School: Dority International Secondary School. Abia
The children of this land by Wole Soyinka is a poem of six stanzas, consisting 43 lines in total. It is a critique on the youths of the present day in a land not specifically stated in the poem. The writer, Wole Soyinka, was born in Nigeria and some perceive the land to be Nigeria itself.
ANALYSIS OF EACH STANZA
The first line begins by the poet expressing his thought of the “Children of This Land” by describing them as “old”. This line alone employs the use of Paradox by comparing “children” to “old”. He enumerates that ‘their eyes are fixed on maps in place of land’. This line is used to Metaphorically compare the outdated ways of the people. A ‘map’ as we know it literally means an outline of paths or areas of land previously explored. The poet uses this to talk on how the ‘children’ fail to be innovative and follow new paths other than the ones already defined and laid out before us. He continues in this stanza by telling us how ‘their feet must learn to follow distant contours traced by alien minds’. The poet uses ‘alien minds’ to symbolize radically different individuals in the society who have better influence towards new
The last line of this stanza states ‘their present sense has faded into past’ which is supported by the earlier lines to give an understanding of the retarding nature of the mindset in the ‘children’.
The poet starts this stanza with the words ‘the children of this land’ once more. It is realized that these words are repeated throughout the poem to lay emphasis on the children of the unknown land. He starts by describing the nature of the ‘children’ as proud. They are seen to ‘tread on air’ which is metaphorical for their boastful nature and how it makes them feel that they are above others, but in reality, they do not realize that the land departed from them instead of them departing from the land. The ‘earth’ is where they belonged but was abandoned due to their proud nature and inability to literally be ‘down to earth’.
‘Their pointed chins are aimed’ is a line describing the nature of the youths who have no intent of looking down or coming back to earth. Their journey is seem too continue towards ‘horizons filled with crows’. Crows in mythology often indicate bad omen and death. The poet seemingly uses animal to indicate the dark path in which they are headed. The last line of this stanza discusses ‘swarms of locusts’. Locusts are known to cause great destruction when they gather. Thus, the writer uses these insects to describe the destruction which would be brought about if they continue in their proud nature.
In this stanza, the poet describes the youths to ‘gain the largest eyes within head sockets’. A major use of imagery is employed in this stanza as the reader is indulged with the description of the ‘children’ as a fish which ha passed through a restaurant to be eaten. This can represent how they allow those above them or eaten. This can represent how they allow those above them or leaders to use them for their own benefit and then leaving them to rot. But, the eyes of this feasted fish are seen to ‘pierce beyond the present dim passages’ which essentially show that they see a brighter outcome but is not yet achievable at their current state.
In this stanza, the poet opens up by describing the ‘children’ as ‘offspring of the dispossessed’. Essentially, this shows symbolically that the youth are raised with lack of possessions. The possessions include ‘hope’ and ‘land’ which are being deprived as described in the next line. Due to this deprivation, the youths are seen to be drawn to nothing as ‘contempt replaces filial bonds’. Furthermore, the poet describes the children as ‘castaways in holed crafts’. He compares their tough nature and emotionless behavior to tortoise skin and scales. He goes on to describe them to have hands ‘clawed for nothing’. This discusses the comparison between youths and animals as they use rooting to search for food. Soyinka describes the youth to ‘propagate new social codes and laws’ which he insinuates will give rise to a ‘new race’.
The major idea discussed in this stanza is love and the ‘turn for the worse’ it is taking with the ‘new race’. Love is seen to be a ‘banished stranger’ which we come to know by the poet is seen to be abandoned. These lonely ‘children’ use ‘lust’ as a means of capturing their prey by false pretense of being loved. The love is further described to be ‘hidden, ancient ruin, crushed’. This emphasizes how the new race disregards love and leaves it to whither. The present is seen to be ‘robbed of pretense’ in terms of love as the new race leaves it entirely.
The poet uses this stanza to describe how the youths accept these vices which are seen as ‘the void’ – Soyinka uses ‘spores’ to metaphorically represent how these bad characteristics are spreading throughout the land. The ‘children’ are now seen to ‘step nimbly over ghosts to parenthood’. This essentially shows how they are overlooking the failed parenthood. They are described to be ‘robed as judges’. This indicates issues and make a way forward. ‘Their gaze rejects all measures of the past’ which shows how determined they are to move forward into a better future. A ‘gleam’ is now seen to come out of nowhere to blind the vision of the youths who were looking to proceed in a new direction. The poet now poses a rhetorical question of ‘who sold our youth?’ to evoke the thought of who or what has led us to be misguided and move in a backward direction into the past.
This poem in my opinion beautifully relates to the society we live in today. The poet uses this medium to open our eyes to how we as youths are failing to live up to our potential by allowing ourselves to fall victim of being proud and not being innovative. Our disregard for love as described in the poem also negates progression. This poem teaches us to step in a better direction which will lead us to be whole once again. Essentially, we must overcome these vices and adopt new methods of thinking if we ever want to succeed. Not only that, we must ensure to be open-minded and not pretend to be what we are not so as to expose the truth which lies in the shadows.