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When at break of day at a riverside

I hear the jungle drums telegraphing
the mystic rhythm, urgent, rawlike bleeding flesh, speaking of
primal youth and the beginning
I see the panther ready to pounce
the leopard snarling about to leapand the hunters crouch with spears poised;

And my blood ripples, turns torrent,
topples the years and at once I’min
my mother’s laps a suckling;
at once I’m walking simple
paths with no innovations,
rugged, fashioned with the naked
warmth of hurrying feet and groping hearts
in green leaves and wild flowers pulsing.

Then I hear a wailing piano
solo speaking of complex ways
in tear-furrowed concerto;
on far away lands 
and new horizons with
coaxing diminuendo,
crescendo. But lost in the labyrinthof its complexities, it ends in the middle
of a phrase at a daggerpoint.

And I lost in the morning mist
of an age at a riverside keep
wandering in the mystic rhythm
of jungle drums and the concerto.


One can imagine that what one has been reading is probably a man sitting by a Riverside very early in the money in a bush path, the poem is in African society and Nigeria precisely, it appears it is a village because the poet make use of the word “river” which in urban places you can’t find much compare to a rural area, the rural nature if the village the poem was set suggested by some references like “hunter”, “green leave”, “wild flower”. The setting vividly took place in the morning when nothing is disturbing the atmosphere or the earth as a whole is calm.



The poem stress the evil of living in two cultures together at the same time, the poet sees the imposibilityof being an African man i.e born and cultured in african, and at the same trying to be an European which he define as the piano by analysing that their (European) culture is interesting but very complex and hard to imbibe because one will pass through alot of pain and actuality, comportment which are not there in the existing African culture which the European want to make worsen, the struggle between the African culture and European is that the former is classified as natural, simple and heu, while the latter is classified with weird, fascinating and convoluted. The poet speaker in this poem tries to get in through with one of it but lost in the course of figuring out.

The imagery which is sited in the mind of the poet was also what brings up the nostalgic feeling in him when he recalled when he use to walk with no shoes to the farm, marching thorns and all sort of dangerous leafs, but yet enjoyable, he recall when he is still on his mother’s lap suckling, the beautify flora part of the globe, the traditional culture that does not try to train children in any formal education, green life charm people in the traditional society and induce positive contemplation.

The stanza 17 to 26 gives another concept that follow but somehow contradict the first above explanation, suddenly he hears “a wailing piano” the piano,  unlike the drum,  it ushers in u familiarity from a faraway lands. The piano is even describe by the poet that even without the accompaniment of any other instruments could work on its own which symbolizes boredom and lonely, but despite this the beat and the music engender with this piano is sonorous, as the beat move in Different directions I.e the combination of guitar, piano, saxophone, trumpet are all embedded in the piano, so this makes it “end in the middle/of a phrase at a dagger point” that is the rhythms and sounds coming out from the piano get the speaker totally confused about things, I.e the European culture has brought in new system the way African do things, Africans belief no hug, no kiss in public but reversal is the case now.


The last stanza articulates the poet final position that he was totally list between the two, he his unable to make decision or the drum, the idea of “morning mist” in which he is lost, probably seems the speaker go unconscious of decision on who to side more, but gibes himself a 50/50 percent on the two culture.

Themes in the poem

  1. Struggle between cultures
  2. An indecision state
  3. Introduction of new system
  4. Innocence of the ancient system
  5. Abolition of traditional culture over the introduced one.
Figures of sspeech
  1. The use of symbolism:  “solo speaking” “complexity ” “tear furrow” “naked warmth” “green leaves” “groping heart”
  2. Personification: the drums and the piano are personified because tbey are object which cannot speak but given the attribute, of a living thing.
  3. Alliteration: ” leopard snarling about to leap” ” and my blood ripple, “turns torrent” “solo speaking”
  4. Simile: this is the use of direct comparison of word e.g: “mystic rhythm” ” like bleeding flesh” and jungle drums is compare to a “mystic rhythm “.

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