Subject: Literature In English
Topic: Summary Analysis of the poem “The Grieved Land” by Agostinho Neto.
Lesson Objectives: This lesson is aimed at helping learners understand the poem “The Grieved Land”. So by the end of the lesson, the learners should be able to:
- In few sentences describe the author;
- Discuss the forms and meter of the poem;
- Identify poetic devices used in the poem;
- Explain the thematic structure of the poem;
- Recite the poem.
Lesson Summary Aids: see reference materials below content.
Lesson Summary / Discussion
AGOSTINHO NETO “THE GRIEVED LAND”
The Full Poem
The grieved lands of Africa
In the tearful woes of ancient and modern slave
In the degrading sweat of impure dance
Of other seas
The grieved lands of Africa
In the infamous sensation of the stunning perfume of the Flower
Crushed in the forest
10. By the wickedness of the iron and the fire
The grieved land
The grieved land of Africa
In the dream soon undone in jingling of gaolers keys
And in the stifled laughter and victorious voice of laments
15. And in the unconscious brilliance of hidden sensations
Of the grieved lands of Africa
In themselves and with us alive
They bubble up in dreams
20. Decked with dances by baobas over balances
By the antelope
In the perpetual alliance of everything that lives
They shout out the sound of life
25. Even the corpses thrown up by the Atlantic
In putrid offering of incoherence
And death in the clearness
30. Thee grieved land of Africa
In the harmonious sound of conscience
Contained in the honest blood of men
In the strong desire of men
In the sincerity
35. In the pure and simple rightness of the star’s existence
The grieved land Africa
Because we are living
40. And are imperishable particles
Of the grieved land of Africa.
Meet The Poet
Agostinho Neto was born in 1922 in the Angola town of kaxikane. He had his early education at Luanda secondary school. Thereafter, proceed to the university of combria, where he obtained his medical degree, Agostinho’s bitter experience with the Portuguese colonial administration in Angola hardened his hatred of European colonialism in Africa generally.
Agostinho is the first democratically elected president of independent Angola, a former colony of Portugal. This was made possible through his activities in the movement of liberation of Angola (MPLA). He was indeed a true freedom fighter. Neto’s poems can be classified as protest poetry, based on his strong opposition to racial injustice, colonial aggression and total misrule.
“The grieved lands” is a protest poem through which the poet the glaring injustice, and man’s inhumanity against man perpetuated by the colonial administration in Africa. The poem is based on the outcome of Berlin conference of 1884, and under the guise of Christianity and civilization, Africa was partitioned by the major European power at that time, the book written by Walter Rodney, ” how Europe under-develope Africa ” gives us insight into the litany of man’s inhumanity to man under the colonial administration.
Portuguese Africa was worse hit by colonial rule. Angola became an independent nation in 1975, when most African countries have experienced their liberation from the colonial madters. Neto was a “prisoner of conscience ” in Portugal for over two years before he escaped. Consequently, this poem like other poem written by poets from former colonies of Portugal talk about negative effect of colonization.
The main theme of grieve flows from title of the poem. The poet grieves over the ” ancient and modern slave ” experiences in the lands of Africa. He bemoans the untold sufferings, loss of lives, asset and the cultural heritage of the peoples of Africa sacrificed on the bloody altar of western colonialism. The beautiful “flower” symbolized by the African continent is “crushed” by the “wickedness of iron and fire” of the colonial masters.
Neto uses historical paradigm to trace the origin of grieve in the lands of Africa. He recalls the unbearable pains of slavery in the past, which has witnessed “a change of guard” from the African slave masters, to the present western task masters of colonization. As the poet protest the cause of grieve in the African society, he see a future of agitation for fairness an unity of purpose to put an end to the grieve.
Undoubtedly, the poem has the theme, of protest. The poet protest the cause and effects of African colonization that created ” grieved lands” in Africa. He protest against the seemly oppression, untold injustice and slavery perpetuated by the major western powers under the guise of bringing Christianity and civilization to the African continent. This act of international deceit and coup against Africa took place at the Berlin conference of 1884, wherein the African countries were partitioned without their consent by the major European powers. This international conspiracy is designed to turn Africa into “grieved lands.” The black man is subjected to the most inhuman treatment not even meant for pet animals by the colonial masters.
There is also the theme of racial discrimination In the poem. Neto’s bitter experience with the Portuguese colonial misrule in Angola fuelled his hatred generally for European colonial administration in Africa. It is permanent to note that, Dr Agostinho Neto was imprisoned in Portugal for over two years before he escaped. He talks about racial injustice based on his own personal ordeal, which can be correlated with the unbearable condition of human existence in other part of colonialized Africa. As a result, he speaks for himself and the black man in general. He expresses his frustration, anger and sadness resulting from the oppression of the Portuguese against the Black man. Racial discrimination in the “grieved lands” is forced on the black man as a way of life in Portuguese Africa. Hence, the poet aligned himself with positive forces opposed to Portuguese colonial misrule. It is not surprising therefore, that Neto became the first democratically elected president of Angola.
The theme of desecration of ancient places is obvious in the poem. The Berlin conference of 1884 empowered the major European powers to “export” Christianity for colonization under false pretence. Armed with their mission statement, they set out to achieve their goals in Africa. Using Christianity as a weapon, African culture was attacked and destroyed. Ancient places of cultural heritage were desecrated under the guise of bringing Christianity religion and civilization to the dark, backward African continent. The western colonialism masters were in a haste to accomplish their hidden goal of the colonization of Africa. Therefore, they see no value in live, asset and cultural monument preserved in the ancient places of the African people. The desecration and subsequent destruction of ancient places created a spiritual disconnect with future generations of Africa. Besides, these ancient places and their natural surroundings cannot be replaced for for the African youths of tomorrow, to appreciate and pass on their cultural heritage.
The first stanza is simply an introduction of the poetry of the poet’s story that touches the heart of the reader. Africans are seen as the unfortunate victims of “grieved lands” the poet takes the down the memory lane, to trace the predicament of the black man. He zeroed it down to the period of slavery in Africa when Africans were enslaved due to no fault of theirs. He recalls the degrading inhuman treatment in the hands of their captors. He draws a contrast between the “ancient and modern slave” of colonization. The painful “tearful woes” remain the same. He bemoans the inhumanity of man to man that created “Grieved lands” in Africa.
From the second to the fourth stanza, the poet continues his sad narration of “the Grieved lands.” He uses imagery of “flower” that is “crushed” in the “forest” jungle, to enable the reader to visualize how the African continent was taken over by the “wickedness of iron and fire.” It explains the destruction visited on Africa by the western colonizers, in the name of Christianity, and civilization. The people grieve over their shattered dreams, and “and in the stifled laughter and victorious voice of laments” which helplessly the desecration of the ancient palaces, destruction of their assets, culture and lives wasted on the bloody alter of western colonialism. In the perpetual alliance of everything that lives “to stay alive and continue the struggle.
In the stanza five to seven, Neto talks about the untimely death of African slaves, who die on their way to Europe due to severe beaten or exhaustion from starvation or simply murdered and were thrown into the Atlantic ocean to ” Rest in peace” in the burial that took place “in the clearness of rivers.
Though the land of Africa grieves as a result of the inhuman treatment of the western colonial masters, the harmonious sound of conscience” found in “the honest blood of men” mixed with ” strong desire” and “sincerity” to exist “in the pure and simply rightness of the stars.” In spite of the intolerable situation in the land, the black man is determined to overcome all unbearable sufferings to survive the western colonization towards independence.
Diction: Neto uses appropriate words to narrate how Africans became the victims of “the Grieved lands.” In order for the reader to understand his story that touches the heart, he begins by going down the memory lane of how the ancient slavery of Africans, and the modern slavery of Africans by western colonial masters, made the black man to grieve under unbearable inhuman existence.
Mood: the mood of the poet is that of emotional grieve about “the tearful woes of ancient and modern slave” perpetuated “by the wickedness of iron and fire.” The reader is made to feel Neto’s grieve about sordid experiences of the black man before and during the period of colonization.
Tone: the tone of the poet reveals his anger and agony. His voice is that of protest against the intolerable condition of “the grieve lands” in Africa. Neto’s protest is directed at the racial discrimination and the worst human treatment by the western colonial masters.
Contrast: line two “in the tearful woes of ancient and modern slave” shows the contrast between ancient slavery in Africa by Africans, and modern slavery resulting from western colonization.
Alliteration: the underlined repeated consonant sounds in lines 14 and 20 are examples of alliteration.
“…..victorious voice of laments” line 14
“Decked with dances by baobas over balance” line 20
Symbolism: The African continent is symbolized by the beautiful “flower” and “forest” which are “crushed.” The wickedness of iron and fire” that is responsible for the senseless destruction is symbolized by the western colonialism.
The ” honest blood of men ” and the “strong desire of men” symbolized the determination and fortitude if black man in “The grieve lands” of Africa” to survive.
Allusion: The title of the poem, “grieve lands” alliludes to the inhuman treatment meted out to the African slaves, the racial discrimination and a litany of “tearful woes” suffered by the oppressed Africans in their own lands.
Repetition: “The grieved lands of Africa ” is repeated in lines: 1,6,12,16,30,39 and 41. Also, ” they live” is repeated in lines 28 and 28 and 35. This repetition are used in this poem for the purpose of emphasis.
Personification: The repeated lines of “grieve lands of Africa $ is n example of personification. The ” lands” are given the human quality of grieving.
Metaphor: The use of this literary device makes the poem easy to understand. Neto uses the metaphor of “tearful woes” to describe the unbearable sufferings in “the grieved lands of Africa.” Similarly, ” The degrading sweat of impure dance, of the other seas” is used to describe the merriment of dancing by the western colonial masters amidst the grieve in the lands of Africa.
Imagery: can be described as any expression which creates a mental picture of what is being described in the minds of the readers. The repeated line of: “The Grieved lands of Africa” creates a clear picture of the untold sufferings and struggles in the readers mind. Also, tearflul woes “brings to mind the image of painful experiences. Line 25. ” even the corpses thrown up by the Atlantic creates the image of dead slaves thrown into the sea from the ship of the slaves Masters enroute from Africa to Europe.
This is a protest poem, dramatically presented by the poet. The emotive intensity created by appropriate literary devices employed by Neto portrayed the fact that he was one if the victims of “the grieved lands of Africa.” The poem captures some if the effects and causes of colonization in Africa. The narration of the predicament of the Blackman “tearful woes of ancient and modern slave m,” is very logical and evokes the readers understanding of the historical paradigm of the sufferings and struggles of the Africans, before and during the period of western colonial in Africa.
The title of the poem “The Grieve lands” is a pointer to the somber and painful experiences witnessed in the entire African continent. It reveals the reign of horror, racial discrimination and the worst form of man’s inhumanity of man. The painful conditions are vividly expressed through the precise use of imagery and metaphors such as “grieve lands” tearful woes” and “the degrading sweat of impure dance” and other choice literary devices.
Take Some study questions from this lesson
- With close reference to ” The Grieved lands,” describe Neto’s tone in the poem.
- Comment on the use of repetition by the poet.
- Discuss the poets diction effectively convey the pains suffered by the Black man in this poem.
- Discuss the theme of racial discrimination in “The Grieved lands.”
- Discuss the use of symbolism in the poem.
- Examine the poem, “The Grieved lands.” As a metaphor.
- Examine the poet’s mood in the poem.
- Show how Neto uses poetic devices to convey his protest in this poem.
- Comment on the predicament of the Blackman in “The Grieved lands.”
- Discuss the theme of discretion of the ancient places in the poem.
Questions answered correctly? Bravo!!
Ibitola, A.O (Ed.). (2018). Essential Literature In English for senior secondary schools. Tonad Publishers limited.
Victor J. O. (Ed.). (2019). Study Guide to Selected Poems, Prose, & Drama Texts for SSCE . Harmony-Pen Publications.