What time of night it is
I do not know
Except that like some fish
Doped out of the deep
I have bobbed up belly wise
From stream of sleep
And no cock crow
It is drumming hard here
And I suppose everywhere
Droning with insistent ardor upon
Our roof thatch and shed
And through sheaves slit open
To lightning and rafters
I cannot quite make out over head
Great water drops are dribbling
Falling like orange and mango
Fruits showered forth in the wind
Or perhaps I should say so
Much like beads I could in prayer tell
Then on string as they break
In wooden bowls and earthenware
Mother is busy now deploying
About our room let an floor
Although, it is so bad
I know her practiced step as
She moves her bins, bags and vats
Out of the run of water
That like ants filling out of the wood
Will scatter and gain possession
Of the floor. Do no tremble then
But, turn brothers, turn upon your side
Of your loosening mats
To where the others lie.
We have drunk tonight of a spell
Deeper than the owl’s or bat’s
That wet of wings may not fly
Bedraggled up on the iroko, they stand
Emptied of hearts, and
Therefore will not, stir, no, not
Even at dawn for then
They must scurry in to hide.
So let us roll over our back
And again roll to the beat
Of drumming all over the land
And under its ample soothing hand
Joined to that of the sea
We will settle to sleep of the innocent and free.
Author John Pepper Clark
Summary and Analysis
Johnson Pepper Clark was born on April 6, 1935 at Kiagbodo, Warri Province, in the now defunct Western Region of Nigeria to Chief Clark Fuludu Bekederemo and Poro, his wife. Between 1940 and 1953, he received his primary and secondary education, after which he continued his studies at University College, Ibadan (UCI) in 1955.There, as a student, he started his writing career. He was the editor of the Students’ Union journal, The Beacon. He became the founding editor of the UCI poetry journal, The Horn, in which his early poems first appeared. This venture was undertaken with the support of his teacher, Martin Banham, who provided both moral and financial support for starting the journal (Stevenson, 1979: 210; Elimimian, 1989: 1). Some of his contemporaries in his student days included Christopher Okigbo, Emmanuel Ifejuana, Abiola Irele, and a number of other Nigerian writers of repute, who were also contributors to the journal. With some of these people, he formed friendships that endured beyond the campus gates, as shown in his later poems.
In 1960, he graduated with honors from the Department of English. In 1962, his first collection of poems, Poems, was published by Mbari Publications, Ibadan. In 1965, he published A Reed in the Tide, followed by Casualties in 1970. In the 1980s, State of the Union(1985) made its debut, while Mandela and other poems was published in 1988. A Lot from Paradise was his gift to the literary world for the 1990s. The backdrop of his birthplace, his school’s locale, his close relationship with his grandmother, his friends and his nation all had a profound effect on Clark-Bekederemo’s works. In addition to his poetry, J. P. Clark-Bekederemo is also a renowned playwright.
John Pepper Clark was born on April 6, 1935 at Kiagbodo, Delta State, Nigeria. Educated at Government College, Ughelli. University of Ibadan, Ibadan; and Princeton University, New Jersey, J.P. Clark has since 1964, been teaching English at the University of Lagos, Nigeria, where he is now a professor. A versatile writer, J.P. Clark has many published works to his credit in the area of poetry and drama. His novel, America, Their America, was published in 1964. His poems are varied in subject matter, and they are aesthetically enriched by his use of symbols and images that are characteristically Nigerian – the local color phenomenon.
BACKGROUND TO THE POEM
The setting of the poem is a typical, unsophisticated village in the river side Nigerian community. In particular, the home depicted is an extremely humble one. It is a traditional society where the idea of time is gotten natural occurrences like the crowing of the cock, the position of the sun in the sky etc. Here, Clark uses the description of a rainstorm in a river side village to reflect upon the rugged simplicity of rustic life, and the helplessness of man in relation to nature.
Using the subject ‘a rainstorm at night’ or simply put ‘night rain’ Clark seeks to sensitize his audience to the ruggedness of village life, and its attendant poverty. He also seeks to lay bare the fact that man is at the mercy of nature. Therefore, there are two themes in this poem: the rusticity of village and the helplessness of man in relation to natural occurrences. These two major themes dovetail in the sense that the poetic persona and his relations are dispossessed of their little shed by the rainstorm. In other words, the poem articulates the vicissitudes of life but in its last six lines the persona appeals to his relations to endure the hardship because very optimistically he asserts that things will change for the better.
This poem has universal application because it is not strictly limited to a mere description of a rainstorm at night. By extension, the persona and his entire household are symbolic of the underdog and his lots. Therefore, the last six lines of the poem urge the common man to be of good courage since his situation is bound to change for the better.
FORM AND STRUCTURE
J.P Clark’s ‘Night Rain’ is a 47-line poem, undivided into stanzas. This subtly suggests the long, unbroken period for which the rain lasted. In order to emphasize this fact, Clark cleverly uses the device of run-on lines – suggesting continuity. This device, together with the appropriate sound effects created in his use of alliteration and onomatopoeia, gives the poem its rhythm and flavor.
The poem can be divided into two parts: first, line 1-30(a) tells the story; and, second, line 30(b)-47 exhort the victims of the rainstorm to endure and be hopeful.
LANGUAGE AND TECHNIQUE
The language of this poem is simple, even though it uses figurative language and imagery to present its descriptive narrative; they are not the far-fetched or obscure types. Items and occurrences associated with the physical environment of its setting are employed in order to make the narrative easily understood and to make the description graphic. This, in a sense, suggests the simplicity of the poetic persona.
The ‘ing’ suffixation is prominently used in this poem as verbs, nouns, and adjectives. This is an attempt by the poet to depict the continuous incessant rain. Alliteration and onomatopoeia are adroitly used in the poem to portray the intensity of the rain. Some of the figurative expressions used include:
Smile: line 3, 16, 19, and 28
Metaphor: line 6 and 34
Hyperbole: line 15-16, and 34-35
Alliteration: lines 5, 6, 7, 8, 12, 15, 18, and 36
Assonance: lines 8, 10, 26, 30, and 47
Onomatopoeia: lines 7, 8, 9, and 15
Personification: line 45
Repetition: lines 31 and 39
The images created in the poem are those of poverty, helplessness, and complacency. This is differently done by the use of local experience and materials that have symbolic meaning.
In summing up this appreciation, it is useful to remark that this simple but poetically rich poem goes beyond a mere description of a torrential rainfall to a more significant consequence of its effects on man. With the poet’s use of onomatopoeia words and apt images, we are led to experience in our own imagination.