The Complete Analysis of the poem Eyes Watch the Stars by Christopher Okigbo.

Also Read

 Title of the poem.

The title "Eyes Watch the Stars" suggests a contemplative observation of celestial bodies, reflecting on the profound and perhaps mysterious aspects of existence. In the poem, the speaker's eyes are metaphorically open, witnessing the prodigal's gaze upward to the heavens where stars are expected to fall. The poem also hints at undisclosed secrets, symbolically buried in beachsand, evoking a sense of both concealment and exposure. The juxtaposition of natural elements like rain, beach, and sea creatures contributes to the atmospheric and sensory quality of the poem. Overall, the title captures the theme of introspection, cosmic awareness, and concealed truths within the verses.

Themes of the poem

The poem "Eyes Watch the Stars" by Christopher Okigbo explores several themes:

1. **Contemplation and Observation:** The poem begins with the image of eyes open on the beach, emphasizing a state of awareness and contemplation. The act of watching the stars suggests a deep observation of the celestial realm.

2. **Prodigality and Return:** The mention of the "prodigal" alludes to someone who may have been extravagant or wayward but is now looking upward, possibly seeking redemption or meaning.

3. **Secrecy and Concealment:** The poem introduces the idea of a secret that the speaker has not shared with anyone. This secret is buried and covered up in beachsand, adding an element of mystery and hidden truths.

4. **Nature and the Elements:** The poem vividly describes the natural elements such as beachsand, salt-white surf, stones, lobsters, and shells. These elements contribute to the sensory experience and the connection between the speaker and the natural world.

5. **Symbolism of Rain:** The shadow of rain over the sunbeaten beach and a man with a woman introduces a symbolic layer, possibly representing challenges or complexities in relationships and life. Rain can also symbolize cleansing or renewal.

6. **Transience and Fragility:** The mention of stars falling and the breaking of the planted secret suggest a theme of impermanence and fragility in life. The salt-emptiness and the ephemeral nature of elements like surf and rain contribute to this theme.

7. **Cultural and Linguistic Imagery:** Okigbo's use of language and imagery reflects his cultural background, infusing the poem with a sense of place and identity. The reference to a "dughole" and the imagery of the beach connects the poem to specific landscapes and cultural contexts.

Overall, the poem weaves together these themes to create a rich tapestry of meaning, inviting readers to contemplate the complexities of existence, the mysteries of nature, and the interplay of the seen and unseen.

Tone and Mood of the poem

The tone of "Eyes Watch the Stars" is contemplative, mysterious, and introspective. The speaker observes the world with a reflective gaze, contemplating both natural elements and personal secrets. There's a sense of deep thought and meditation, especially with the repeated mention of eyes watching the stars.

The mood is both melancholic and enigmatic. The poem's imagery, including the mention of a secret hidden in beachsand and the falling stars, contributes to a sense of mystery and concealed emotions. The shadow of rain over the beach adds a touch of melancholy, perhaps suggesting a contemplation of life's transient nature and the complexities of human experiences.

While there's a certain pensiveness throughout the poem, the natural imagery and vivid descriptions also create a sensory and atmospheric mood. The sounds and sights of the beach, the salt-emptiness, and the surf contribute to the overall mood, engaging the reader's senses and emotions in the contemplation of the poem's themes.

Imagery of the poem

"Eyes Watch the Stars" by Christopher Okigbo is rich in vivid and evocative imagery that engages the reader's senses and creates a distinctive atmosphere. Here are some notable examples of imagery from the poem:

1. **Eyes open on the beach:** This sets the scene with a visual image of eyes open in a specific location, the beach, immediately drawing attention to the natural setting.

2. **Upward to heaven shoot / where stars will fall from:** This imagery combines the upward movement towards the celestial heavens with the anticipation of stars falling, creating a dynamic and celestial scene.

3. **Secrets buried in beachsand:** The notion of secrets buried in beachsand invokes a tactile image, suggesting hidden depths and concealed truths beneath the surface.

4. **Salt-white surf on the stones:** The contrast of salt-white surf against stones creates a visual image of the sea's movement and the interplay of elements on the shore.

5. **Lobsters and shells in iodine smell:** This line introduces olfactory imagery, bringing in the scent of iodine and associating it with the sea life, enhancing the sensory experience.

6. **Maid of the salt-emptiness, sophisticreamy, native:** This description combines visual and tactile imagery, portraying a figure associated with the salt-laden environment in a nuanced and sensory manner.

7. **Shadow of rain over sunbeaten beach:** The shadow of rain introduces a visual image of changing weather conditions, adding an element of movement and transition to the scene.

8. **Shadow of rain over man with woman:** This image suggests the influence of external factors (rain) on human relationships, possibly hinting at emotional nuances or challenges.

Overall, the poem's imagery weaves together visual, tactile, and olfactory elements, creating a sensory-rich experience that contributes to the contemplative and atmospheric tone of the work.

Symbolism of the poem

"Eyes Watch the Stars" by Christopher Okigbo incorporates various symbols that add layers of meaning to the poem:

1. **Eyes:** The repeated mention of eyes suggests a heightened state of awareness and observation. The eyes watching the stars symbolize a contemplative gaze and a search for meaning or understanding.

2. **Stars:** Stars often symbolize celestial bodies associated with guidance, inspiration, and cosmic forces. The anticipation of stars falling may represent a sense of inevitability or a shift in the natural order.

3. **Beach and Sands:** The beach and sands symbolize a liminal space, a threshold between land and sea. The burying of secrets in beachsand suggests hidden aspects of the self or concealed truths beneath the surface.

4. **Prodigal:** The term "prodigal" traditionally refers to someone who has been wasteful or wayward but may be seeking redemption. In the poem, it symbolizes a return or a turning point in one's journey.

5. **Rain:** The shadow of rain introduces a symbol of change, cleansing, or emotional depth. Rain can signify renewal and transformation, adding a layer of complexity to the mood and theme of the poem.

6. **Salt-emptiness:** The mention of salt-emptiness may symbolize both the harshness and purity of the environment. It could represent the emptiness or void within the speaker and the paradoxical richness of experience.

7. **Lobsters and Shells:** These sea creatures symbolize elements of the natural world. The iodine smell and the imagery of lobsters and shells contribute to the sensory experience and the interconnectedness of the speaker with the environment.

8. **Secrets:** The undisclosed secret buried in beachsand serves as a symbol of hidden truths, personal struggles, or untold aspects of the speaker's life. The breaking of this secret suggests revelation or an unraveling of concealed emotions.

These symbols collectively contribute to the poem's exploration of themes such as contemplation, hidden truths, the transient nature of life, and the intricate relationship between the natural world and human experiences.

Metaphors and similes

"Eyes Watch the Stars" by Christopher Okigbo employs metaphors and similes to convey its themes and create vivid imagery. Here are some examples from the poem:

1. **Metaphor:**
   - *“Eyes open on the beach”*: The eyes are metaphorically open, suggesting a state of heightened awareness and receptivity.

   - *“Eyes open, of the prodigal”*: The prodigal's eyes are open, possibly symbolizing a newfound awareness or a moment of revelation.

   - *“Shadow of rain over sunbeaten beach”*: The shadow of rain is a metaphor for a moment of darkness or difficulty, casting a figurative shadow over the sunbeaten beach.

2. **Simile:**
   - *“sophisticreamy, native”*: This simile combines sophistication and creaminess, creating a nuanced description of a character associated with the salt-emptiness.

   - *“now breaks / salt-white surf on the stones”*: The breaking of surf is likened to the breaking of a secret, drawing a parallel between the natural element and the revelation.

   - *“Shadow of rain / over man with woman”*: The shadow of rain over a couple is a simile for the challenges or difficulties that may affect their relationship.

Metaphors and similes in the poem contribute to its rich and layered imagery, allowing readers to engage with the themes on both a literal and symbolic level. They enhance the sensory experience and add depth to the contemplative and mysterious tone of the poem.

Language and diction

The language and diction in "Eyes Watch the Stars" play a crucial role in shaping the poem's atmosphere and conveying its themes. Christopher Okigbo's use of language is characterized by:

1. **Cultural Sensitivity:** Okigbo's language reflects cultural nuances, incorporating terms like "prodigal" and descriptions such as "sophisticreamy, native." This use of culturally specific language adds depth and a sense of rootedness to the poem.

2. **Symbolic and Evocative Language:** The poet employs words and phrases that carry symbolic weight, such as "eyes," "stars," and "beachsand." These words contribute to the poem's symbolic imagery, inviting readers to explore layers of meaning.

3. **Imagery and Descriptive Language:** The poem is rich in vivid imagery created through descriptive language. Phrases like "salt-white surf on the stones" and "shadow of rain over sunbeaten beach" evoke sensory experiences, immersing the reader in the scenes described.

4. **Metaphorical Language:** Okigbo uses metaphors to convey abstract ideas. For instance, the eyes being "open on the beach" serves as a metaphor for a state of heightened awareness or introspection.

5. **Contrast and Paradox:** The poet employs contrasting elements, such as "sophisticreamy, native" and "salt-emptiness," creating a sense of paradox and complexity. This contrast adds layers of meaning and invites readers to navigate the poem's intricate themes.

6. **Rhythmic and Poetic Language:** The poem's language is rhythmic and poetic, with a careful choice of words that contribute to the overall musicality of the piece. This rhythmic quality enhances the emotional and contemplative aspects of the poem.

7. **Economy of Language:** The poet often uses concise language, presenting powerful images and ideas in a compact form. This economy of language contributes to the poem's intensity and allows for multiple interpretations.

In summary, Okigbo's language and diction in "Eyes Watch the Stars" create a nuanced and evocative poetic landscape. The careful selection of words, cultural sensitivity, and the use of literary devices contribute to the overall impact of the poem, making it a rich and thought-provoking literary work.

Structure of the poem

"Eyes Watch the Stars" by Christopher Okigbo follows a free verse structure, characterized by its lack of a regular rhyme scheme and meter. Instead, the poem relies on other structural elements to convey its meaning and evoke a particular mood. Here are some observations about the structure:

1. **Stanzas:** The poem is divided into stanzas, with each stanza presenting a distinct image or idea. The stanzas vary in length, contributing to the poem's organic and flowing structure.

2. **Enjambment:** The lines in the poem often use enjambment, where the thought or sentence flows from one line to the next without a pause. This technique creates a sense of continuity and fluidity in the poem.

3. **Repetition:** The repetition of the phrase "eyes open" at the beginning of the poem emphasizes the act of observation and contemplation. This repetition serves as a structural device to highlight a key theme.

4. **Punctuation:** The poem uses punctuation sparingly, with commas and semicolons being the primary punctuation marks. This minimalist approach enhances the poem's flow and contributes to its free verse style.

5. **Imagery Placement:** The poem's structure allows for the effective placement of vivid imagery. Each stanza presents a new set of images, contributing to the sensory and contemplative experience of the poem.

6. **Shifts in Focus:** The poem exhibits shifts in focus, moving from the beach and stars to the speaker's undisclosed secret, the breaking of that secret, and the imagery of rain over the beach. These shifts contribute to the complexity of the poem's thematic exploration.

7. **Concluding Lines:** The final lines of the poem bring together the shadow of rain, sunbeaten beach, and the presence of a man with a woman. This conclusion adds a layer of meaning and leaves the reader with a sense of contemplation.

In summary, the structure of "Eyes Watch the Stars" is characterized by its free verse form, enjambment, and the strategic use of repetition and punctuation. These structural elements work together to convey the poem's themes and create a contemplative and atmospheric reading experience.

Sound and rhythm

"Eyes Watch the Stars" by Christopher Okigbo exhibits a distinct use of sound and rhythm, contributing to the overall musicality and emotional resonance of the poem. Here are some observations:

1. **Rhythmic Flow:** The poem has a rhythmic flow created by the skillful use of enjambment and the placement of stressed and unstressed syllables. This rhythmic quality enhances the musicality of the language and engages the reader in a fluid, almost hypnotic, progression of ideas.

2. **Assonance and Alliteration:** Okigbo employs assonance (repetition of vowel sounds) and alliteration (repetition of initial consonant sounds) to create a harmonious and sonorous effect. For example, in the line "salt-white surf on the stones," the repetition of the "s" sound contributes to the sensory and rhythmic qualities of the poem.

3. **Repetition:** The repetition of certain phrases, such as "eyes open," adds a rhythmic and hypnotic element to the poem. This repetition serves as a kind of refrain, reinforcing the theme of observation and contemplation.

4. **Imagery and Sound:** The poem's vivid imagery is often accompanied by sounds that enhance the sensory experience. For instance, the "salt-white surf on the stones" not only provides visual imagery but also evokes the sound of waves breaking on the shore.

5. **Minimal Punctuation:** The poem's minimal use of punctuation contributes to its rhythmic flow. The absence of rigid punctuation allows for a more fluid movement between lines and stanzas.

6. **Natural Sounds:** The poem incorporates sounds associated with nature, such as the surf, rain, and the beach. These natural sounds contribute to the poem's atmospheric quality and immerse the reader in the sensory experience.

7. **Concluding Sound Patterns:** The final lines, "Shadow of rain / over man with woman," create a concluding sound pattern with the repetition of the "o" sound in "shadow" and "over." This repetition adds a sense of closure and musicality to the conclusion.

In summary, the poem's sound and rhythm are carefully crafted to enhance its thematic exploration. The rhythmic flow, the use of repetition, and the incorporation of natural and sensory sounds contribute to the overall aesthetic appeal of "Eyes Watch the Stars."


The syntax of "Eyes Watch the Stars" by Christopher Okigbo contributes to the poem's unique style and meaning. Here are some observations about the syntax:

1. **Enjambment:** The poem frequently uses enjambment, where a thought or sentence carries over from one line to the next without a pause. This technique creates a sense of continuity, fluidity, and a natural flow of ideas.

2. **Ellipses:** The use of ellipses (…) in the poem suggests a trailing off or unfinished thought, adding an element of mystery and inviting readers to fill in the gaps. For example, "which secret I have told into no ear; / into a dughole to hold, / not to drown with –" leaves room for interpretation.

3. **Parallel Structure:** The poem exhibits parallel structures in some lines, emphasizing certain ideas or creating a rhythmic pattern. For instance, the repetition of "eyes open" at the beginning establishes a parallel structure that underscores the act of observation.

4. **Sparse Punctuation:** The poem employs sparse punctuation, mainly commas and semicolons. This minimalist approach allows for a more fluid and less constrained reading experience. The lack of heavy punctuation contributes to the poem's free verse style.

5. **Fragmented Sentences:** Okigbo uses fragmented sentences at times, contributing to the poem's contemplative and introspective tone. The fragments convey a sense of disjointed thoughts or emotions.

6. **Economy of Language:** The poet often uses concise language, packing significant meaning into brief phrases. This economy of language adds to the intensity and depth of the poem.

7. **Shifts in Syntax:** The poem features shifts in syntax, moving between descriptive passages, introspective reflections, and symbolic expressions. These shifts contribute to the complexity of the poem's structure and thematic exploration.

8. **Interplay of Syntax and Imagery:** The arrangement of words and phrases in the poem enhances the vivid imagery. For example, the syntax used to describe the breaking of the secret, "now breaks / salt-white surf on the stones," contributes to the sensory and visual impact of the image.

In summary, the syntax of "Eyes Watch the Stars" is characterized by enjambment, ellipses, parallel structures, sparse punctuation, fragmented sentences, and an economy of language. These syntactical choices contribute to the poem's unique style, evoking a contemplative and atmospheric reading experience.


"Eyes Watch the Stars" was written by Christopher Okigbo, a Nigerian poet, in the 1960s. The poem is part of his collection titled "Labyrinths," which was published posthumously in 1971. To understand the context of the poem, it's important to consider both the personal background of the poet and the historical context of Nigeria during that period:

1. **Personal Context:**
   - **Christopher Okigbo (1932-1967):** Okigbo was a highly regarded Nigerian poet known for his modernist approach and rich symbolism. He was not only a poet but also actively involved in the political and cultural movements of his time.

   - **Educational Background:** Okigbo studied at the University of Ibadan and later at the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom. His exposure to Western literary traditions and his engagement with Igbo culture influenced his poetic style.

   - **Cultural Influences:** Okigbo's work often reflects his Igbo heritage and African cultural traditions. The use of indigenous elements alongside modernist techniques is a notable characteristic of his poetry.

2. **Historical and Political Context:**
   - **Nigerian Independence:** Nigeria gained independence from British rule in 1960. The post-independence period was marked by political and social challenges, including ethnic tensions and struggles for power.

   - **Biafran Civil War (1967-1970):** One of the most significant events during Okigbo's lifetime was the Nigerian Civil War (also known as the Biafran War). Okigbo was sympathetic to the Biafran cause, and he actively participated in the conflict, leading to his tragic death in 1967.

   - **Impact on Okigbo's Poetry:** The political and social turmoil in Nigeria during this period had a profound impact on Okigbo's poetry. His later works, including "Labyrinths," reflect a heightened awareness of the complexities and challenges facing the newly independent nation.

3. **Themes of the Poem:**
   - **Contemplation and Observation:** The poem explores themes of contemplation and observation, possibly reflecting Okigbo's own reflections on the political and social changes in Nigeria.

   - **Cultural Identity:** The use of cultural and indigenous imagery in the poem suggests Okigbo's engagement with his cultural roots amidst the influences of modernity.

   - **Personal Struggle:** The mention of a secret and its burial in beachsand may symbolize personal struggles or internal conflicts, which could be interpreted in the context of Okigbo's own experiences.

In summary, "Eyes Watch the Stars" should be understood in the context of Okigbo's life, the political landscape of Nigeria in the 1960s, and the broader cultural and literary movements of the time. The poem captures a moment of introspection and contemplation amidst a period of significant change and upheaval.

Post a Comment


Leave a comment behind

Post a Comment (0)

#buttons=(Ok, Go it!) #days=(20)

Our website uses cookies to enhance your experience. Learn more
Ok, Go it!