The Continent That Lies Within Us otherwise called The Meaning Of Africa is a poem written by Abioseh Nicol, a Sierra Leonean poet. Africa is personified in the first verse of the poem leaving Abioseh Nicol with the opportunity to confess to Africa as if a Catholic confessing to a Reverend Father. The poet told Africa that he now got a perfect picture of her. He also confessed he had now realized that the freedom he naively seek for her in the far oversea, the continent already had it more abundant.
Similar to the poem “Dry Your Tears Africa” by Bernard Daddie, Abioseh Nicol also exhausted the whole second stanza of the poem listing the abundant blessings his brain could contain about Africa [the poem will be seen below_ at the end of this article]
According to the poet, every human being is from Africa. When a person visits Africa and strolls the African bushes, one will reunite his/her ancestral spirits. Not only that, the names of African cities, as said by the poet, typified freedom: “Whose very names hold promise_/
Dakar, Bathurst, Cotonou,/ Lagos, Accra, and Bissau;/ Monrovia, Freetown, Libreville,/ Freedom is really in the mind.”
“Happiness, contentment, fulfilment,
And a small bird singing on a mango tree” are the true meaning of Africa.
Structurally, the poem lacks a named rhyme and rhythm though stanzaic, the stanzas lack uniformity as well. The poet used many ellipses to prove that not all thoughts were exposed. Personification was mentioned at the inception of this article but not the only common literary devices in the poem, there was an instance of simile where palm tree was likened to a woman “The palm trees standing like tall, proud, moral women”. Imageries as in “secret imperial guilt” “a vision euphemistic” “short twilight dwindling”
More the poem’s diction, below are the explanation of few words:
In line 6, Alien: foreign. The poet’s reference to an “alien platform” implies a speaker’s platform (in the United Kingdom) from which the views and opinions of those not belonging to the same country, government or religion may be expressed without fear.
In line 9, A vision euphemistic: something seen by the “inner eye” which takes on an illusion of perfection rarely to be found outside of dreams: an exile’s idealistic memory of his homeland.
In line 13, East End: a poor part of London.
In line 39, Go for bush: a West African expression meaning to go into the countryside or rural areas.
In line 41, Mute: not speaking.
The Continent That Lies Within Us
(The Meaning of Africa)
Africa, you were once just a name to me,
But now you lie before me with sombre green challenge
To that loud faith for freedom (life more abundant)
Which we once professed, shouting
Into the silent, listening microphone;
Or, on an alien platform, to a sea
Of white, perplexed faces, troubled
With secret Imperial guilt; shouting
Of you with a vision euphemistic
As you always appear
To your lonely sons on distant shores…
(Then in my wistful exile’s mind
The dusty East End lane would vanish
In a grey mental mist, leaving behind
A warm, shimmering image of you.)
The hibiscus Blooming in shameless scarlet,
And the Bougainvillea in mauve passion
Entwining itself around strong branches;
The palm trees standing like tall, proud, moral women,
Shaking their plaited locks against
The cool, suggestive evening breeze;
The short twilight dwindling;
The white, full moon turning its round gladness
Towards the swept open space
Among the trees; there will be
Dancing there tonight, and in my brimming heart
Plenty of love and laughter….
…Now I am back
Loving the sophistication of your brave new cities
Whose very names hold promise_
Dakar, Bathurst, Cotonou,
Lagos, Accra, and Bissau;
Monrovia, Freetown, Libreville,
Freedom is really in the mind.
Go up country, so they say,
To see the real Africa;
For whoever you may be,
That is where you come from;
Go for bush, inside the bush,
There you’ll find your hidden heart,
Your mute, ancestral spirit…
…I know now that is what you are, Africa:
Happiness, contentment, and fulfilment,
And a small bird singing on a mango tree.
Copyright © Abioseh Nicol
The name, Abioseh Nicol, is the pen-name. The poet is a Sierra Leonean author and broadcaster with the Margaret Wrong Prize and Medal for Literature in Africa in 1952. He once lived in the United Kingdom where he had his university education.
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Samuel C. Enunwa aka samueldpoetry
(the Leo with wings flying)