive activities as if they were doing the right things.  Stealing of public funds is not seen as corruption but an opportunity to have their share of the national cake. People have lost their dignity and sense of moral sanctity.

Above all, unimaginable and distasteful practices have become the order of the day. “Bones spring in egg” instead of chicks while chicks grow horns. “Hooves” develop in ducks, instead of feathers, while the feathers become a feature of foxes.
All these are happening because the caps of honour have been “seized from the harried heads of the honest” and decked on the heads of dishonest people (dusty buttocks). People of questionable character are being worshipped and honoured with heroic medals meant for the honest who are being physically attacked repeatedly (harried) for exposing their flaws and “leveling the house of deceit” with the hard truth.

The honest ones have “stirred the hornet’s nest” because they wouldn’t compromise or adulterate the truth to suit the desire of the devious leaders. These honest few have decided to bath themselves in the danger of “mustard gas cooked with sodium cyanide”, not minding if help comes from heaven or earth, in as much the fortune of the country changes for good. Chicks should spring from eggs and feathers from ducks.

Indeed, the poet’s “napping homeland” is experiencing “hard times” because the bitter truth from the beautiful ones is being avoided. Adeoti concludes on the note that Nigeria his homeland can only survive the hard times “by strokes of hard lines”. It is the myriad of truth and nothing but the home truth that can make the nation survive in such times. The biblical proverb sums it all, “righteousness exalts a nation.”

Truthfulness exalts a nation
The truth is bitter
The dangers of being honest
High moral decadence in the society
The prevalence of injustice
Hard times never last

Poetic Devices

The poem is written in free verse of 5 stanzas,31 unequal lines.

Rhetorical question: “Will a beauty bathe in mustard gas cook with sodium cyanide when heaven holds its tears and rivulets run dry?
Metaphors: “Some lines are bitter pills” (Line 1)
                   “Weeping sore” (Line 3)
                   “Embers of thirst” (Line 4)
                   “Some lines are moistened rock” (Line 5)
                   “House of deceit” (Line 28)
Personification: “Will a beauty bathe…” (Line 11)
                   “Napping homeland” (Line 17)
Simile:        “Like a tongue licking a weeping sore” (Line 3)
                   “Like a breakfast of toad” (Line 7)
Assonance: “Scream she will, across the stream” (Line 15)
Pun:           “As lions’ fiery tales turn to fairy tales (Line 19)
Oxymoron:           “Moistened rock” (Line 5)

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