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Songs of Sorrow by Kofi Awoonor

Dzogbese Lisa has treated me thus

It has led me among the sharps of the forest
Returning is not possible
And going forward is a great difficulty
The affairs of this world are like the chameleon faeces
Into which I have stepped
When I clean it cannot go.

I am on the world’s extreme corner,

I am not sitting in the row with the eminent
But those who are lucky
Sit in the middle and forget
I am on the world’s extreme corner
I can only go beyond and forget.

My people, I have been somewhere

If I turn here, the rain beats me
If I turn there the sun burns me
The firewood of this world
Is for only those who can take heart
That is why not all can gather it.
The world is not good for anybody
But you are so happy with your fate;
Alas! the travelers are back
All covered with debt.

Something has happened to me

The things so great that I cannot weep;
I have no sons to fire the gun when I die
And no daughter to wail when I close my mouth
I have wandered on the wilderness
The great wilderness men call life
The rain has beaten me,
And the sharp stumps cut as keen as knives
I shall go beyond and rest.
I have no kin and no brother,
Death has made war upon our house;

And Kpeti’s great household is no more,

Only the broken fence stands;
And those who dared not look in his face
Have come out as men.
How well their pride is with them.
Let those gone before take note
They have treated their offspring badly.
What is the wailing for?
Somebody is dead. Agosu himself
Alas! a snake has bitten me
My right arm is broken,
And the tree on which I lean is fallen.

Agosi if you go tell them,

Tell Nyidevu, Kpeti, and Kove
That they have done us evil;
Tell them their house is falling
And the trees in the fence
Have been eaten by termites;
That the martels curse them.
Ask them why they idle there
While we suffer, and eat sand.
And the crow and the vulture
Hover always above our broken fences
And strangers walk over our portion.
Songs of sorrow is a poem that is divided into two parts with different
themes. The first part of the poem portrays the poverty state at which the poet
finds himself, while the second part is a dirge that portrays the lamentation of
the poet over the death of his household and neighbours.
The first stanza of the poem starts with a blame on the ancestor that is
featured as Dzogbese Lisa, whom the poet believe that he his the determiner
of is life. The poet says that his ancestor has treated him bad by leading him
“among the sharps of the forest” The forest as used by the poet is symbolic to
the world and the word “sharps” indicates a particular place where things are
difficult. The poet furthers by saying that his “returning is not possible and
going forward is a great difficulty”. The two lines imply that any attempt he
makes to change his status is very difficult. Using simile, the poet represents
the “affairs of this world” with the “faeces of the chameleon”, which he stepped
on but when he tries to “clean, it cannot go”
The second stanza is made of sestet that describes the poet’s position in
the world. He sees himself “on the world extreme corner”, as he his unable to
be seen or associated with the influential people in the society. The poet
explains here that social stratification could be high, middle and low by saying
that some who did not fall in the extreme corner like him are lucky because
they “sit in the middle and forget” who are less privilege. He says that he “can
only go beyond” his status and that would make him also forgetful.
The last stanza of this part of the poem starts with a call by the poet to
his people that has “been somewhere” trying to alleviate his poverty status, but
if he “turns here, the rain beats” him and if he also “turns there, the sun burns”
him. The poet now concludes by saying in a didactic manner that “the fire
wood of this world {i.e. the enjoyment of life} is for only who can take heart”
and persevere: he philosophises that “that is why not all can gather it” because
“the world is not good for anybody”. The only way out as suggested by the
poet is to “be happy with ones fate”. He back this statement by sighting
example that even those who travelled in search of betterment are back, “all
covered with debt”
The second part of the poem is all about lamentation that exposes the
mourning of the poet over his departed loved ones. He starts by calling the
attention of the reader to what has happened to him. He described it as so
depressing that he “cannot weep”. He reveals what happen to him by stating
clearly that he “has no sons to fire that gun” when he dies “and no daughters
to wail when he closes his mouth”. By the virtue of this happening, he
concluded that he has “wandered in wilderness”, meaning that he has come to
the world for no purpose and suffered for no reason. He admits that he “shall
go beyond and rest” since he even has “no kin and brother”. Death has he
says, “has made war upon” their house.
After the lamentation and mourning over his siblings, he also mourns the
death of “Kpeti’s” household as he his no more. He describes his house as
empty and “only the broken fence stands and those who dared not look in his
face have come out has men”. Employing apostrophe, he called on the
departed souls “to take not” of how their offspring are being maltreated. He
further asks rhetorically asks rhetorically as it had occurred that “what is the
wailing for?” and replies that another person is dead. Agosu as he mentioned
his dead. With his expression over the occurrence of the death of Agosu that
his “right arm is broken” and that “a snake has bitten” him, it signifies that he
was a person of great importance to him.
The last stanza of the poem further depicts how bad he felt with the loss
of Agosu stating that “the tree on which” he “leans is fallen”. He also employs
apostrophe by saying that when Agosu gets to his ancestor or heaven, he
should “tell Nyidevu, Kpeti and Kove that they have done” those left behind
evil. The poem was brought to an end by the poet giving the description of how
the houses are, explaining that the “trees in the fence have been eaten by
termite” and that “strangers walk over their portion”

1. Poverty
2. Grieve
3. Death
4. Betrayal
5. Loneliness

Lament and loneliness

The poem has the mood of sympathy and empathy

Though the poet started with a kind of parable, yet his use of language is
very mild and easy to understand and also employed symbols to drive home
his point.
Rhetorical Question: “what is the wailing for?”
Enjabment: And those who dared not look in his face have come out as
men” {line 14 – 15}
Metaphor: “I have wandered in the wilderness” {line 5 part two}
Personification: “The rain beats me” {line 15 part 1}