The Treaty of Westphalia: Description, Analysis and Prescription

Peace of Westphalia, treaty, signed October 24, 1648, closed the Thirty-Years War and readjusted the religious and political affairs of Europe. It is called like that because the negotiations, which began in 1644, took place in the German cities of Münster and Osnabrück, in Westphalia. The main participants were France and Sweden and their opponents Spain and the Holy Roman Empire. By the terms of the treaty, the sovereignty and independence of each state of the Holy Roman Empire was fully recognized, making the Holy Roman emperor virtually powerless.

By the early 1640s, after witnessing so much abuse by the Hapsburg Emperor’s feudal authority against the peoples of the small and war-devastated German states; and realizing that the horrors of the Thirty Years’ War were leading toward the destruction of civilization, Cardinal Jules de Mazarin acted to shift the attention of Europe away from religious conflicts. He sought to base a peace on the economic recovery and political sovereignty of the German Electorates and States, to move them towards freedom from the tyranny of the Emperor.

According to the treaty both sides must forget whatever happened to them and each side must avoid any act of hostility towards the other side as taking revenge. Neither this side nor the other must help the other’s enemies. Both sides must try to reconstruct and reestablish the damages remained since the war.

Before the Treaty of Westphalia, according to the treaty of Augsburg (1555), the religion of each German state was to be determined by the religion of its prince-Roman Catholic, Lutheran, or Calvinist. If a prince changed his religion he would forfeit his lands; this provision was included as a method of checking the spread of the Reformation. The Peace of Westphalia marked the close of the period of religious wars. Thereafter, European armed struggles were waged principally for political ends.

After the Thirty-Years War which was on the independence of lands ruled by the Holy Roman Empire and on religions, each of the German states of the Holy Roman Empire became independent enough not to be obliged to obey the Empire on peace and war. In terms of religion they could have the religion they wanted to have and have private or public churches and even the Calvin followers were respected.

Despite the many results and consequences that the treaty had, I think the most important and influential result of the Treaty of Westphalia was fully recognition of the independence and territorial sovereignty of each of the states. That is since the Treaty of Westphalia, territory is the most significant and the determining factor of a state. Since then, a state is not recognized by its people or by its legitimacy or authority, but it is recognized by its territory. Territory of a state became valuable and borders got sacred.

Although Germany was not recognized as an independent state and it was a collection of many states, and despite the fact that the treaty resulted in Germany’s weakness, it had an advantage for Germany in terms of economic, commerce and trade. That is, because of the expensive tolls by the Venetians, the Dutch and the English on the Rhine River, German people could not trade and commerce. But, after the treaty of Westphalia and recognition of the states as independent it was an advantage for them. Thus, Mazarin began to play an entirely new and unique role inside the Empire by increasing German freedom in trade and commerce along the main waterways of the Empire.

So as I represent Germany, I could say that economically speaking the treaty was good for Germany and German people, while it resulted in Germany’s weakness politically and broke it down into many independent states.

When we delve into the treaties and agreements through the history, we notice that the only thing that has not into account is the rights of nations and the only important and significant thing has been what the rulers, kings, emperors and now the states have wanted. I think the Treaty of Westphalia is a practical example of this, when the importance of nations and people is put aside and the importance of territories and then borders are taken into account. While, the rulers, kings, emperors and the states must get their legitimacy from the people and then using that legitimacy start to have authority over them. Then I could conclude that the territory and borders became important so that the rulers, king, emperors and the states could govern the people easier.

Team Sport Advantages and Disadvantages for Your Child

Nowadays, children, besides of going to the school, practice a sport, mostly a team sport. And just like so many things, this also has its advantages and disadvantages on physical, emotional and mental field.

The decision of which one is greater, the advantages or the disadvantages depend on the point of view of the parents and of the children.

Emotional advantages:

– They will learn the value of teamwork

– They will learn how to work in a team

– They will develop their ability of trusting someone else

– They will learn how to select the trustful people

– They will make more friends

Emotional disadvantages:

– the pressure of being the best

– the possibility of not being the best

– possible emotional implications of not being the best can affect the self-esteem of a child

Mental advantages:

– physical activity stimulates the brain

– sport is a way of relaxing of the stress and pressure from the school, therefore, after exercises, the lessons will be automatically easier to understand and to learn

Mental disadvantages:

– competitive sport takes precedence over a child’s education

– learning may be neglected

– lack of mentally challenge

Physical advantages:

– they will learn the benefits of being fit, limber and strong

– it ensures a great and healthy growth of the body of the child

– they will be protected by obesity

Physical disadvantages:

– the danger of long-term injury

– early overuse of joints, ligaments and muscles can lead to joint and tendon problems, arthritis, back and neck problems

These issues have to be considered again and again before deciding on the type of sport that your child will be practicing.

Compliance Vs Surrender

There are five steps to the inner path of enlightenment according to Gurudeva (yogi). These steps are really regions of consciousness each being more refined then the last. As awareness becomes more acute and detached, as it comes under conscious control of the spiritual will, we are able to penetrate the layers of consciousness in succession; until the final goal is reached. Enlightenment. The first of the five steps is attention. It is the ability to hold awareness steady, centralized in the area we choose. I feel like I have been successful at this step and from this point I naturally evolved into the next step, which is concentration. Like a hummingbird over a flower, I begin to concentrate on things, study them, and muse over them. Through the practice of concentration, mediation has very slowly been becoming available. In meditation the goal is to see “the truth” as it is. New knowledge can flood through you when you listen from the inside. From practicing meditation, we next enter contemplation. We plunge deep within, beyond our external forms into the energy of the life within the cells of your SELF. We are absorbed with joy. We become that energy that pervades every atom of existence. Ultimately, the promise of Gurudeva is that contemplation leads to self-realization; to the very deepest part of your soul; where you go within one atom of that pure energy and into the Universal source of all creation. There is nothing you can say about this to describe it because there are no areas of the mind in which the self and truth exist simultaneously, and yet, if it weren’t for the Self the mind would not exist. It is paradoxical and it is the unspeakable truth known only by the knower. Where SELF is, Truth is not. Where TRUTH is, self is not. Truth is so simple, so absolute, so undeviating and utterly uncompromising. It admits no complexity, no turning and no qualification. You cannot possess truth without being rid of Self. Deluded worshippers of their EGO vainly imagine that they can gratify every worldly desire and at the same time possess truth. But the lovers of truth have surrendered to the worship of truth at the expense of self/identity. There is no other way to Truth but to guard against worldliness and self-seeking. I must give up my lusts, my prejudices, and my opinions. Truth can be perceived only when the last vice of self has disappeared. There are no sorrow or disappointments in truth. There is no opposition, and no argument with Truth. How does it go? Once again I begin the search for my Truth with renewed determination. I will get this.

Next Obstacle:

So, much of my life has been about compliance which happens to have the appearance of surrender to outsiders, with a stubborn resistance on the inside. It means agreeing, and going along with the program, but in no way implies enthusiastic, wholehearted assent and approval. There is a present willingness not to argue or resist, but I cooperate grudgingly. I am not entirely happy or comfortable in this “agreement” with compliance. I feel like a liar, not a seeker of truth. Compliance is a word, which portrays mixed feelings, and divided sentiments. There is a willingness to go along but at the same time there remains inner reservations, which make that willingness somewhat thin and wavering. I have found that it doesn’t take much to overthrow this kind of willingness. Not to drink, not to act out, not to abuse myself. The existence of my compliant attitude will probably appear as neither strange nor new to others… I have always been this way. One begins to see how it operates in my unconscious, and disarms me of my ability to authentically grow.

How much of my life had been lived appearing to follow the rules on the outside but resenting their constraints on the inside? Does this explain my paranoia of anything that seemed to threaten my freedom or obligate me? If I have no obligations, I feel I can finally escape the double entendre I lead everyday. I can breathe deeply in these contrived moments. In this state of compliance, I always have always had an inner nagging that something is not true. Not right. I am appearing/appeasing one way on the outside but feel like I am sacrificing what I really want on the inside. I struggle quietly with a smile on my face. I am so accustomed to this struggle, that I don’t know how to act when the struggle disappears. I am noticing a fear to let go of my struggle. One more layer of my identity that I didn’t know existed.

So now I stand here and ask you. Where does the balance lie between surrender and accountability? I want to surrender to NOW, but what about my own decisions and will? How do I know when to surrender and when to assert myself? What is the difference between surrender and resignation?

How do I gain humility without hitting rock bottom? Is it possible to have humility and confidence simultaneously?

I am now recognizing a marked difference in my life through much introspection and by the detachment from my thoughts that habitually run through my head. Noticing a marked difference between my thoughts and my consciousness was a big epiphany many years ago. Now watching all my thoughts, I realize that the disciplines that resonate are the ones that have evolved past compliance, into acceptance (rather then resignation). This is where knowledge (outside source) crystallizes into wisdom (inside truth.) It is like when I finally quit drugs, or cigarettes, or coffee or alcohol, or overeating, or undereating, trying to get attention from men……I quit again and again doing research through relapse, until my behavior changed from compliance to acceptance of truth. Nothing outside of me has the ability to change how I feel inside. Shoot. How can I apply this in the other areas of my life? How can I change my compliance into acceptance? Where has it already changed and where does it still need to change? The truths that I need to accept. Creation is love. Love is inside and outside of me. I am nothing and everything at once. Hurting myself will never bring a positive result. Alcohol, drugs, food, abuse will never bring me contentment or the feelings of satisfaction I am craving when I turn to them in desperation. Looking for acceptance outside myself will never bring self-acceptance that I need to cultivate inside. Living in the past I realize, is tinted with infantile perceptions, pre-growth, so the constant analysis of past events (such as when I was drinking or using) is pointless. I have grown out of those circumstances. In essence, past circumstances were seen through a less developed eye. I have grown so much in sobriety, it is actually counter productive to regress into past perceptions and views. Furthermore, the future has not occurred so why limit myself. How many times have I imagined the future, from where I am now? It is no wonder I find the future to be better than I could not have ever imagined. Why limit myself? But then again, every action, every accomplishment, and every dream began with my imagination. When I trust that I will continue to grow and change, I realize I cannot imagine my future without imposing my emotional limitations and boundaries that I wrestle with now. So confusing; like a mind f%@# if you know what I mean. I remind myself again and again that I must live now in this moment by surrendering. Meditate to connect, not to be spiritually compliant. I am so sick of compliance, and it pops up in all areas of my life.

I must learn to create my moments to release my energy, my unique essence, not to be socially compliant or acceptable.

In compliance, I was attempting to create a façade of perfection. I had been taught that if I could be perfect on the outside, it would mean I could find the acceptance I craved on the inside. That didn’t work. I feel rebellion and frustration in these moments that I still am not good enough for myself. I give up! I say. But compliance was never the issue; I mastered that in my childhood training and my adult self-imposed standards of perfection. The problem is that I had created a self-imposed standard, to appear one way on the outside, then constantly struggling to make my insides match up. AHHAAA! I had it backwards all this time. What I needed to do was acknowledge and nod to my insides, and then match that up with my outsides. I didn’t know truth was the embodiment of single mindedness.

Truth does not change. To discover my truths with more speed I must abandon compliance, which impedes sincere surrender.

Helpful Tips When Attending an Autograph Signing

* Bring items to get signed

* Bring your own pens – always bring the type of pen you want signed, usually a black/blue sharpie or black/blue ballpoint pen. All of the sports gatherings events will have pens readily available for the players to sign; however, there are times when the ink will run out. If you let the players borrow your pen, you never know what good will come out of it. (Thank You to Laura for this tip)

* Bring water and snacks (note that at many of the fanfests and conventions, they do not allow either to be brought inside), but if you are going to a caravan, at least bring water and some munchies

* Bring an ipod/mp3 player – at these events, you’ll want to keep yourself busy. Yes, you can talk, but you can only talk for so long. Sometimes you just want to listen to some music.

* Bring a family member and/or friends – most of the time, the autographs are one per person, but if you bring a buddy or family member, you can split up. It might not help so much with friends, but it will certainly help if the memorabilia stays in the family.

* Bring a backpack to store your baseball memorabilia such as trading cards you want signed, baseballs, mini helmets, hockey pucks, etc.

* Bring money – at many of these fanfests, conventions, and caravans, they have tables set up with dealers that sell trading cards, signed and unsigned memorabilia, among other things

* Get there early – some of the fanfests and conventions have strict policies on when you can start lining up, some do not and actually require you to stay in line to get autograph tickets. The caravans are a completely different beast in that most caravans offer free autographs for players that are not only up and coming prospects, but superstar players. For caravans, it is highly recommended you get there at least 2 hours prior and start waiting in line.

* Wear comfortable…everything. You will be waiting in line either way.

* Bring a seat or a bucket – if you don’t mind what others think of you.

* Bring a camera – if you bring a camera, you will take at least one picture guaranteed.

* Scout local bars and lobbies before and after the event because the fanfest or convention usually takes place in a hotel.

Exploring the Breath, Range, Character, Scope and Reception of Cyprian Ekwensi’s Writings

Ekwensi one of Africa’s most prolific writers who died late last year and was buried early this year, maintained a vibrant writing activity throughout his life, publishing a collection of short stories, Cash On Delivery, his last work of fiction and completing work on his memoirs, titled, In My Time for several years on to his death. With over twenty novels, collections of stories and short novels to his name, Ekwensi’s thematic preoccupation equally covered the Nigerian Civil War from the perspective of a journalist and life in a pastoral Fulani setting in Northern Nigeria.

Ekwensi’s first published work was the novella, When Love Whispers, published in 1948, ten years before the great African novel, Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, appeared in London. He was inspired by sorrow over his unsuccessful attempt to court a young woman whose father insisted that she makes a marriage of convenience to write it. This short, light romance formed part of what became known as the Onitsha Market school of pulp fiction, and its success inspired Ekwensi to continue in that same mode.

Ekwensi had already distinguished himself by the several short stories he had written for broadcast on radio. These he later put together, within ten days, while on his way to Chelsea School of Pharmacy, London, to realize his first novel, People of the City, which Nigeria’s premier newspaper, The Daily Times, published in installments before it appeared in book form in 1954. but which was not published in the United States until 15 years later. People of the City (1954) was the first West African novel in modern style English to be published in England. It’s publication thus marked an important development in African literature with Ekwensi becoming one of the first African novelists to receive much exposure in the West and eventually the most prolific African novelist.

The fact that Cyprian Ekwensi started his writing career as a pamphleteer is reflected in the episodic nature of People of the City (1954) a collection of stories strung together but reading like a novel, in which he gives a vibrant portrait of the fast-paced life in a West African city, Lagos. People of the City which recounts the coming to political awareness of a young reporter and band leader in an emerging African country is filled with his running commentary on the problems of bribery and corruption and despotism bedeviling such states. In it and several others, Ekwensi explores the lure, thrills and challenges of urban life, and the extreme permissiveness and impersonal relationships permeating the lives of migrants to the city, where close-ties normally fostered by the extended family system of their traditional societies constitute a serious check on the deviant lifestyles that find full expression in the city.

According to, Bernth Lindfors, none of Ekwensi’s numerous works is entirely free from amateurish blots and blunders. Lindfors therefore concludes that he could not call any “the handiwork of a careful, skilled craftsman.” On his portrayal of the moral irresponsibility in city life, Bernth Lindfors, argued that “because his sinful heroines usually come to bad ends, Ekwensi can be viewed as a serious moralist whose novels offer instruction in virtue by displaying the tragic consequences of vice. But it always seems as if he is more interested in the vice than in the virtue and that he aims to titillate as well as teach.” While this view may be contested, it is undeniable that he always strove hard to reach his audience in the most immediate and intimate style. Indeed, it was to maintain this that he clung to those themes that afforded him the mass readership he so much craved

In a 1972 interview by Lewis Nkosi, Ekwensi defined his role as writer thus: “I think I am a writer who regards himself as a writer for the masses. I don’t think of myself as a literary stylist: if my style comes, that is just incidental, but I am more interested in getting at the heart of the truth which the man in the street can recognize than in just spinning words.”

Ernest Emenyonu, a Nigerian critic noted for his sympathy towards Ekwensi, charges that Ekwensi “has never been correctly assessed as a writer.”

Another sympathetic critic,the long-standing American convert to the study of African Literature, Charles Larson, describes him as one of the most prolific African writers of the twentieth century. According to Larson, Ekwensi “is probably the most widely-read novelist in Nigeria–perhaps even in West Africa–by readers whose literary tastes have not been exposed to the more complex writings of Chinua Achebe and other more skilled African novelists.”

Kole Omotoso past President of Nigerian Association of Authors and Drama professor at University of Ibadan confessed a lifelong fascination with him after reading his novelette The Yaba Round about Murder as a child, for, as he confesses, it taught him the importance of space in writing fiction. Omotoso goes on to state that Ekwensi’s major importance in Nigerian writing is because he believed in himself and ‘made us believe in ourselves.’ The pan-Africanist slant of his writings and his publications being mostly in Nigeria were found commendable. When many other African writers were in self-exile, he chose to remain in his native country, rather than live abroad where publishing opportunities are more abundant.

While some scholars discounted Ekwensi’s novels, others valued their social realism. Charles R. Larson put his work in historical perspective: “Local color is their forte, whether it be Ekwensi’s city of chaos, Lagos, or Onitsha … ; the Nigerian reader is placed for the first time in a perspective which has been previously unexplored in African fiction.”

Placing Ekwensi’s work firmly in the popular idiom, Douglas Killam explained their importance: “Popular fiction is always significant as indicating current popular interests and morality. Ekwensi’s work is redeemed (although not saved as art) by his serious concern with the moral issues which inform contemporary Nigerian life. As such they will always be relevant to Nigerian literary history and to Nigerian tradition.”

Ekwensi told stories that, like well-cooked onugbu (bitter leaf) soup, left a pleasant after-meal tang on the palate. Through his works Ekwensi told us that a work of fiction does not deserve that honourable name if it does not at first sight-…-arrest the reader like a cop’s handcuffs….. I read many of Ekwensi’s books, and save for ‘The Drummer Boy’, which was a recommended text when I was in junior secondary school in Plateau State, the others were read because they are what a book-hungry soul needs for sustenance. Who can, having been initiated into the cult of Ekwensi, forget the revenge-driven Mallam Iliya, the sokugo-stricken Mai Sunsaye, the skirt-besotted Amusa Sango, the raunchy belle, Jagua Nana (they don’t create women like that any more, whether in fiction, on the telly, and probably in real life); and the heart-rending Ngozi and heroic Pedro? They are my friends for life.

Ekwensi did much more than create ‘airport thrillers’. He told great stories that live on in the hearts of all who encountered them. ( Henry Chukwuemeka Onyeama a Lagos-based writer and teacher)

An Ibo, like Chinua Achebe, Ekwensi was born in 1921 in Minna, Niger State, in Northern Nigeria, but attended secondary school in a predominantly Yoruba area, Ibadan. He is very familiar with the many major ethnic groups in his country, and thus possesses a knowledge often well exploited in his novels. He went on subsequently to Yaba Higher College in Ibadan and then moved over to Achimota College in Ghana where he studied forestry. For two years he worked as a forestry officer and then taught science for a brief period. He then entered the Lagos School of Pharmacy. He later continued at the University of London (Chelsea School of Pharmacy) during which period he wrote his earliest fiction, his first book-length publication Ikolo the Wrestler and Other Ibo Tale (1947) , published in London. His writings earned him a place in the National Media where he rose to Head of features in the Nigerian Broadcasting Services and ultimately becoming its Director.

Several events in Ekwensi’s childhood contributed later to his writings. Although ethnically an Igbo, he was raised among Hausa playmates and schoolmates and so spoke both tribal languages. He also learned of his heritage through the many Igbo stories and legends that his father told him, which he would later publish in the collection Ikolo the Wrestler and Other Ibo Tales. In 1936 Ekwensi enrolled in the southern Nigerian secondary school known as Government College, Ibadan, where he learned about Yoruba culture as well as excelling in English, math, science, and sports. He read everything he could lay his hands on in the school library, concentrating on H. Rider Haggard, Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, Walter Scott, and Alexandre Dumas. He also wrote articles and stories for numerous school publications, particularly The Viking magazine.

During the later part of his stint as a forest officer Ekwensi started yearning for the city. So beginning in 1947 he taught English, biology, and chemistry at Igbobi College near Lagos. To his classes he read aloud manuscripts of books for children, Drummer Boy, Passport of Mallam Ilia, and Trouble in From Six, and short stories. Finally, after decades of supplementing his writing career by working in broadcasting and doing other public relations work, Ekwensi gave up his day jobs in 1984 to pursue writing full time. He returned to writing adult novels, picking and choosing from his personal “archive” of earlier written manuscripts much of which he revised into the novels Jagua Nana’s Daughter, Motherless Baby, For a Roll of Parchment, and Divided We Stand, which were published in the 1980s. For example, in For a Roll of Parchment he recounted his trip from Nigeria to England, as he had in People of the City. He did, however, update his material to portray post-World War II Nigeria, with its faster paced life.

Sex, violence, intrigue, and mystery in a recognizable contemporary setting most often in the fast-paced melting pot of the city were common diet in Ekwensi’s works especially in Jagua Nana, in which a very worldly and highly attractive forty-five year old Nigerian woman with multiple suitors falls in love with a young teacher, Freddie. She agrees to send him to study law in England on the understanding of their getting married on his return. Around this beautiful and impressive prostitute, Ekwensi sets in motion a whole panoply of vibrant, amoral characters who have drifted from their rural origins to grab the dazzling pleasures of the city.

And the novel itself shows us the seedy underbelly of the big city, Lagos, where Jagua’s favourite haunt, the Tropicana bar, sets the scene for much of the story.

Sometime, back in the 1950s the Onitsha Market ‘literary’ mafia, strarted producing and marketing openly, a semi-nude picture of a buxom Igbo teenage beauty, with the sassy caption, “Beateam mee lee” – I dare you to beat me!

Those were the prudish days of high moral values in Igboland and indeed Nigeria , of Elizabethan fashion with cane-wielding primary school teachers and headmasters. The offending picture sent shockwaves right down the spines of the public who, nonetheless, rushed to buy copies. Men who turned up their noses at the pictures in public, secretly bought, viewed and relished copies. boys did odd jobs for parents, and the money they earned were saved up to the one shilling cost of the picture, which they used to purchase it and then usually tucked it away, in-between books, away from the prying eyes of parents or the class teacher, from where curious peeks of the treasure could be sneeked occasionally, at its owner’s risk, even in the middle of a lesson. Noted for churning out almanacs, with pictures of the famous, unfolding events, folk art, as well as such literature as those of Ogali A. Ogali, author of the legendary “Veronica My Daughter”, the mafia knew where to draw the line. Sex, however, sold any day and age and the mafia knew this. But nobody wanted to be identified with anything even remotely pornographic. “Beateam mee lee” was therefore, at the time, the mother of all daring.

It was against this backdrop that Ekwensi took the Nigerian literary scene by storm with the publication of the raunchy Jagua Nana. Ekwensi’s most widely read novel, Jagua Nana, published in 1961 returned us to the locale of People of the City but with a much more cohesive plot centered on Jagua, a courtesan who had a love for the expensive as reflected in her name itself, which was a corruption of the expensive English automobile, Jaguar. Her life personalizes the conflict between the old traditional and modern urban Africa. Although Ekwensi had earlier shown the direction of his works with the publication, in 1954, of People of the City, it was Jagua (the lead character in this novel) that built the Ekwensi legend and assumed a life all its own, becoming a folk hero of sorts. Jagua dared the reading public. Ekwensi the artist, also had the magic of picking out names of his characters that were instant hits. They stuck like glue in the reader’s memory and helped animate the fictional personality. Bold, defiant, imaginative and rendered with uncommon technical finesse, Jaguar Nana totally established Ekwensi as the ultimate chronicler of Nigerian city life.

Published in 1961, the novel Jagua Nana, tells the story of an aging prostitute named Jagua who tries to provide for herself security in her later life through her relationship with a younger man. Yet while this young man is studying law in England, Jagua involves herself in various activities, some dubious, some not. Jagua Nana, witnessed some improvement in plot quality and control, unlike what obtained in People Of The City, chronicling the adventures of an ageing prostitute in Lagos, in love with her work and the expensive lifestyles, but who ends up in grief and disappointment.

Ekwensi’s attempt to dust her up later and usher her into some form of happiness and fulfillment introduces the quest motif in his work, which manifests itself fully in the sequel, Jagua Nana’s Daughter (1987), where Jagua, after a long search, was able to reconnect with her educated, socially elevated daughter, who had also had her own fair share of loose life. Both daughter and mother were at the same time engrossed in a quest for mutual fulfillment and healing until they met fortuitously. In the end, after she suffers sufficiently, Ekwensi allows her to have happiness.

As was to be in several of his other novels, Ekwensi’s moralizing is evident and reform is possible for some characters. For example, in the later novel Iska Ekwensi portrayed a young Ibo widow, Filia, who moves to Lagos after her husband’s death. There she tries to lead a respectable life. While she tries to get an education and responsible employment, she encounters numerous obstacles, which allow Ekwensi to show readers a wide range of urbanites. Yet this novel, published by a European press, could not compete for popularity with its predecessor, Jagua Nana, which caused controversy for its frank portrayal of sexuality. When an Italian movie company wanted to film Jagua Nana, the Nigerian government prevented this effort fearing negative media portrayals of the country.

Talking about what inspired him to write the work in an interview, Ekwensi said: I was a pharmacy student at the Yaba Higher College those days and I lived in the same compound with a young man who was very romantic. He would never miss his night club for anything. We had a night club then, called Rex Club, run by the late Rewane – the two Rewanes are dead now, by the way and one of them was at Government College, Ibadan while the other one was a politician.

Now, many years later, I was called upon to do a programme for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) about night life and I found out that I had so much material about this subject that I could really build it into a whole book. That was the inspiration.

Yet another of his novels is Burning Grass (1961) a collection of vignettes giving insight into the life of a pastoral Fulani cattlemen family of Northern Nigeria..The novel and the characters are based actually on a real family with whom Ekwensi himself had previously lived. For after studying forestry at the Yaba Higher College in Lagos during World War II, Ekwensi began a two-year stint as a forestry officer which familiarized him with the forest reserves,from which he was enabled to write such adventure stories in rural settings as Burning Grass..

“In the days in the forest, I was able to reminisce and write. That was when I really began to write for publishing,” he told Nkosi. The several months spent with the nomadic Fulani people, later became the subjects of Burning Grass.where he follows the adventures of Mai Sunsaye, who has Sokugo, a wanderlust, and of his family, who try to rescue him. While seeing his protagonists through varied adventures, Ekwensi portrays the lives of the Fulani cattlemen. This early work, considered one of his more “serious” novels, was published by Heinemann educational publishers and reissued in 1998

Two novellas for children followed in 1960; both The Drummer Boy and The Passport of Mallam Ilia which were exercises in blending traditional themes with undisguised romanticism.

Between 1961 and 1966 Ekwensi published at least one major work every year. The most important of these were the novels, Beautiful Feathers (1963) and Iska (1966), and two collections of short stories, Rainmaker (1965) and Lokotown (1966).

Beautiful Feathers (1963) reflects the nationalist and pan-Africanist consciousness of the pre-independence days of the 1950s and how the young hero’s youthful commitment to his ideal leads to the disintegration of his family, thus underscoring the proverb alluded to in the title: “however famous a man is outside, if he is not respected inside his own home he is like a bird with beautiful feathers, wonderful on the outside but ordinary within.”

From 1967 to 1969, during the Nigerian civil war, when the eastern part of Nigeria attempted to secede, Ekwensi served as a government information officer the experiences from which he used to write the 1976 picaresque novel Survive the Peace. which realistically portrayed the activities of a radio journalist in the wake of the civil war in Biafra.who in his effort to reunite his family, encounters the violence, destruction, refugees, and relief operations that such chaos engenders. Through flashbacks, Ekwensi also depicts the war itself giving a post-mortem on the just-concluded , interrogates the problems of surviving in the so-called peace. It looks for instance at the pathetic fate of James Odugo, the radio journalist who survives the war only to be cut down on the road by marauding former soldiers.

In such early works as the collections Ikolo the Wrestler and Other Ibo Tales, and An African Night’s Entertainment, the novel Burning Grass, and the juvenile works The Leopard’s Claw and Juju Rock, Ekwensi told stories in a rural setting.

Ekwensi continued to publish beyond the 1960s, and among his later works are the novel Divided We Stand (1980) in which he lampooned the Nigerian civil war, the novella Motherless Baby (1980), and The Restless City and Christmas Gold (1975), Behind the Convent Wall (1987), and Gone to Mecca (1991).

Ekwensi also published a number of works for children.such as Ikolo the Wrestler and Other Ibo Tales (1947) and The Leopard’s Claw (1950). In the 1960s, he wrote An African Night’s Entertainment (1962), The Great Elephant-Bird (1965), and Trouble in Form Six (1966). Over time, Ekwensi produced other books, mostly for children, which though they may not have been internationally acclaimed, were nonetheless well known and read all over Nigeria and Africa. They included Rainmaker (1965), Iska (1966), Coal Camp Boy (1971) Samankwe in the strange Forest (1973), Motherless Baby (1980), The Restless City and Christmas Gold (1975), Samankwe and the Highway Robbers (1975), Behind the Convent Wall (1987), Gone to Mecca (1991), Masquerade Time! (1992), and King Forever! (1992). In 2006, he completed work on two other books; “Tortoise and the Brown Monkey”, a short story and “Another Freedom”.

Gratifyingly Ekwensi is still writing, He has published several titles as When Love Whispers, Divided We Stand, Jagua Nana’s Daughter and King for Ever! all related to earlier works.

When Love Whispers like Jagua Nana revolves around a very attractive woman with multiple suitors. But whilst she thinks she has won the love of her life her father expects her to get married to an older man in an arranged marriage.

Divided We Stand (1980) was written in the heat of the Biafra war itself, though published later. It reverses the received wisdom that unity is strength, showing how ethnicity, division, and hatred bring about distrust, displacement, and war itself.

Jagua Nana’s Daughter (1986) revolves around Jagua’s daughter’s traumatic search for her mother leading her to find not only her mother but a partner as well. She is able to get married to a highly placed professional as she, unlike her mother, is a professional as well. She thus gains the security and protection she desires.

King for Ever! (1992) satirises the desire of African leaders to perpetuate themselves in power. Sinanda’s rising to power from humble background does not prevent his vaulting ambition from soaring to the height where he was now aspiring to godhead

In the decades since Ekwensi began writing, the Nigerian readership has changed. Unlike the days of the Onitsha Market fiction, when books were printed inexpensively and sold cheaply to suit popular tastes at the turn of the millennium few publishing companies controlled the choice of books published; book prices made books often go beyond the reach of the masses, restricted mostly to schools and libraries, which cater to nonfiction and instructional materials. With various forms of media increasing in popularity, the incentive to read has fallen. With fewer people reading for pleasure, novels are in little demand. Because of these circumstances, creative writers suffer. Of this downside, Ekwensi told Larson, “Journalists thrive here, but creative writers get diverted and the creativity gets washed out of them if they must take the bread and butter home.”

At a public lecture in 2000, quoted by Kole Ade-Odutola in Africa News, the elderly but still vivacious Ekwensi expressed his desire to “build and nurture young minds in the customs and traditions of their communities” through his writings. He explained, “African writers of the twentieth century inherited the oral literature of our ancestors, and building on that, placed at the centre-stage of their fiction, the values by which we as Africans had lived for centuries. It is those values that make us the Africans that we are–distinguishing between good and evil, justice and injustice, oppression and freedom.” In tune with the times, he had started self-publishing his writings on the Internet. Despite the vagaries of the African publishing world, at age 80 Ekwensi was still pursuing his goal because as he wrote in his essay for The Essential Ekwensi 15 years earlier, “The satisfaction I have gained from writing can never be quantified.”


Beier, Ulli ed., Introduction to African Literature (1967);

Breitinger, Eckhard, “Literature for Younger Readers and Education in Multicultural Contexts,” in Language and Literature in Multicultural Contexts, edited by Satendra Nandan, Uinveristy of South Pacific, 1983.

· , Volume 117: Caribbean and Black African Writers, Gale, 1992. Dictionary of Literary Biography

Dathorne, O. R. The Black Mind A History of African Literature. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1974.

Emenyonu, Ernest, Cyprian Ekwensi. Evans Brothers, 1974.

Emenyonu, Ernest, editor. The Essential Ekwensi. Heinemann Educational Books, 1987.

Larson, Charles R., The Emergence of African Fiction. Indiana University Press, 1971

Larson, Charles R. The Ordeal of the African Writer. London: Zed Books, 2001.

Lindfors, Bernth, ‘Nigerian Satirist’ in ALT5

Laurence, . Margaret Long Drums and Cannons: Nigerian Dramatists and Novelists, 1952-1966 (1968).

Mphahlele, Ezekiel

Palmer Eustace. The Growth of the African Novel. Studies in African literature. London: Heinemann, 1979.

Gender Talk

In the African-American studies book Gender Talk, Dr. Johnnetta Cole and Dr. Beverly Guy-Sheftall argue that, in the 21st century, issues of sexism must be addressed along with issues of racism in the African American community in order for the community to fully succeed.

Dr. Cole is the President of Bennett College in Greensboro, North Carolina. She is President emerita of Spelman College and Professor Emerita of Anthropology, Women’s Studies, and African American Studies at Emory University. A nationally known African American feminist-intellectual, she is the author of several books, including Conversations: Straight Talk with America’s Sister President.

Beverly Guy-Sheftallis the Anna Julia Cooper Professor of Women’s Studies and English, and the Director of the Women’s Research and Resource Center at Spelman College. She is the editor of Words of Fire: An Anthology of African American Feminist Thought and co-editor (With Rudolph Byrd) of Traps: African American Men on Gender and Sexuality among many other publications.

They examine the historical conflict between race and gender issues in the Black community, the impact of feminism, the role of the Black Church, attitudes about sexuality, and popular culture such as hip-hop. The authors boldly assert that, without attention to these matters, there can be no long-lasting solution to many of the community’s race problems. They point to the impact of sexism on the oppression of Black women, including male dominance within Black communities.

Drawing upon a vast array of personal testimonies, both from previously published autobiographies and from interviews gathered specifically as part of the research for the book, Gender Talk provides a history of Black feminist struggles and debates up until now. This is necessary because Black audiences, male and female, have been unwilling to be persuaded by feminist arguments on the grounds that our experiences as victims of racism absolve Blacks from the willing participation in the sins of the patriarchy.

Cole and Guy-Sheftall have managed to deflect that issue, effectively drawing Black men and women into a honest discussion about how gender inequality affects the entire African-American community. Gender Talk discusses with passion, the process by which Black communities have arrived at its current situation, in which 54 percent of Black children live in single-parent, largely female-headed and less prosperous households, 68 percent of African-American children are born to unmarried mothers and 47 percent of the prison population and 29 percent of those who are confined to mental hospitals are Black. Several Black men emerge from prisons HIV infected and “on the down low” (having secretive sex with other men), passing the disease on to unsuspecting Black women and Black gay men.

The book is constructed of wonderfully argued chapters on the ways some of the more commercial forms of hip-hop culture participate in the misogynist brain-washing of its youth and the difficulties of living as a gay man or lesbian in a largely intolerant Black community. It also talks about the longstanding problem of violence against women within Black communities, the Back church’s role in supporting homophobia, and the Black power movement’s opposition to Black feminist movement.

The chapter entitled No Respect: Gender Politics and Hip-Hop, discusses how mental damage is being done to young African-American males and females because of misogynic lyrics of rap music. There has been a war brewing between Black men and women that started in the sixties and is still going on in the new millennium. The misogynic atmosphere of hip-hop has not helped tension that exists between Black men and women, particularly amongst the youth.

Over the past fifteen years, hip-hop has become more misogynistic and disrespectful of Black girls and women than other popular music genre and it is sad because hip-hop is an African-American creation. The casual references to sex and other forms of violence and the soft-porn visuals and messages of many rap music videos has been seared into the consciousness of young Black boys and girls and that is why I have seen boys as young as ten years old, referring to girls and women as nothing-assed whores and young girls referring to themselves as bitches.

The chapter entitled Black, Lesbian, and Gay: Speaking the Unspeakable is moving, with testimony from such important cultural figures as the poets Audre Lorde, Joseph Beam, and novelist Samuel Delany. Cole and Guy-Sheftall explore the history of African and African-American homosexuality, starting with anthropologist Ife Amadiume’s study, Male Daughters, Female Husbands: Gender and Sex in an African Society (1987).

Amadiume showed that homosexual relationships existed in Africa before colonization. Woman-to-woman marriages were not uncommon in some pre-colonial African kinship systems. Cole and Guy-Sheftall discusses how in many African cultures, same-sex intimacy was equal with heterosexuality. In America, sexual relations between slaves in the 17th century in New York were more complex than previously imagined. New evidence suggests that both consensual and forced sex took place between male slaves, as well as the rape of black boys by white masters.

They also discuss the down low brothers, Black men who are homosexual but pretend to be heterosexual and Black women who keep secret from the world that they are married to black gay men, even when these men put them and their unborn children at risk for HIV. Professors Cole and Guy-Sheftall feel that as long as the church, which historically has been the backbone of the African-American community, is intolerant of any other form of sexuality except heterosexual, Blacks will continue to be in denial and AIDS will continue ravishing families.

The most personally disturbing material to me in the book concerns Black America’s insensitivity to the issue of violence against Black women. The African-American community rallied around Mike Tyson and R. Kelly, both of these men were charged with sex crimes. The victims in both cases were blamed and defiled for trying to a bring a Black man down. The professors ask the question, “What makes Black men think they can be born and raised in a culture that has profound contempt for all women and place the Black woman at the bottom, and escape unaffected?” Too often, Black men seek to fit themselves into tired White patriarchal modes of behavior that is destructive to the entire community. You cannot rape, beat or humiliate someone into submission. Sooner or later, they will strike back.

For research on this book, in the summer and fall of 1999, Cole and Sheftall conducted series of four to six hour interviews with prominent black intellectuals and activists, asking them questions about what they saw as the most pressing issues of gender in the black community. Among those participating were Manning Marable, director of the Institute for Research in African American Studies at Columbia University, Calvin Butts, minister of New York’s Abyssinian Baptist Church, Rudolph Byrd, director of African American Studies at Emory University, and Elaine Brown, former chair of the Black Panther Party.

They also conducted a weekend long talk session at the Ford Foundation on November 19, 1999, with participants Dazon Dixon Diallo, president of Sister Love, Inc., the first and largest women’s AIDS organization in the Southeast, James Early, writer and director of cultural heritage policy at the Smithsonian, Calvin Hernton, professor emeritus at Oberlin College, sociologist bell hooks, and Haki Madhubuti, founder and publisher of Third World Press.

In particular, the chapter, Having Their Say: Conversations with Sisters and Brothers, draws heavily upon this material gathered directly from interview and multilogue participants, producing a range of narratives describing what it was like to grow up in a Black family ruled by patriarchy. Many pay tribute to the ways in which their parents resisted and taught their children that men and women were equal.

For instance, Ruby Sales, a former civil rights activist who grew up in the South, describes her father as “atypical” in that he would “hang out clothes, wash, iron, cook, and on Saturday he would say to my mother, ‘Mrs. Sales you’ll have breakfast in bed today and I’ll do everything.’ My mother didn’t cook dinner for us; my dad was the cook in our family so therefore all my brothers do the same thing. My father braided our hair and my divorced brother braids his daughter’s hair.”

However, some of the best testimonies were from “ordinary” African-American women. The Black women you see everyday on trains going to work or to college. Audree Irons, an administrative assistant at Spelman College, talks about the strong women in her family who always kept going in spite of any adversities that might come their way. “Men leave, we keep going. We don’t miss a beat. Like later for them. That’s basically the attitude my mother and grandmother had. It was like we’ll throw them out like garbage and we’ll just keep on going; they assumed the role of both male and female if necessary.”

I could really relate to that passage in the book. So many of my friends are in emotionally and physically abusive relationships and they cannot find the courage within themselves to stand alone. They really believe that it better to be abused than be alone and that is totally insane. These women have not yet realized that sometimes in order to become stronger, a woman needs to stand alone and take care of herself.

Black Panther member, Elaine Brown describes the way Black Panther men thought of female participants as “smart bitches” who needed to be silenced. “A woman in the Black Power movement was considered, at best irrelevant. A woman asserting herself was a pariah. Angela Davis was run out the Black Panther Party because she refused to bow down to the men in the group. A woman attempting the role of leadership was making an alliance with the ‘counter-revolutionary, man-hating, lesbian, feminist white bitches.’ It was a violation of some Black Power principle that was left undefined.” Reading that totally amazed me; how could the Black Panther Party be so stupid as to throw out one of the most intelligent and articulate individuals to come out of the Civil Rights Movement just because she had the guts to stand up for herself?

That same mentality still exists among some Black men today. If a Black woman is strong and assertive, she is categorized as an “Angry Bitch” who does not know her place. She is not suppose to articulate her thoughts in anyway because it not important. As long as that type of mentality exists in the African-American community, there can never be unity. It takes a village to raise a child and if the village is at war with each other, what happens to the children?

The one review that I found for this book was by Denise Simon, a contributor for Black Issues, a magazine geared towards African Americans. She felt that Gender Talk was more of a overview of sexism than an analysis. I did not agree with this review because the authors gave clear, concise reasons why conversations about gender are critical to African Americans. This book was an excellent analysis of sexism amongst Blacks and perhaps she was negative because the truth hurts sometimes.

If anything is wrong with this book, there is little discussion about Black women who keep sexism alive. I know too many sisters who have no problem labeling another women a slut or whore in order to make themselves look good in the eyes of some man. We as African-American women have to stick together in order to raise our children, since some of us are doing alone. We cannot allow pettiness and competition over men destroy our community.

Even with this flaw, Gender Talk It is a wonderful book. It is entirely successful in its intended goal, which is to make it easy for even a bona fide fool to comprehend the urgency of gender issues. The issue of gender very much affects the African-American community, and this book manages to explore every aspect.

On Studies: A Review

The essay ‘On studies’, by Samuel Johnson was first published in The Adventurer in 1753. It was an effort by the author to introduce to his audience the importance of reading, writing and conversation in the make up of an individual’s personality. The main argument focused on the reference from Bacon which states that: “reading makes a full man, conversation a ready man, and writing an exact man.”

The structure of the essay is simple and organized, with mostly small paragraphs often starting with a topic sentence. However, the sentence structure remains complex throughout the essay. The sentences are very long, with extensive use of strong vocabulary. This not only depicts that the author is very learned, but also that he is trying to create an impression upon the readers. The steady flow of ideas is evident in the writing, as the author talks about reading, writing and conversation, one after the other. This helps the reader into a better understanding of the point of view of the author. The tone of the essay is serious, and also critical at some points, as the writer criticizes the behavior of the intellects and learned people. The author adopts a very evocative way of writing the essay. The overall impact of rhetoric in the essay is persuasive and convincing to the readers.

From the very first paragraph of the essay it is quite evident that the author is being critical of his contemporaries. He does regard them as ‘ingenious’, but suggests them to be considerate about the significance of reading, and the value of considering others opinions and ideas. He is in a way advising his contemporaries to acknowledge the work of earlier people and learn from it, rather than having a stiff approach towards them. An interesting phenomenon to be noticed here is that the author provides a self-example, of following the work of predecessors, as he is referring to Francis Bacon. It can also be interpreted that Samuel Johnson considers Bacon as his role model, as in the essay he justifies the need of reading, writing and conversation among the people, as stated by Bacon. As indicated by the essay text the target audience of the author are his contemporaries, and the people who are in some way or the other related to the work of reading and writing, as well as teachers. It can also be established that the author has targeted learned audience as in a number of places he refers to famous people like; Persius and Boerhaave, about whom the general people must unaware.

There is no general conflict to be observed in the essay, it has a simple orientation that goes about the main theme; of considering general opinions. There is a touch a mild irony when the author talks about the assumed state of libraries; “…filled only with useless lumber…” He suggests that this idea is somehow propagated, and tells about the situation of people who are far from the need of libraries and books. In the very next paragraph the author intelligibly argues that learning from the former generations is essential. He talks about people who tend to say that they learned nothing from the writings of their predecessors. The author considers them prejudiced, and says that such people are unlikely to excel themselves as they can’t ever evaluate their own work, when they never consider any other.

Further in text the author signifies that there are very few people granted with knowledge, and that these people should consider it their responsibility to impart, share and transfer this knowledge, or at least a part of it, to the rest of the mankind. The author becomes critical when he says that people who keep knowledge just stuffed in their heads are useless, “…and he is by no means to be accounted useless or idle who has stored his mind with acquired knowledge…” The author argues that anyone who has accumulated learning should next consider ways to impart it. The author has also with very clear examples, explained the state of people who have reclined to solitude in order to study, learn and write. He thinks these people no matter how intellectual have deprived themselves of the art of conversation. Giving the example of the chemistry teacher who considers his students as clear in mind about chemistry as his own, he tells that actually the teacher himself has forgotten the difference of sate of minds and abilities to learn of different age groups. In another interesting illustration he narrates one of his experiences of attending a lecture of a renowned philosopher, who though well learned, only with much hesitation was able to distinguish two terms.

As the writer says, “Such was the dexterity with which this learned reader facilitated to his auditors the intricacies of science; and so true is it that a man may know what he cannot teach.” The author with much concern is trying to draw attention of his readers to the fact that not only learning, but the ability of expressing one’s knowledge is very important.

Towards the end of the essay the author reconciles the significance of writing and conversation attained through reading. He tells that writing helps determining thoughts, while conversation helps elaborate and diversify them, and this is only achievable through rigorous reading.

The essay by Samuel Johnson with much clarity indulges the readers into considering that success in literary fields largely depends, on reading, writing, conversing and most of all upon being considerate of the opinions and ideas of others. The writer concludes the essay by saying that it should be the aim of every person to attain command over the abilities of reading, writing and conversing, even though it might be bit difficult, but one should keep striving for perfection.

The Damned Human Race – A Critical Analysis

‘The Damned Human Race’ by Mark Twain is a satire on the mankind that reflects how it has ended up into a state worse than that of the animals. The writer aims to highlight the darker side of the coin of morality which according to him, like any other virtue, carries its own vices. He makes use of argumentative, cynical and indignant tones throughout his essay and shows an admirable coherence in it. The language is kept moderately easy with fairly lengthy sentences and very few jargons. His audience is the entire human race which is expected to reconsider its actions and reflect over them. The essay has successfully attracted its readers towards the purpose and is very thought provoking.

The writer tells that how his studies of behaviors of animals and humans have made him conclude that humans have descended from the higher animals. The use of irony during the comparison, in the introductory paragraph, draws the readers quite effectively. The writer then clearly describes how his conclusions are not based on mere assumptions or guesses, but indeed are the results of the scientific method. He then specifies the human race to one distinct group of specie and moves on with his experiments.

The writer then argues how an earl killed seventy two buffaloes just for his pleasure, in contrast to which anacondas did not attack calves in excess to their requirements. He then uses deductive reasoning to determine that not anaconda but man himself has descended from these animals which is an irony in its nature and is straightly in contradiction to Darwinian Theory. The reader may find himself opposing to the writer’s stance initially, but the writer tries his best to leave no gaps for his reader to not be convinced in later paragraphs.

He connects the conduct of this earl to the common behavior of human race whose ‘lust for more’ has no end to it. The writer’s efficient use of descriptive tools has added beauty to the essay and has made it more captivating. He states that his experiments on squirrels and bees have given quite astonishing results and have proven that animals do not accumulate extra food even when persuaded to do so. It is only man that is found stockpiling millions of money not even needed.

Further he maintains that it is only man that keeps hatred alive in his heart and keeps coldness within. It is only he who can impose himself on other fellow members and enchain them for his own benefits. Vulgarity and insult are man’s own inventions too. The writer gives examples from history all over the world to prove the wrong use of power by man himself. The way in which he cites all the incidents is very persuasive and the rhetoric is well maintained.

Sadly, man is also the only animal that attacks in groups and wages war on its fellow human beings. The writer gives examples of Hessians and Napoleon to support this argument and shows how man is involved in robbery and other crimes which animals cannot commit. Man is also the only religious animal. The writer again uses satire and symbolism to explain the status of man in the world. He attributes him of killing his brothers in the name of religion with an unbelievable ease and refers to the cases of Caesars, French revolution and Mary’s day in England.

The writer shows cynicism while calling man foolish for not being able to learn tolerance which animals would do when tamed. He compares the two groups as control groups of a scientific experiment and logically proves how his results show that men cannot learn acceptance like animals. The symbolic use of people of different regions in the exemplar evokes an emotional response in the reader and creates a contemporary relevance for them.

Twain then concludes that the actual reason behind this behavior of humans is its morality. Had man never distinguished evil from good, he would have never inclined towards it. The writer makes use of logos appeal in the essay and his own understanding of the idea is unquestionable despite the fact that the topic still remains debatable. He is seen maintaining a liberal and unbiased point of view throughout the essay with a tone that also turns bitterly true at various points. My personal views are in accordance with that of the writer’s and It would not be wrong to say that the writer has not only fairly judged the human behaviors but has also done justice to them in his explanation.

An Analysis of the John Cornford Poem ‘To Margot Heinemann’

John Cornford was an English poet and committed communist who fought in the Spanish Civil War. His poem, ‘To Margot Heinemann’ concerns his lover, also a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain. This article presents an analysis of the poem.

Cornford’s title alone gives us an impression as to the nature of his poem, and after just one reading, we gather that it is a love poem. It is in the first person, creating the (possibly false) impression that the poet himself, John Cornford, is the protagonist.

However there is some ambiguity as to whom the poem is actually addressing, evident in the first stanza. The phrase: ‘Heart of the heartless world’ is a fragment from a quotation by Karl Marx in regard to religion. In the original quotation, Marx describes religion as ‘the opium of the people’, calling it ‘the heart of a heartless world’. Cornford would appear, therefore, to be addressing religion itself, a view strengthened in the second line with the repetition of the word ‘heart’. However seeing as he was a devoted communist, such religious sentiments would seem unlikely. Another reading might assume that Cornford reveres his girlfriend – the eponymous Margot Heinemann – with the kind of reverence a religious believer may regard their chosen faith.

Although this poem’s content is undeniably lyrical, an awareness of setting becomes apparent in the second and third stanzas. Through the line ‘The wind rises in the evening’ we gather a sense of time of day, and then a sense of the time of the year with the following line ‘Reminds that autumn is near’. A specific location is stated in the opening line of the next stanza ‘On the last mile to Huesca’ which places the poem on a late summer’s day in Aragon, Spain.

Other details are conspicuously omitted, for example the reader learns little about the subject of the poem, Margot Heinemann herself. However they do learn something of the narrator, who we gather is anxious, indicated in the lines ‘I am afraid to lose you,’ and ‘I am afraid of my fear’ in the second stanza. It is interesting to note that although this is considered a war poem, nowhere does the narrator state that it is an impending conflict of which they fear.

In formal terms, ‘To Margot Heinemann’ is a decidedly traditional poem. Cornford compresses the narrative into a fairly rigorous shape, with lines of roughly equal length and a discernible rhyming scheme, where the last word of the second and fourth lines of each stanza rhymes, such as ‘you’ and ‘view’, and ‘near’ and ‘fear’, in stanzas 1 and 2 respectively. However the final stanza ends with a half rhyme, with ‘grave’ only partially rhyming with ‘love’. The effect of this is to create emphasis on this last line by drawing the reader’s attention to it: ‘Don’t forget my love’. The poem’s exacting structure serves to intensify its sincerity of tone.

The Metaphorical Imperative

Metaphors are names and symbols which mark something and allow it to stand for something else. Metaphors have symbolic meaning often above and beyond the named object or emotional state. As humans we come into a chaotic world. Those who have come before have given “things” names, and for us these “things” become the names and these names have powerful symbolic value.

For an example The Internet, one might say, is a metaphor for an Overmind, a vast cybernetic net of metaphor thrown over civilization at large, an active matrix of ideas and images commonly shared by the composite human mind and available to the individual throughout the world, regardless of caste, color, religion, gender of financial status. This is the true democratization of the metaphor. No longer is it limited by mere language, intellectual caste or economic privilege.

The brain merely serves as the control room where the screen of recognition is housed. We all know lots of things. We know more than any human in history. We know more than we will ever have reason or need to know. In our culture we stand beneath a constant shower of information, but we are seldom moved to “own” our knowledge. Our wisdom, knowledge and beliefs are like a closet of clothes with the price tags still attached. They are lacking in true ritual or value. Because information is so easily assimilated we tend to dismiss its intrinsic value. To follow the “clothes” metaphor, we try them on and then hang them back in our closet with the intention of wearing them at some point in the future, should they become “in fashion”. But the understanding is that these metaphorical clothes can always be returned if un-worn. We don’t have to “own” them. Sort of like our jobs, relationships, cars or cats, they can be exchanged, co-mingled or abandoned.

Reality, after all, is merely a group consensus. We give something a “name”, and as a culture we agree on that symbolic name and so it is…it IS valued.

It is not the content nor the political slant that is important, nor even the creative ability exhibited within the juxtaposition of the words upon the page. It is instead, a process as old as Man: the naming and claiming of reality, metaphor by metaphor. This is the Metaphorical Imperative, as strong as the drive for food or water. This quest, which has driven the human race from the very beginning, is, in the final analysis, the quest for the seed of Truth.

(From the E-book Metaphor Bridge, by Jann Burner)