The Anvil and the Hammer by Kofi Awoonor: Analysis, themes, and questions for JAMB, WAEC, NECO and others.


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 and
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
Kofi Awoonor (1935 – 2013) Ghana

.Structure: poem has 21 lines.

Metaphor and Symbolism.
1. ‘The anvil’ – metaphor for the Traditional culture.
2. ‘Hammer’ – Foreign, imposed culture.
3. ‘Forging House.’ Line 2- Where the transformation from traditional to foreign lifestyle takes place. (Church, School, Politics, etc.)
4. ‘Blood of the goat in the Fetish hut.’ Line 7 – Traditional rituals and religions.
5. ‘Paved streets.’ Line 8 – Civilization, modernity and reformation.
6. ‘Jargon of new dialectic’ Line 9 – Words of the new language e.g English, French, Portugese.
7. ‘The Old days.’ Line 11 – The good days before the arrival fo colonialists. The traditional days.
8. ‘New garments.’ -Line 12: New lifestyle; new way of life that the colonialists brought.
9. ‘New flags and anthems’ – Line 18: New counties, states and nationalist groups.
10. ‘Banner of the land.’ Line 19- Cry for independence.

1. Eroding of the Traditional African culture.
2. Civilization.
3. Colonialism.
4. Desire to return: Nostalgia.
5. Cry for independence.

Poem is set in the colonial times.

More notes to come on this.

You may also want to read Lonely Days Summary.