Tuesday, 26 October 2021


There are many themes in the poem, such as (a) the theme of leadership (b) the theme of

nature (c) the theme of imperfection (d) the theme of balance.

In the theme of leadership, the title and the context of the poem are fully about

leadership. The title of the poem “the Leader and the Led” creates juxtaposition between

two subjects (leading and following). The whole poem is about who wants to lead and who

doesn’t want to be a follower of a certain leader.

The characters and the setting in the poem, reveal the theme of nature. Such characters

and environment send a feeling of freshness and greenness to the readers of the poem.

Memory of the zoo or that of the jungle book is revived. The forest where every event

happens, the giraffe, the zebra, the lion, the impala, the antelope, are words portraying

living natures.

Another theme in the poem is the theme of imperfection. The poem sends the message

that perfection is not the recipe for leadership. The animals that felt they are worthy

because of their strengths and powerful qualities are disqualified like those who possess


In line 11 – 12 (The elephant trudges into the power tussle/ But his colleagues dread his

trampling feet), the elephant strength disqualified him while the weakness of warthog was

his certificate of disqualification, as seen in line 13 (the warthog is too ugly).

The theme of balance shows that half strength and half weakness is the guaranteed trait to

leadership. Professor Osundare revealed the solution via the forest sage because it takes

wisdom to arrive at any solution to a problem.

Line 17 – 20:

“’Our need calls for a hybrid of habits”,

Proclaims the Forest Sage,

“A little bit of a lion

A little bit of a lamb

Tough like a tiger, compassionate like a doe

Transparent like a river, mysterious like a lake’”

Poetic Devices in the Leader and the Led by Niyi Osundare


The obvious and simple to remember among the poetic devices embedded in the poem

are (a) simile (b) antithesis (c) symbolism (d) imagery (e) alliteration (f) repetition (g)


Simile; creating comparison with the use of like or as. In the poem, there's "like a snake

without a head" in line 10, " Tough like a tiger, compassionate like a doe" in line 19,

“Transparent like a river, mysterious like a lake" in line 20.

Metaphor; is an indirect comparison in a work of art. The poem The Leader and the Led

was built on a metaphorical ground. It is a metaphor of things that happen in a human

democratic setting whenever it comes to the issue of electing a new leader.

Repetition; is a poetic device where certain words, phrases, lines, or verses are repeated

twice or more to create a sing-song rhythm or emphasis in a poem. Just for mentioning

sake, few words repeated in the poem are “pack” in line 2, 10, 15. “lead” in line 9 and 24.

Repetition of phrase such as “A little bit of a” in stanza 12.

Imagery; using words or expressions to created mental picture in a poem so the readers

can see, smell, feel the event clearer. Few in the poem are "But the impalas shudder at his

lethal appetite" in line 6, "And the pack trashes around" in line 16, "The pack points to the

duplicity of his stripes" in line 10.

Symbolism; using word or expression to represent a status, event, or idea. In the poem

The Leader and the Led, the term “Forest Sage” symbolised a wise person which in a

normal human democratic setting represents the poet.

Alliteration; successive use of consonant sounds within a line or two in a poem. "hybrid

of habits” in line 17, “far from the ground” in line 8, “pounce of his paws” in line 4, “The

pack points to” in line 10.

Antithesis; creating an opposing or contrasting opinion or character in a work of art.

This is the dominating poetic device because most line of the couplets share opposite

characters. Hyena versus impalas in stanza 3 “The hyena says the crown is made for him/

But the impalas shudder at his lethal appetite” and the elephant versus the colleagues in

stanza 6. Another instance of antithesis is in stanza 11.

The Leader and the Led by Niyi Osundare


The Lion stakes his claim

To the leadership of the p ack

But the Antelopes remember

The ferocious pounce of his p aws

The hyena says the crown is made for him

But the Impalas shudder at his lethal appe tite

The Giraffe craves a place in the front

But his eyes are too far from the groun d

When the Zebra says it’s his right to lead

The pack points to the duplicity of his str ipes

The Elephant trudges into the power tussle

But its colleagues dread his trampling feet

The warthog is too ugly

The rhino too riotous

And the pack thrashes around

Like a snake without a head

“Our need calls for a hybrid of habits”,

Proclaims the Forest Sage,

“A little bit of a Lion

A little bit of a Lamb

Tough like a tiger, compassionate like a doe

Transparent like a river, mysterious like a lake

A leader who knows how to follow

Followers mindful of their right to lead

(c) Niyi Osundare


Ambush by Gbemisola Adeoti is a poem similar to “The Leader and the Led”. Both poets

are Nigerians belonging to the Yoruba ethnic.

In a metaphorical manner, Ambush by Gbemisola Adeoti buttressed the prevailing

hardship and insecurity in a given community as a result of bad governance; dwellers

were left with nothing but helplessness and hopelessness.

The characters in the poem “Ambush” are animals such as giant whale, sabre tooth tiger,



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