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Michael Martin Jr 3B1 29th March 2016

‘An African Thunderstorm’ written by David Rubadiri and ‘Once Upon a Time’
written by Gabriel Okara are two poems that present changes in society. I believe it is
fair to state that poems are well written and very interesting. In ‘An African
Thunderstorm’ it discusses about a massive storm which approaches an African
village and how the villagers prepare for this storm. While in ‘Once Upon A Time’ it
discusses the change of personalities and morals of people as generations go by. In
this essay I will explain the denotative meanings of the poems, discuss how the
poet’s use of literary devices heighten the presentation of colonization and finally,
comment on the significance of the title to the subject matter of each poem.

Firstly, David Rubadiri, the poet of ‘An African Thunderstorm’ is considered

the father of modern African poetry. Rubadiri usually considers the themes
colonization and loss of culture. The poem begins with a great, powerful storm which
is approaching an African village. “From the west Clouds come hurrying with the
wind Turning Sharply” (Lines 1-4). It appears that the storm caught the villagers off
guard. “Women- Babies clinging on their backs Dart about in and out madly” (Lines
20-24). As the storm arrives to the village trees bend, clothes wave crazily, breast are
exposed and dangling and there is also lightning and thunder. “The wind whirls by
whilst trees bend to let it pass Clothes wave like tattered flags Flying off to expose
dangling breasts As jiggered blinding flashes Rumble, tremble and crack” (Line 25-
31). During all these horrific events fire is present and the village suffer under the
storm’s wrath.

Secondly, In ‘An African Thunderstorm’ the poet used a great deal of

onomatoepia to give the readers a more vivid image or feeling to the poem.
“Rumble, tremble, crack” (Line 31). This literary device is used as a form of sound
imagery which creates an atmosphere for the readers which then gives the poem a
degree of authenticity. The Onomatoepia used in Line 31 connotatively refers to
gunshots and destruction of African homes. The connotative meaning of the play is
the coming of the Europeans to Africa. The way Rubadiri mimics the sound if war and
natural disasters is brilliant. In general literary devices give life to the poem.

Finally, I personally believe that the title was an excellent choice for the poem.
The title agrees with both the connotative and denotative meaning of both poems.
‘An African Thunderstorm contains two main symbols which are Africa and a
Thunderstorm. African refers to Africa the continent but more specifically West
Africa because there is where slaves were collected. Thunderstorm refers to chaos,
war, strong force and the Europeans. The connotative meaning simply talks about
the beginning of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. The actions of a thunderstorm may

Michael Martin Jr 3B1 29th March 2016

be also similar to those of the Europeans as they raided the villages and fire
gunshots. The denotative meaning of the poem is straight forward towards the title.
It discusses about an African Thunderstorm. David Rubadiri choice of using the
similarities of a storm to the Europeans and the Africans make this [poem very
interesting to analyze.

Firstly, Gabriel Okara, the poet of ‘Once Upon A Time’ is often concerned
about how the ancient cultures of Africa are faced with modern western cultures.
Okara usually considers the themes life and death infused with African religion,
thoughts, folklores and culture. At the genesis of the poem the speaker whom is an
elderly figure is talking to a younger person. The younger person could be the
speaker’s son or a person who is not aware of society because in Line One “Once
upon a time, son” the poet immediately states the relationship of the two characters
in the poem. The poem is built upon the conversation of the speaker and his ‘son’.
This conversation is about the change of personalities and morals of people as
generations go by. The first stanza discusses how people in past generations used to
laugh with sincerity “they used to laugh with their hearts and laugh with their eyes”
(Lines 2-3) to how people currently laugh with great amounts of insincerity “but now
they laugh with their teeth, while their ice-block-cold eyes search behind my shadow
(Lines 4-6). The poet adds in Lines 11 -12,”while their left hands search my empty
pockets” how people may smile with you now but they are actually looking to
receive something from you that is beneficial to them. This also shows that people
are no longer interested in simple friendship; their actions are not governed by love.
The third stanza discusses how people make bad remarks of other people who visit
their homes. In Lines 13 “Feel at home! Come again”, it states how people may
welcome you once maybe twice but they will never be welcomed thrice. Finally the
speaker stated how he has adapted to this new way of thinking. In Lines 20-24 “I
have learned to wear many faces like dresses- homeface, officeface, streetface,
hostface, cocktailface” the speaker lists the different personalities or ‘faces’ he has
for each situation he is presented. In the end the speaker ask his son to teach him
how to laugh, how to laugh and smile just like when he was young.

Secondly, In ‘Once Upon A Time’ the poet used a great deal of metaphors, to
give the readers a better understanding of the poem. “while their ice-block-cold-
eyes” (Line 5). This literary device is used to give a strong comparison between two
thins which gives the poem humour, description and flavor. The metaphor used in
Lines 10 “Now they shake hands without hearts while their left hands search my
empty pockets” refers to actions done by the Europeans towards the Africans during
the genesis of slavery. The Europeans appeared friendly and nice towards the

Michael Martin Jr 3B1 29th March 2016

Africans but they were actually trying to use them as slaves. The way Okara merged
the themes loss of culture, fairy-tale and colonisation is excellent. Metaphors truly
make poems very interesting.

Finally, I personally believe that the title was a very peculiar yet interesting
choice for the poem. The common phrase ‘Once Upon A Time’ connotes the idea of a
fairy tale, which immediately captures the audience. This also makes the audience
question whether the speaker in cooperate this idea in the poem. Fairy-tales are
usually associated with farfetched aims, similarly in ‘Once Upon A Time’ the speaker
wants his ‘son’ to teach him what he has already learnt which is impossible. The
phrase ‘Once Upon A Time’ is often used when talking about things which have
happened many years ago. The denotative meaning of the poem simply is the change
in personalities and morals of people as generations go by. On the other hand the
Connotative meaning of the poem is how Western influences which are Europe and
America have brainwashed Africa. During Slavery the slaves had to learn the
European culture most things Anguilla is govern by Britain. The way Okara presents
the denotative meaning in the format of a fairy-tale but still including the theme
colonisation is very impressive. I think it is fair to state that this poem is a true work
of art.

In conclusion, both poems are very similar yet they both have their
differences. David Rubadiri and Gabriel Okara are both Nigerian poets who are often
concerned about loss of African culture. Rubadiri as well as Okara wrote very
interesting poems both using the theme colonisation. The connotative meaning of
‘An African Thunderstorm’ and ‘Once Upon A Time’ are very similar because they are
both about colonisation and the effects of the western world to Africa. Both poems
brilliantly merge the connotative and denotative meanings in a manner that makes
them very interesting. On the other hand, the denotative meaning of ‘An African
Thunderstorm’ and ‘Once Upon A Time’ are very different. ‘An African
Thunderstorm’ discusses about a massive storm approaching an African village while
in ‘Once Upon A Time’ it discusses about the change in personalities and morals of
people as generations go by, I agree that both poems are very interesting and were
written by very intelligent men.