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Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Night by Wole Soyinka


Your hand is heavy, Night, upon my brow.
I bear no heart mercuric like the clouds,to dare.
Exacerbation from your subtle plough.
Woman as a clam, on the sea's cresent.
I saw your jealous eye quench the sea's
Flouorescence, dance on the pulse incessant
Of the waves. And I stood, drained
Submitting like the sands, blood and brine
Coursing to the roots. Night, you rained
Serrated shadows through dank leaves
Till, bathed in warm suffusion of your dappled cells
Sensations pained me, faceless, silent as night thieves.
Hide me now, when night children haunt the earth
I must hear none! These misted cells will yet
Undo me; naked, unbidden, at Night's muted birth.

                         LITERARY ANALYSIS  (summary)

       Wole Soyinka also known as Akinwande Oluwole Babatunde Soyinka was born on July 13, 1934 at Abeokuta, Nigeria. The foremost Nigerian Playwright is well known for his plays; The Lion and The Jewel (1959), The Trials of Brother Jero, Death and The King's Horseman (1975), and Madmen and Specialist's  (1970) amongst his 30 plays.

       Winning the Nobel Prize in Literature (1986), Wole Soyinka is not only regarded as a playwright but also a Poet as well as a political activist who was arrested and placed in solitary confinement for about two years by the Federal Government of Genral Yakubu Gowon during the Nigerian Civil War (1967).


       He is author to 8 poetry collections; Telephone Conversation (1963), Idanre and Other Poems (1967), A Big Airplane Crashed Into Earth (originally titled as "Poems from Prison") (1969), A Shuttle in the Crypt (1971), Ogun Abibiman (1976), Mandela's Earth and Other Poems (1988), Early Poems (1997) , Samarkand and Other Markets I Have Known (2002).

     Night, a 15 line poem, is one of his many lyrical poems laced with mild rhymes. The poem centers on Night and the poet. Soyinka proves to be a great romanticist in this poem. Contrary to most views as to what Night represents, Soyinka uses Night to symbolize a Woman, the poet persona's lover.

       Line 1 tells us of the influence of Night upon the persona. He says that "Your hand is heavy, Night, upon my brow" and he "bears no heart mercuric like the clouds to dare". The woman - his lover - has so much influence on him that he doesn't possess the freedom that the clouds do to "dare" "exacerbation from" her "subtle plough".

      Night wields so much influence over the persona because he is in love with her. He can't dare "exacerbation" which has worsen his already dire situation from her "subtle plough". The term "subtle plough" is used to represent the cunning act of sex. To plough, asides its common interpretation, refers to the act of sexual intercourse. The persona therefore has no freewill to escape such pleasurable act cunningly devised by the woman to keep him in check. Trying to escape that would mean making matters worse for himself because sex forms a bond that can't easily be broken.

     In line 4-5, he addresses the woman not as Night this time but as woman. He compares her to a clam on the sea's crescent. Clams are hard shelled sea creatures which produce pearls. These beautiful gems are kept in their mouth which is tightly sealed and can only be opened with a knife or by breaking the shell.  Woman being compared to a clam suggests that she, like the clam, possesses the rare and beautiful gem; sexual pleasure but, she keeps it sealed.

     The poet further goes on to tell the Woman that he "saw" her "jealous eye quench the sea's...fluorescence". It's highly characteristic of the female gender to get fiercely jealous especially when it involves a man. Out of jealousy, his lover "quench"(s) the sea's "Fluorescence".

      Suggestive of two things is the fact that the woman's jealousy rages and puts out the beauty of the sea, it's fluorescence. Or, in jealousy she satisfies the glow of the sea. The sea represents the man and his manliness. In quenching the sea's fluorescence, she could either put out the fire that burned in the man by denying him pleasure or she could satisfy him like water satisfies a thirsty man.

  "I saw your jealous eye quench the sea's
    Fluorescence, dance on pulse incessant
    Of the waves..."


    Quenching the sea's glow, she dances "on pulse incessant" of the "waves". The woman clearly satisfies the desire of the man because she ended up dancing to the continuous beats of the waves. The waves is a metonymy for sea and symbolic for man. Therefore, she dances to the beats of his heart and fulfills his desire for pleasure.

   "...And I stood, drained
    Submitting like the sands, blood and brine
    Coursing to the roots.."


     Fulfilling his pleasure, the poet expresses a level of satisfaction. He now stands, drained. He submits like the sand does to the waves of the sea. Both blood and sweat run through to the roots of woman, her womb. Blood signifies his DNA and sweat the pleasure. He didn't just gain pleasure from his intimacy with the woman, he also gave her a seed.

"  ...Night you rained
 Serrated shadows through dank leaves
Till, bathed in warm suffusion of your dappled cell"


     He says that Night, like rain, poured upon him "Serrated shadows". Serrated refers to being saw-like. That is, anything with a saw-like figure or shape. It could stand for her teeth. Although not exactly saw-like, but the poet uses this to express the depth of the influence her teeth had on his skin.

     Dank which is word for wet and cold, is the medium through which Night rained. The pleasure comes to a calm state when he is immersed in warm suffusion of her dappled cells. Soyinka makes use of plant terminologies to express himself. He is immersed in warm liquid of the woman. This is the point during the intercourse where he thrusts himself into the woman.

"Sensations pained me, faceless, silent as night thieves.
Hide me now, when night children haunt the earth
I must hear none! These misted calls will yet
Undo me; naked, unbidden, at Night's muted birth."


    Thrusting into a woman ought to be pleasurable. After foreplay and acts of intimacy now comes the thrust. Entering into the woman, he is pained. He loses his identity and becomes faceless for he feels as one with the woman. He remains silent as the night comes to steal their pleasure: daytime.

      He pleads to be hidden when "night" children haunt the earth. In this line he doesn't express night as "Night" because he isn't referring to a person but a period of the day. The "children" of "night" are the offspring night brings which is gloom and darkness. He doesn't want to be around when gloom and darkness fills the earth. He doesn't want to stay till dawn.

    The last two lines express the final resolve of the poet. He says that "These misted calls" will yet "undo" him. The voices he hears are obscure, faint and indistinct. He believes that these calls will "yet undo" him, that is, soon bring his downfall which is a state of being empty, void, powerless at Night's(woman's) silent beginning that he didn't ask for or ask to be invited to.

     He is most likely imagining all through the poem unto this point. He realizes that darkness approaches and he has been imagining intimacy with a woman. He knows that these thoughts will lead to his downfall because he ought to be working by writing and not making vain imaginations. So he confesses that he is powerless to the thoughts that fill his mind.



LITERARY DEVICES

  • Metaphor;                                                                                 

"Your hand is heavy, Night, upon my brow." (line 1)
" ...Night, you rained" "Serrated shadows..."(line9-10)


  • Simile 

   " I bear no heart mercuric like the clouds, to dare." (line 2)
   "Woman as a clam,..." (line 4)
   "Submitting like the sands, blood and brine" (line 8)
   "...silent as night thieves." (line 12)


  •  Inversion/ Anastrophe

    "Your hand is heavy, Night, upon my brow." (line 1)

  • Asyndeton; This is intentionally eliminating conjuctions between phrases and in sentences to reduce the indirect meaning of the phrase and present it in a concise form.  It expresses the emotional state of the poet and draws the attention of readers towards a particular idea the author wants to convey.

  "Your hand is heavy. Night, upon my brow." (line 1)
 "I bear no heart mercuric like the clouds, to dare" (line 2)
 "Exacerbation from your subtle plough" (line 3)
 "Of the waves. And I stood, drained" (line 7)
 "Submitting like the sands, blood and brine" (line 8)

    There is the deliberate omission of conjunctions in the sentences, and they tend to produce a hurried rhythm.


  • Personification
     "I saw your jealous eye quench the sea's" (line 5)


  • Parenthesis; It's a qualifying or explanatory sentence, word, or clause which is inserted into a sentence or passage using brackets, commas, dashes or little lines. It is used to add emphasis and make statements more convincing. It tells the true feelings and opinions of both narrators and characters

    "Sensations pained me, faceless, silent as night thieves."
     (line 12)


  • Consonance

  "Of the waves. And I stood, drained" (line 7)


THEMES

  • The influence of woman on man
  • Romanticism
  • Wild thoughts of a bard
  • The power of love
  • Pleasure


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