Ambush by Gbemisola Adeoti

The poem “Ambush” is written by Gbemisola Adeoti. She is a prolific poet, social commentator and professor of English Language at the Obafemi Awolowo University, (OAU) Ile-Ife, Nigeria.

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The poet, Gbemisola Adeoti portrays the land as a predator bird that hovers over a hapless community, seeking whom to devour. In doing this, the author presents the familiar picture of a hawk that stalks the mother hen and her chicks waiting for the right time to pluck any stray chick: “The land is a giant hawk/ that courts unceasing disaster/as it hovers and hoots in space/ The land lie patiently ahead/ awaiting in ambush/ those who point away from a direction/ where nothing happens toward the shore of possibilities.” (Vanguard)

The poem is crafted into a four-stanza sequence without a consistent rhyming scheme. It has an overriding tone of lamentation as the persona catalogues the misfortunes that buffet the citizenry. The mood is predominantly gloomy with a corresponding tone of fear. (Vanguard).


The central idea of the poem hovers around the antagonist and parasitic relationship between the rich and the poor, the ruling class and the ruled class.

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A crush of aspirations –

According to the poem, the fishers who set out to catch fish are being hijacked with their boat and fishing tools. This reveals the shattering of the dreams of the ordinary man, the ordinary graduate who takes to the street to fend for himself. His/her or her ambition to get a good job to meet up with the daily bread is being smashed by nepotism, favouritism and ethnicity. In fact, the last stanza shows that the authority will still go ahead of you to set a trap waiting for the next aspiration that you will come up with.

Hopelessness –

The very fact that the fishers are made to return home at dusk without a single catch instils hopelessness. This is exemplified in lines 5 to 7 of the first stanza.

Fear –

Fear is another theme that is evident in the poem. The gruesome animals used in the poem creates fear in the minds of the people, hindering them from taking another step further. Line 10 in the second stanza indicates how the young inexperienced shudder home in fear of the “sabre-tooth tiger” that is howling in the glade. People in our current society are afraid to take up against the authority even when it is obvious that the authority is on the wrong side. Why is this? It is because once an individual speaks up, the government will use its apparatuses in one way or the order to bring the person down. These government tools are depicted with the animals in the poem. The last stanza is also an expression of fear rather than hope that, even after everything the authority has done to bring the fishers down, she will still go ahead of them waiting patiently to swallow, devour and snatch away their new dreams and aspirations. Or inflict pain on them for pointing to the right thing that the government is supposed to do

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Bad leadership –

The government is of the people and for the people. The practice of democracy purports that the ultimate power rests with the people. Then, government becomes bad if the reverse of the principles of democracy is in practice. A good democratic government cannot create fear in the minds of its people. Poverty and hopelessness and partially freedom is exemplified this.

Destruction –

The animals used in the poem to depict the authority are destructive. This shows that the authority and her apparatuses are agents of destruction, destroying the hopes, dreams, and aspirations of the common man.


Metaphor –

This is the most dominant figure of speech in this poem. Every first line of a stanza excluding stanza 4, has a metaphor.

“The land is a giant Whale” – the land is being compared to a giant whale

“the land is a sabre-tooth tiger” – the land is compared to a sabre tooth tiger

“The land is a giant hawk” – the land is compared to a giant hawk

The word ‘fishers’ in the first stanza is also used to compare the ordinary citizens of the land

The word “land” is also used to refer to the authorities of the country and the animals also represent the institutions of the government.

The allusion to peter is the bible is also a kind of metaphor, but inexplicit. The poetic persona compares the frustration that peter suffered as a fisherman to the frustration that the ordinary man suffers at the hands of the authority.

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All these show how the poem is designed with metaphor.

Personification –

The land in the poem is given an animate attribute of swallowing, hovering and crying in the glade. In the last stanza, the land is personified to have the virtue of patience – lies patiently ahead – and is “awaiting in ambush”

Onomatopoeia –

The word “petered” in the last line of the first stanza creates a sound of how shattered those who went out to make living are when they finally return home. This is also Pun – wordplay or playing on words

Biblical Allusion –

The poetic persona makes reference to Simon Peter in the bible, the fisherman whom Christ said, “follow me and I will make you the fisher of men.” Christ met Peter on a very frustrating day that he (peter) was not able to catch a fish. So, the poetic persona indirectly refers to that frustration that Peter, the Apostle of Christ suffered before the intervention of Jesus Christ. This is also an inexplicit metaphor.

Alliteration –

Below are the alliterations in the poem:

line 2 – swallows the sinker – s alliterates

line 7 – all peters with petered out desires – p alliterates

line 8 – sabre-tooth tiger – t alliterates

line 11 – grizzled ones snatch their gut – s alliterates

line 16 – hovers and hoots – both h and s alliterate

line 17 – the land lies patiently ahead – p alliterates

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Symbolism –

The animals used by the poetic persona all symbolize the different institutions of the government. Likewise, the land symbolizes the instituted authority of the country. Yes, this was explained as a metaphor. Unfortunately, I cannot explain why here. Subscribe to our newsletter to receive an email when the post on the “Difference between metaphor and symbolism” is made.

Metonymy –

The land is something that relates to the government as an authority. So, the poetic persona uses it to refer to them as the government. Just like when someone says that, “the land must hear this”, he/he is actually making reference to the instituted authority that governs the land and not the land as an object.

Imagery –

This wonderful poem, apart from metaphor, is also dominated by imagery. Land, whale, hawk and sabre-tooth tiger all create visual images in the mind of the reader. The reader is made to picture a whale that swallows a fisherman, a devouring sabre-tooth tiger and a giant hawk hovering in search of prey.

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