Detailed Analysis of Hurrah for Thunder by Christopher Okigbo

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 General Introduction

Christopher Okigbo's poem "Hurrah for Thunder" is a potent and allegorical reflection on power, fall, and the consequences of both. Written by a prominent Nigerian poet, the poem is part of his collection "Labyrinths" and employs vivid imagery and metaphors to explore themes of strength, downfall, and societal change. Okigbo uses the symbol of an elephant, a traditional emblem of power and majesty, to delve into the complexities of authority and the inevitable transitions that follow its collapse.


The title, "Hurrah for Thunder," juxtaposes an exclamation of joy or celebration ("Hurrah") with the powerful and often frightening phenomenon of thunder. This contrast sets the tone for the poem, hinting at a celebration of might and its dramatic downfall. Thunder, in this context, serves as a metaphor for the sudden and forceful change that follows the fall of a once-powerful entity.

 Stanza-by-Stanza Analysis

Stanza 1:

"WHATEVER happened to the elephant –

Hurrah for Thunder –

The elephant, tetrarch of the jungle:

With a wave of the hand

He could pull four trees to the ground;

His four mortar legs pounded the earth:

Wherever they treaded,

The grass was forbidden to be there."

- The poem begins with a rhetorical question, "Whatever happened to the elephant," immediately suggesting a sense of loss or change. The elephant symbolizes a once-powerful ruler ("tetrarch of the jungle").

- The imagery of the elephant's strength is vivid: pulling trees down with ease and trampling the earth, forbidding the grass to grow under its feet. This portrays absolute power and dominance.

- The interjection "Hurrah for Thunder" hints at a change or disruption, implying that the might of the elephant (or power) has been met with an unstoppable force (thunder).

Stanza 2:

"Alas! the elephant has fallen –

Hurrah for thunder –

But already the hunters are talking about


If they share the meat let them remember


- The fall of the elephant is lamented with "Alas!" which indicates sorrow and loss. The repeated "Hurrah for thunder" now underscores the triumph of change over the once-mighty.

- The "hunters talking about pumpkins" suggests a shift in focus from the fallen elephant to more mundane concerns, possibly indicating opportunism or the fleeting nature of power.

- The warning to "remember thunder" serves as a caution against forgetting the force that brought about the change, implying that the same fate could befall others who gain power.

Stanza 3:

"The eye that looks down will surely see the


The finger that fits should be used to pick the


- These lines use proverbial language to convey self-awareness and practical wisdom. They suggest that those in positions of authority or power (the "eye that looks down") must recognize their vulnerabilities and limitations (the "nose").

- The metaphor of the finger picking the nose implies that those who are capable ("the finger that fits") should take responsibility and act accordingly, rather than ignoring their duties or abilities.

Stanza 4:

"Today-for tomorrow, today becomes


How many million promises can ever fill a


- This stanza reflects on the passage of time and the ephemeral nature of promises. The shift from "today" to "yesterday" highlights the transient nature of the present and the inevitable march of time.

- The rhetorical question about promises filling a basket underscores the futility of empty assurances and the importance of actions over words.

Stanza 5:

"If I don’t learn to shut my mouth I’ll soon go

to hell,

I, Okigbo, town-crier/ together with my iron


- Okigbo presents himself as the "town-crier," a role responsible for announcing news and events. This self-reference underscores his role as a poet and commentator on societal issues.

- The line about shutting his mouth and going to hell suggests the dangers of speaking out or the consequences of voicing uncomfortable truths, a reflection on the poet's duty to challenge and critique.


1. Power and Authority: The elephant symbolizes immense power and authority. Its fall represents the inevitable decline of all who hold such power, underscoring the transient nature of dominance.

2. Change and Transformation: Thunder symbolizes sudden and transformative change, highlighting how forces beyond control can disrupt even the most powerful entities.

3. Memory and Legacy: The call to remember thunder serves as a reminder of the events and forces that shape history, urging vigilance and awareness.

4. Mundane Concerns and Opportunism: The hunters' shift to talking about pumpkins suggests how quickly society moves on from significant events to trivial matters, highlighting human opportunism and short-term focus.

5. The Role of the Poet: Okigbo positions himself as the town-crier, emphasizing the poet's duty to observe, announce, and sometimes criticize societal changes and injustices.

 Structure and Form

The poem is composed of five stanzas with varying line lengths, using free verse to allow for a flowing and expressive narrative. The lack of a strict rhyme scheme or meter gives Okigbo flexibility in conveying his themes and emotions. The repetition of "Hurrah for Thunder" serves as a refrain, reinforcing the central motif of powerful change and the fall of the mighty.

 Literary Devices

1. Metaphor: The elephant represents power and authority, while thunder symbolizes sudden and forceful change.

2. Imagery: Vivid descriptions of the elephant's strength and the trampled grass create a powerful visual representation of dominance.

3. Personification: The elephant is given human-like qualities, such as the ability to wave its hand, enhancing its symbolic role as a ruler.

4. Proverbial Language: The use of proverbs in the third stanza adds a layer of wisdom and cultural depth to the poem.

5. Symbolism: Thunder symbolizes transformative power and change, while the hunters and pumpkins represent the opportunistic and mundane responses of society.

6. Allusion: References to the poet's role as a town-crier allude to the traditional role of the poet as a societal observer and commentator.

 Language and Diction

Okigbo's language is rich and evocative, using a mix of formal and informal diction to convey both the grandeur of the elephant and the mundane concerns of the hunters. The shift in tone from lamentation to caution and finally to introspection mirrors the poem's thematic progression.

 Mood and Tone

The mood of the poem transitions from a sense of awe and sorrow over the fall of the elephant to a tone of caution and reflection. The repeated "Hurrah for thunder" adds a celebratory yet ominous tone, highlighting the dual nature of change as both a force of destruction and renewal.


Christopher Okigbo wrote "Hurrah for Thunder" during a time of significant political and social upheaval in Nigeria. The poem can be seen as a commentary on the shifts in power and the consequences of such transitions, reflecting the broader context of colonial and post-colonial African politics. Okigbo's own experiences and his role as a poet deeply influenced his work, imbuing it with a sense of urgency and a call for societal awareness.


"Hurrah for Thunder" is a profound and layered poem that uses the metaphor of the elephant and thunder to explore themes of power, change, and societal response. Okigbo's skillful use of imagery, symbolism, and language creates a vivid and thought-provoking narrative that remains relevant in the context of both historical and contemporary power dynamics. The poem serves as both a lament for lost power and a cautionary tale about the inevitable forces of change.

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