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Lesson Note

Subject: Literature In English
Topic: Summary Analysis of the poem ” Ambush” by Gbemisola Adeoti.
Lesson Objectives: This lesson is aimed at helping learners understand the poem Ambush”. So by the end of the lesson, the learners should be able to:

  1. In few sentences describe the Poet;
  2. Recite the poem;
  3. Identify and write about setting of the poem;
  4. Identify the poetic devices used in the poem;
  5. Identify and discuss the themes in the poem;
  6. Point out the characters I’m the poem.

Learning Aids: See Reference Resources below lesson content.

Have you had cause to study in detail the poem ‘Ambush’ by Gbemisola Adeoti, What were your findings? Or you are just the type that scroll and scan through the pages of books without digesting it completely to your own understanding. Don’t be a lazy reader. How do I mean? Lazy readers go through a text to check for the answers to questions asked from a given exercise which ought not to be. No matter the length of a novel or piece of write up, I will encourage you not to be in a haste to scanning for possible answers rather, read completely. Why do you have to read in detail? Reading in detail will not only help you understand a particular chapter, act, scene, or stanza of a novel, play, or poem, it will also help you provide self analysis of that concept which will make you an outstanding individual among peers. Take for example Analysis of the poem Ambush which you will come across soon as you continue to read on this page. This analysis did not all from the sky, it was actually put together by an individual who took time to study and digest the contents of the poem. If you are here on this page, lucky you, you still have the opportunity of going through the entire content of the poem Ambush. Analysis of the poem is also provided to guide you for your continuous assessment and examinations. Teachers too are not left out, it will also serve as a teaching guide for my fellow teachers out there.

Let me not take much of your time, below is what you are here for. I do hope you have a great moment studying from myschoollibrary.

The Poem Ambush
The land is a giant whale
that swallows the sinker,
with hook, line and bait
aborting dreams of a good catch
fishers turn home at dusk
blue Peter on empty ships
all Peters with petered out desires.
The land is a saber-toothed tiger
that cries deep in the glade
While infants shudder home
the grizzled ones snatch their gut
from bayonets of tribulation
halting venturous walk at dusk
The land is a giant hawk
that courts unceasing disaster
as it hovers and hoots in space
The land lies patiently ahead
awaiting in ambush
those who point away from a direction
where nothing happens toward the shore of possibilities.


Ambush is written by Gbemisola Adeoti, a professor of English Language at the Obafemi Awolowo University, (OAU) Ile-Ife (Nigeria) and the director of the Institute of Cultural Studies of the same institution. He is a seasoned poet, a social commentator and writer with many works to his credit.

Summary Analysis
The poem Ambush portrays the socio-political problems facing Nigeria. The poet describes how lofty dreams, aspiration, visions, and hopes are shattered by the political class that continually plunders the nation’s resources.
In the first stanza, he directly compares the ruling class with a giant whale that swallows the nation’s resources leaving nothing behind: The land is a giant whale/ that swallow the sinker/ with hook, line and bait aborting dreams of a good catch .
By way of allusion, he further relates the Nigerian situation to the Biblical event where Apostle Peter toiled all night on sea without catching any fish until he met Jesus who told him what to do: blue Peter on empty ships/ all Peters with petered out desires .
As a result of the many years of failed governance, the country experiences all kinds of social problems like violence, robbery, insurgence, kidnapping thus becoming a sabre-toothed tiger/a giant hawk . The youths and elder statesmen refrain from agitation for fear of being persecuted or repressed by government: While infants shudder home/the grizzled ones snatch their gut/from bayonets of tribulation/halting venturous walk at dusk .
In the last stanza, while the poet looks forward to a generation that will take the nation out of its hopeless state toward the shore of possibilities, his hope is threatened by the ravenous nature of the ruling class: The land lies patiently ahead/ awaiting in ambush , ready to devour the future change- agents.

Ambush: Analysis According To Stanza
Stanza One

In stanza one of the poem, Ambush, the poet begins it all by comparing his country to “a giant whale”. The land has built a terrifying capacity for shattering the dreams of its people.

Like the whale, Nigeria has become a beast of prey. It swallows its own, together with their potentials and aspirations, never sparing any one of its citizens.

“The land is a giant whale

that swallows the sinker

with hook, line and bait

aborting dreams of a good catch”

Stanza one ends with the poet comparing the widespread lack of achievement or underachievement in his native land to what happened to the biblical Peter before Christ Jesus came to his rescue.

“fishers turn home at dusk

blue Peter on empty ship

all Peters with petered out desires.”

Thus, much as the people are hardworking, innovative and resourceful, the unfriendly political and economic environment makes it almost impossible for them to realize their life dreams.

Each day, they come back home from their endeavours extremely exhausted but with very little to show for their efforts.

Ambush: Stanza Two

The second stanza of the poem Ambush focuses on the reign of terror and lack of security in the society.

The land, controlled by the rich and powerful is compared to “a saber-toothed tiger” that instills the fear of God in ordinary citizens.

Anybody, young or old, who dare challenge the status quo or make any attempt to improve their circumstances, is promptly suppressed. The heavy-handed might of the corrupt state security apparatus is, indeed, like a ferocious tiger waiting in ambush to clamp down on dissent and revolution.

Rather than be an enabler, the land and its leadership have become a stumbling block to personal and national development.

“While infants shudder home

the grizzled ones snatch their gut

from bayonets of tribulation

halting venturous walk at dusk.”

Ambush: Stanza Three

The third stanza of Gbemisola Adeoti’s poem, Ambush, is made up of only three, and yet powerful lines.

Stanza three of Ambush continues with the description of the pervading atmosphere of insecurity and fear that characterizes the previous stanzas, especially stanza two.

Just that this time, the comparison shifts from the giant whale in the sea and the saber-toothed tiger on the land to a giant hawk in the sky.

There is fear, there is despondency and there are obstacleseverywhere in the Nigerian society.

Just as the powerful giant hawk hovers and hoots in space, announcing approaching disaster for its victims down below, so does the land hold only a promise of aborted dreams, insecurity, poverty, disease and squalor for its people.

Ambush: Stanza Four

This last stanza of the poem, Ambush sounds more like a concluding statement from the persona. Thus says the poet in stanza four of the poem, Ambush:

In brief, the country, the land and its leadership have become the people’s enemy rather than their partner in the quest for a better standard of living.

The state has not only failed in its sacred duty to create the kind of environment that will enable every Nigerian to work and realize their dreams. In fact, it has actively done everything, placing obstacles everywhere and lying in ambush ready to prevent the ambitious ordinary Nigerian to blossom and prosper.

“The land lies patiently ahead

awaiting in ambush

those who point away from a direction

where nothing happens toward the shore of possibilities”

It is a four stanza poem arranged in sequence. It does not have a consistent meter pattern or rhythm.
The language is simple but metaphoric. Imagery There are lot of symbolic expressions in the poem which enhance the poet’s message. Examples: “giant whale”, “giant hawk”, “petered out desires”, “sabre-toothed tiger”, “grizzled ones”.
Mood and Tone
The mood is gloomy and sober with a corresponding tone of lamentation and pessimism. There appears to be a shift in tone in the last stanza as he expresses hope but he ends the stanza on a pessimistic note.


In the poem, Ambush, metaphor is extensively used to treat the themes of failed governance and unfulfilled dreams, fear and terror, and hope for a brighter future through social revolution.

Here are some examples of metaphor in Ambush:

  • Ambush:

The title of the poem is itself a metaphor for the methods used by the political leadership to undermine the hopes and aspirations of a whole nation.

The dreams of a whole society have been “ambushed” by the unpatriotic activities of a few.

  • The land is a giant whale
  • The land is a saber-toothed tiger
  • The land is a giant hawk

In the above three metaphors, the persona directly compares the country to animals of prey – whale, tiger and hawk. The descriptive words giant and saber-toothed evoke in the reader visual images of terror.

They point to the hostile environment that the political class has succeeded in creating for the very people they are supposed to serve and protect

The rich resources of the motherland have been plundered and mismanaged. The potential of its human capital has been stifled. The land has become synonymous with danger, insecurity, lack of opportunities and shattered dreams.

  • Aborting dreams of a good catch

The imagery of violence used in “aborting dreams” ties in well with the sense of fear and terror we are made to experience in the next stanza as we come face to face with the menacing image of the saber-toothed tiger.

  • “Good catch” is fishing imagery.

It refers to the great desires and hopes that have so far been dashed. This lack of personal and national achievement continues to create a feeling of despondency within the general populace.

  • Shore of possibilities

This metaphor evokes a more positive image. It contrasts sharply with much of what we find in the previous stanzas of the poem. It highlights the poet’s lingering hope for the brighter future that has eluded the country due to bad leadership.

The poet seems to suggest that all hope is not lost yet. The country still stands a good chance to effect the necessary changes that will enable it to attain its lofty dreams.

Allusion and Pun

“blue Peter on empty ships

All Peters with petered out desires”

The poet here is alluding to the biblical story of Jesus’ call of the twelve disciples.

Just as Peter, the hardworking fisherman, returns empty-handed after toiling all day at sea, so has the society the poet describes to us has nothing significant to show many years after attaining political independence.

The play on words, also known as pun, in “all Peters with petered out desires” goes to portray the society as a place of elusive dreams.

Situational Irony

The poet has cleverly constructed Ambush around another literary device known as irony.

The land is supposed to be the mother, the provider and protector of its children. But as we have observed, the corrupt and uncaring political class has created a situation where the land has rather turned on its own, terrorizing them, devouring them, denying them of what rightfully belongs to them and making life unbearable for them.


Here come a couple of instances of repetition in the poem,Ambush.

  • The land

The repetitive use of “the land” depicts the reflective mood of the persona. He appears to be in deep thought, brooding over what might have gone wrong with his native land.

This repetition also emphasizes the poet’s deep love and attachment to his motherland despite its current difficulties. This is a patriot whose undying love for his country cannot be questioned.

  • Giant

The obstacles are huge.

However, the poet might as well be saying that, like any other giant, the problems facing the nation can be overcome with the right leadership and the right methods.

Could Gbemisola Adeoti in any way be alluding to the biblical David and Goliath story? Your guess is as good as mine.

Alliteration and Onomatopoeia

  • Petered with petered out dreams
  • hawk … hovers and hoots in space

The poet in Ambush makes use of these two sound devices to evoke images of emptiness, danger and fear.

Run-on Lines

Run-on lines in poetry refer to a succession of lines that are not separated by any punctuation marks.

In the first stanza of the poem, Ambush, for example, the fast-paced movement of the lines is due to the absence of punctuation marks in many places where they could have been.

“The land is a giant whale

that swallows the sinker

with hook, line and bait

aborting dreams of a good catch”

These run-on lines help to create a tone of not only fright but of urgency as well.

The poet is urging his countrymen and women to quickly appreciate the danger that is engulfing the land so as to take urgent steps to reverse the trend.

Diction and Imagery

Diction in poetry refers to the poet’s careful selection of words and expressions to convey his message to his audience. A poet normally relies on certain carefully-selected expressions to evoke images that help his audience to grasp the ideas expressed in the poem.

Here come some of the important words and expressions that are used to effectively develop the thematic issues in Gbemisola Adeoti’s poem, Ambush.

Words and expressions in Ambush that evoke images relating to the theme of unfulfilled dreams

  • Swallow
  • Shattering dreams
  • Empty ships
  • Petered out desires
  • Halting
  • Nothing happens

Words and expressions in Ambush that depict the theme of fear and terror

  • Giant whale
  • Saber-toothed tiger
  • Shudder
  • Bayonets of tribulation
  • Dusk
  • Giant hawk
  • Unceasing disaster
  • Ambush

Words and expressions in Ambush that depict the themes of hope and social change

  • Patiently
  • Ahead
  • Point away
  • possibilities

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