Post Mortem was written by the Nigerian world class poet, Prof. Wole Soyinka.
The poem began with the poem speaker, preferring dead plants to dead human beings because human beings become stiff and cold “in the cold hand of death…”(line 4) and everything in them become opposite: their talking become “cotton filled”, their manhood or man-pike become small like larva of an insect.
The poem speaker in the third and forth stanza revealed the futility of post mortem where the dead man’s head was hollowed and his brain was scaled when death had already done a damage no medical practitioners could recover.
Now, let’s look at the themes in the poem. (1) Theme of Untimely Death (2) Theme of Death’s Supremacy Over Science And Human Being (3) Theme Of The Importance Of Dying Old.
(1) Untimely Death. The poem reminds the readers of the fact that untimely deaths are the major causes of post mortem. Such deaths hold mysteries that prompt scientists into action of searching the cause of such death; in a very rare occasion, the death of a very old person post mortemed.
(2) Death’s Supremacy Over Science And Human Beings.
“in the cold hand of death…
his month was cotton filled, his man-pike
shrunk to a subsoil grub” (stanza 2)
The stanza explained how powerful and dominating death is. The following two stanzas backed the fact that science and scientific experiments are under the feet of death.
(3) The Importance Of Dying Old. Although, the last stanza of the poem look ambiguous, out of the ambiguity came the importance of dying old where “grey” symbolized old age, “one grey sleep and form” sydmbolized lying in coffin while old, “grey slabs” symbolized the undertaker grey- color Cadillac. The poem speaker stressed the importance of old age by saying: “let us love all things of grey;”(line 13).
Language, Style, Poetic Devices
The poem is a five stanza poem with three lines each stanza.
The language of the poem is simple.
The use medical title and instrument gave the poem a medical setting.
Alliteration in line 1 “functions to freezing”, in line 2 “beer; cold bier”, in line 11 “head hollowed”.
Imageries “stocking beer”, “harnessed_ glory be!_”, “trick to prove fore-knowledge after death”, “grey sleep and form”.
Euphemism in line 5 “his man-pike”, “how not to die” in line 12, “subsoil grub” in line 6.
Symbolism “stocking beer” symbolized dead beings, “cold bier” symbolized the embalmed, “grey images” symbolised victims of post mortem.
Allusion in line 2. Bier alluded to William Shakespeare’s Hamlet Act 4, scene 5: “They bore him bare-face on the bier”.
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Samuel C. Enunwa aka samueldpoetry
(the Leo with wings in the tempest)