CRITICAL REVIEW: On the Meandering Pathways of Life

Posted: July 18, 2014 in Critical Review
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by Tim Nwaobilo

As conformed to normality as poems go, the first line of every great poem must hold its reader captive suddenly, for however how short a moment. It must catch the reader unawares, sweep him off his feet, without a doubt, no matter the familiarity of the poet and his writings to the reader. Charles’ piece is not a disappointment in this regard.

“The awakening of the sun at dawn” Line I

Personification here is apt where the sun is set as a living being, a human. I find the choice of “awakening” and not “waking” or some other synonym as something sacred, something lofty, and at worst significant. The “awakening” possesses a strong detail to duty. Probably the sun’s revival holds the key for some deeper mystery to be revealed, some inner workings unseen to be materialised. The sun here is given enormous power as is seen within the next lines of the poem.
The sun is clearly no respecter of person or creed and serves both the “base” and best just as its “awakening” causes the stream of a man’s mind to bubble with freshness—
“…calls to my mind” Line IV
—and then a whole new world is opened up to us, a world due for exploration and adventure.

One striking theme is the “ordinarily-ness” of the events and yet filled with so much sarcasm.

“…indifferent cock crowing…” Line VII
“…pilgrims calling to a form-less being” Line VIII

These events and those that follow are deceiving to the un-discerning and may most likely be passed by when traversing the length and breadth of this poem, except for maybe a quick personality check by the reader to see if he can picture himself within the events. The fact that they look ordinary serves as a red light: HIDDEN MEANING! How virtually the totality of mankind is captured in these circumstances is itself quite amazing.

A raging feeling offered throughout this poem is that of mystery. Firstly seen in—
“..calls to my mind the doubts” Line IV

The succeeding lines to Line IV tend to serve as an explanation to it, and something looks awkward, attesting to my idea of mystery—
“…I hear clearly” Line VI etc.
There is an assurance of the clear hearing and good sight, but the un-assurance of unseen things “beyond this world” poses a question—why the mystery if so much is clear? I guess we’ll never know. This feeling is also expressed when the poet talks of the world in Line V. Beyond this world is the mysterious, something he might be perceived as dissociated from. In Line XXI he “steps into the world”, now associating with the world, probably for want of no other option, a necessity, a compulsory action. Little wonder his fears and ironically faith require some masking! And yet in Line XXX, he is “in the world but not part of the world”. The unnerving spike of uncertainty added to the pre-existing mystery only serves to put the reader’s mind at edge.

Prior to Line XXI the writer is merely an onlooker in the happenings around and beyond, but now offers the reader the chance to view him within the realms of the poem—

“…and step into the world” Line XXI.

This is bold, courageous, daring; allowing himself to be evaluated within the confines he has earlier mentioned. He however permits himself be humoured and I find it amazingly comical—

“My heart in my hand, my hand on my head” Line XXIV.

Lines XXVII and XXVIII seem to portray the writer as a sort of zombie, a clock-work mechanism, winded by some stronger force or will, bidding him toil a journey devoid of his intellectual or intuitive input—

”Journeying equal miles in equal breathe”
“Equal grass in equal grace, drifting still”

I say this because this strange equality in affairs may antagonise the “ever-elusive dream of …equality” offered in Lines XI and XII. Life and its courts are deliberately positioned as unequal and unstable by the writer, thus the sudden equality of steps seems unnatural and unreal within the frames of the ”world”. If inequality could be festered by will or non-will, this new-found equality in life actions must be non-will, a mightier will surely. Or probably he is “In the world but not a part of the world”. If this zombiesque status was previously in doubt, Line XXIX does justice to such doubts—

“A log in the ocean, adrift at sea”. –Line XXIX


“I cannot will myself to run freely
Nor break from travel, I’m bound to this path”

Lines XXXI to LXVII contain more of the workings of life and a dark blanket of gloom, sadness, tragedy and ill-fortune hangs over that portion of the piece. An almost tangible gloom that rotates and revolves in an unending circle.

One thing is certain, amidst all the prevailing uncertainty: the writer searches for answers, he needs answers. Answers to questions that lead to more questions as evidenced in these camouflage lines—

“Ploughing the bellies of earth for answers
Answers which lead unto more questions still”

—questions borne out of a sense of reason. It’s unfortunate how these questions seem not to have found their right answer. When the writer offers—

“Perhaps there is much more beyond this life” –Line LXXVIII

—he is not just trying to be funny in a poetic manner, he is standing right at the root of a tree man tries to reach the summit of, at one point or the other. Knowledge is akin to life, and no knowledge of what lies “beyond this life” leaves the poet resigned to eventuality. He decides not to bother about the aftermath of life and its journey and is content with striving for the bread for today. He doesn’t feel sorry for himself, not in the least, nor for his present achievements. In the words of English-man D.H. Lawrence: “I have never seen a wild thing feel sorry for itself. A little bird will fall dead, frozen from a bough, without having ever felt sorry for itself”.

This poem escapes my technical criticism—unusual as it may seem—because it doesn’t deserve it. Much kudos must be given to Charles for a poem this long, tasking his pen give full expression to his thoughts. If no-one noticed, each line of this poem consists of 10 syllables, a feat not easily juxtaposed with intelligent writing.

On The Meandering Pathways of Life

Lyriversity — Liberty of Creativity

  1. Anene Francis says:

    A nice review this is. Well done mr Tim. You scattered the poem for maximum recovery of its rich contents… Let me add some.
    * Much of the poem revolve around a present that, in the poet’s view, falls below expectation and an obscured/ uncertain future. But I see a contradiction in line 63 and 64: …
    “Night and day, Life’s holds no happy ending
    For the poor souls striving still upon it,”
    Here, the poet seem to be sure. I don’t know why sha.
    * The poem ends with a sought of decision to subdue the anxieties in other to forge ahead, hopeful and consoled by the yet many ‘perhaps’.
    * Yea, a blind verse (so I was taught lol)

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