Analysis of The Rocks Rose to Meet Me" by Niyi Osundare

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General Introduction 

"The Rocks Rose to Meet Me" by Niyi Osundare is a rich poem that explores themes of homecoming, connection to nature, and the enduring presence of the past. The poem utilizes vivid imagery and symbolism to depict the speaker's encounter with the majestic rocks of his homeland.


The second poem in the collection ‘The Rocks Rose To Meet Me’ is anencounter with the rocks – another aspect of physical nature. Before the rock of Olosunta, the poet is standing and waiting like Christopher Okigbo at Heaven’s gate. And the Olosunta rock began to address the poet in the following words:

“You have been long, very long, and far

Unwearying wayfarer,

Your feet wear the mud of distant waters

Your hems gather the bur

Of farthest forests;

I can see the westmost sun

In the mirror of your wandering eyes”

(Osundare The Eye of The Earth, 13).

In these lines, Osundare is doing some kind of homecoming. He is a renegade and is now trying to establish vital links with the past. As he put it:

‘The Rocks Rose to Meet Me’ is a homecoming of a kind, a journey back (and forth) into a receding pastwhich still has a right to live. The rocks celebrated in this section… occupy a central place in the cosmic consciousness of Ikere people; they are worshipped and frequently appeased with rare gifts, thunderous drumming and dancing (Osundare The Eye of The Earth ‘Preface’ xiii).

The truth is that Osundare celebrates the rocks of Olosunta because they are both an aspect of physical nature and they have a mystic dimension in Ikere cosmology. Ikere is actually Osundare’s home place. By celebrating the rocks of his native home, Osundare is emphasizing the permanent and solid forms of nature which are lasting monuments of time and place. At another level, the Olosunta rocks in Ikere mean more than physical nature they also have some economic value. Somewhere in the poem, it is stated that the belly of the Olosunta rock is a battle ground of god and gold. The deeper meaning is that the Olosunta rock is reputed to be a repository of gold. This explains why at the end of the poem the poet ask the rock to Yield your gold, lofty one, But how dig the gold Without breaking the rock? (Osundare The Eye of The Earth, 14).

Returning back to his old theme of an egalitarian society and economic exploitation, Osundare states that when the gold is dug it should be used for the betterment of society and not to enrich a few kings and princes. It should be used to turn hovels into havens/paupers/into people (not princes)/so the world may sprout a hand/of equal fingers. Osundare’s concern with physical nature is varied. Apart from showing the importance of earth (nature) it is also used to show that the earth (nature) signifies wealth and all the life-giving forces. It is mother-earth and natural laws demand that the wealth accruing from nature should be used for the advancement of society


 Homecoming: The poem captures the emotions of returning to a familiar place after a long absence. The speaker feels a sense of recognition and connection with the rocks, representing his roots and heritage.

 Human and Nature Connection: The poem emphasizes a deep connection between humans and the natural world. The rocks are not just inanimate objects, but powerful and enduring presences that welcome the speaker back.

 Enduring Past: The rocks symbolize the enduring nature of the past. They have witnessed generations come and go, representing the speaker's own family history and the history of his homeland.

Structure and Techniques

The poem is a single stanza with a free verse structure, allowing for a flow of emotions and imagery.

 Personification: The rocks are personified, described as "rising to meet" the speaker, emphasizing their welcoming presence.

 Imagery: Vivid imagery brings the rocks to life, with details about their "peaks cradled in ageless mists" and "legs lithesome with lithic lore."

 Metaphor: The rocks can be seen as metaphors for the speaker's ancestors, offering a sense of continuity and connection with the past.

 Allusion: There might be allusions to Yoruba traditions where geographical features like rocks hold cultural significance.

Possible Interpretations

 The poem can be read as a celebration of returning home and reconnecting with one's roots. The speaker finds solace and strength in the enduring presence of the rocks. 

 It can also be interpreted as an exploration of the relationship between humans and the natural world. The rocks represent a powerful and timeless force that dwarfs human existence.

 On a deeper level, the poem might be a reflection on the passage of time and the importance of preserving history and traditions.

In Conclusion

"The Rocks Rose to Meet Me" is a beautifully crafted poem that uses powerful imagery and symbolism to explore themes of homecoming, connection to nature, and the enduring presence of the past. It leaves the reader with a sense of wonder for the natural world and the importance of appreciating our roots.

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