Birago Diop – Vanity (An Analysis)

 Another day, another opportunity to look for information because we’re all too confused to do it ourselves.

The poem opens with an air of pessimism and the reality that no one is listening to their (the persona’s) complaints. Instead,  they are being laughed at and mocked. They cannot be taken seriously.

After reading the first stanza, it becomes clearer that a group of people are narrating the events in the poem and their plight is made in vanity, hence the symbolic title that shouts some strong themes in this literature.

The second stanza draws attention to horrible events that began at the start of the personas’ story and the nonchalance and ridicule of ‘big children’ toward such tales. The tone here has become more sour and brooding, implying there might be serious consequences for disregarding the mistakes of the past.

In stanza three, no one will listen to their noisy protests, their clamoring. No ears will listen to the sickening anger and frustration that grows deep within their ‘plaintive’ (sad) thoughts. The frustration has grown and so has the futility of their message. And for good reason.

When our Dead come with their Dead

When they have spoken to us with their clumsy voices;

Just as our ears were deaf

The Dead must refer to the generation that has recently passed away and the ancestors. The people mourning and wailing – just as the children do now – once turned a deaf ear to what their parents and ancestors spoke. Now, the sad realization of Karma and fear of repetition of past mistakes darkens their hope.

The fourth stanza continues the lament of the mature and elderly in society who address the locations where those before them lost their lives

In the air, on the water, where they traced their signs.

They continue by stating that they are ‘blind, deaf and unworthy Sons’ like the current generation of ‘big children’ who see no significance, whatsoever, in the places where the elderly say their ancestors traced their signs and left their mark in history.

The fifth stanza brings the plaintive curtain down on the poem, summarizing it this way :

Since we didn’t take our ancestors seriously or care to understand the dead, and we didn’t listen to their cries and warnings, no one will listen to ours either. What goes around comes back around. We will die, be forgotten and our memories will be ridiculed as well.

Hope this post helped. Feel free to drop more insight in the comments or put up some questions on my Facebook page about this poem.

Leave suggestions in there as well for more WASSCE Literature. Thanks. And I will keep you posted.