– Complete analysis of the poem “Vanity” by Biragol Diop
– Analysis of the poem “VANITY”
– Theme of the poem vanity
– Poetic Devices of the poem Vanity
– Questions on the poem Vanity
Complete Analysis of the poem “Vanity”
Analysis of the poem “vanity” by Birago Diop
Complete analysis of the poem “Vanity” by Biragol Diop
If we tell, gently, gently
All that we shall one day have to tell,
Who then will hear our voices without laughter,
Sad complaining voices of beggars
Who indeed will hear them without laughter?
If we cry roughly of our torments
Ever increasing from the start of things
What eyes will watch our large mouths
Shaped by the laughter of big children
What eyes will watch our large mouth?
What hearts will listen to our clamoring?
What ear to our pitiful anger
Which grows in us like a tumor
In the black depth of our plaintive throats?
When our Dead comes with their Dead
When they have spoken to us in their clumsy voices;
Just as our ears were deaf
To their cries, to their wild appeals
Just as our ears were deaf
They have left on the earth their cries,
In the air, on the water,
where they have traced their signs for us blind deaf and unworthy Sons
Who see nothing of what they have made
In the air, on the water, where they have traced their signs
And since we did not understand the dead
Since we have never listened to their cries
If we weep, gently, gently
If we cry roughly to our torments
What heart will listen to our clamoring,
What ear to our sobbing hearts?
Analysis of the poem “VANITY”
The title “vanity” portrays the folly of the living who in spite of having been bequeathed with many legacies have arrogantly and ignorantly failed to honour their dead ancestors. He laments as follows: “They have left on the earth their cries. In the air, on the water, where they have traced their signs for us, blind, deaf and unworthy sons, who see nothing of what they have made in the air, in the water where they have traced their signs”. In the poet’s view, much of the problems bedeviling the African society stem from our disregard for African tradition and over-dependence on the Western culture. He laments further: “If we cry roughly of our torments ever increasing from the start of things”. Birago Diop argues that the solution to Africa’s many problems lie within us.
He further expresses the African belief that dead ancestors have the ability to punish erring individuals and warns that if they are not respected or honoured, they would also not help the living in time of trouble- “And since we did not understand our dead, since we have never listened to their cries, if we weep gently, gently, if we cry roughly of our torments, what heart will listen to our clamourings, what ear to our sobbing hearts?”
Vanity is a poem of lamentation.
Theme of the poem vanity
1 The Theme of Abandonment of traditional ways or values
The poem comment on the tendency of africn education elite and other westernized africans to abandon african wisdom, values and general traditional way oof life. Because many of these people have been led into believing that african ways of life are primitive and barbaric the embrace foreign values and become uninterested in this regard as their own value . The poet condemns this in strong terms, dismissing those culpable in this regard as worthless offspring
2 wisdom of the ancestors is invaluable
The peom presents ancestors as a weservoir of sound teaching and wisdom which are sufficient to guide their offspring through the challenges of life these teaching and wisdom are describe as “cries” and “wild appeals”. with such descriptions the poet suggests that the ancestors are not only in earnest, they are not interested in listening to their voices . The ancestors also leave behind them signs in the natural elements as guides to the living. The poem, therefore, suggests that the only thing that can prevent the living from becoming object of scorn and enjoy the patronage of the ancestors is to heed their words and signs.
3 pain and misery
Another important theme of the poem is that of Questions on the poem Vanity and pain. this theme is linked to the vanity of those who consider foreign ways superior and more desirable than africa’s. Their action is cetayn to bring. about some adverse consequence, which include sadness, mockery should and pain. The poet observe that we would become sad complainers, attracting noting but others mockery should we fail to promptly address the renegade tendencies of our fellow westernized aficans. The same thing would happen if we merely lament over our pains and challenges instead of taking the right steps to get round them, which is to heed the wisdom of our forebears. The pain and misery referred
to are however not physical ones, but psychological ones. Some words which easily draw attention to the issues of pain and misery in the poem include “tumour”, “pitiful anger”, “plaintive throats”, “complaining”, “cry roughly”, “weep”, “clamouring” and sobbing hearts”
4 warning to renegades
Mood and Tone
The mood is that of worry with a corresponding tone of concern, condemnation, sarcasm and ridicule. He expresses his worry through a number of rhetorical questions.
Structure of the poem Vanity
Though written in stanzas and with some rhythm, the poem Vanity is a free verse poem as it does not have a consistent meter pattern.
The poem contains powerful imagery. For instance, the title “Vanity” refers to the living’s folly over their disregard for the good works of dead ancestors which according to the poet are seen on land, in the water and in the air. Words like “voices of beggars” , “our large mouths”, “our ears were deaf” and “our plaintive throat” are employed as a form of rebuke or ridicule.
The poet also repeats some phrases and images to show how serious he is about the subject-matter of the poem. Examples- “Just as our ears were deaf”, “What eyes”, What ears” “What heart”.
Poetic Devices of the poem Vanity
Rhetorical Question: This runs throughout the poem. It expresses the poet’s worry and emphasises his seriousness over the subject matter of the poem. Examples: “Who then will hear our voices without laughter?” “Who then will hear us without laughter?” “What eyes will watch our large mouth?” “What heart will listen to our clamouring?” “What ear to our sobbing hearts?”.
Sarcasm: This is mocking humour. Examples: sad complaining voices of beggars; large mouth; plaintive throats
This is seen throughout the poem. Example: What eyes will watch our large mouth? is repeated in the second stanza.
This is direct comparison using the words “like” or “as”. Example: “What ear to our pitiful anger which grows in us like a tumor”.
Synedoche: A figure of speech that entails using a part to represent a whole
or a whole for a part. Example: “What hearts will listen to our clamouring?”
This figure of speech involves the attribution of human nature or character to animals, inanimate objects, or abstract notions. In Vanity, the poet gives life to dead ancestors through the use of personification. Examples: “When our Dead comes with their Dead, when they have spoken to us in their clumsy voices”.
Now you should be able to answer the following question on Vanity
Questions on the poem Vanity
1. Discuss the use of rhetorical question in the poem
2. Examine the poet’s effective use of repetition
3. Closely examine the background and setting of the poem as they relate to its contents
4.Discuss the use of three poetic devices in vanity
5. Discuss the theme of pain and misery in the poem vanity
6. Examine the structure of the poem, What is its effect on the overall development of the poem
7. Identify and discuss one of the themes in the poem
8. Give a detailed account of the poem
9. Discuss the poem “vanity” against the back