ANALYSIS OF THE ANVIL AND THE HAMMER
Caught between the anvil and the hammer In the forging house of a new life Transforming the pangs that delivered me Into the joy of new songs The trapping of the past, tender and tenuous Woven with fibre of sisal an Washed in the blood of the goat in the fetish hut Are laced with the flimsy glories of paved streets The jargon of a new dialectic comes with the Charisma of the perpetual search on the outlaw’s hill.
Sew the old days for us, our fathers, That we can wear them under our new garment, After we have washed ourselves in The whirlpool of the many rivers’ estuary We hear their songs and rumours everyday Determined to ignore these we use snatches From their tunes Make ourselves new flags and anthems While we lift high the banner of the land And listen to the reverberation of our songs In the splash and moan of the sea
Analysis of the poem the anvil and the hammer
Literally, an anvil is a tool with a hard surface used mostly by blacksmiths to work iron. The blacksmith often strikes the surface of the anvilwith a hammer. The poem The Anvil and the Hammer derives its title from this activity. The poem is about the clash of cultures especially the Western and African cultures influenced mainly by the many years of colonisation by the West. The result is a cultural twist leading to a change in norms, values, ethos and the general way of life of the African people: Caught between the anvil and the hammer/In the forging house of a new life. Just as the anvil and the hammer work to shape a new piece of metal, the poet believes that rather than discard the African culture, Western ideas could be used to shape and refine African traditions to create a new Africa. The poet portrays the old African way of life and traditional practices in the following words: The trapping of the past, tender and tenuous/ Wove with fibre of sisal and/Washed in the blood of the goat in the fetish hut. He compares these with the Western culture foisted on Africans through religion and a new system of government. He laments that African values and traditions have been largely eroded – Are laced with the flimsy glories of paved streets/The jargon of a new dialectic comes with the/ Charisma of the perpetual search on the outlaw’s hill. Note the use of the word “flimsy” which he employs to portray the attractions of the Western culture. In the second stanza, he appeals to his ancestors to help restore the old African ways. Sew the old days for us, our fathers/That we can wear them under our new garment. While he admits that Western culture has indeed come to stay and would continuously influence African culture, he pleads for a synergy of both cultures for a better Africa: Determined to ignore these we use snatches/ From their tunes/Make ourselves new flags and anthems/While we lift high the banner of the land.