Content Analysis of Niyi Osundare’s “Inu Rere”

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Poem

Inu Rere

When your heart is clean
And your mind is good

You will walk through fire
But you will not be burnt

You will run the race
You will not be tired

You will see a star
On the darkest nights

Your yam will be white and crisp
Your bread soft and warm

Your song will be the kind
The world will like to sing

— Niyi Osundare

Analysis

Photo Credit: @humansofny

Inu Rere” by Niyi Osundare is a poem of twelve lines, divided into six stanzas. Each stanza has two lines. A poem or stanza of two lines is called a couplet. In other words, “Inu Rere” is made up of six couplets.

The title of the poem, “Inu Rere”, is a composition of two Yoruba words which literally mean “good mind”. The poet uses the Yoruba title because it is sound appealing. The tonality of the words makes them musical — re-mi-re-re.

“Inu Rere” extols the virtue of good-naturedness or good conscience and draws attention to its benefits.

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The poem is quite conversational. It is obvious the poet is admonishing someone or some people on why they should be good-minded or what happens if they are. The poet’s audience is addressed by a second person personal pronoun “you”.

To be good-minded here means to be disposed to or have one’s mind set on good.

A simple poem, “Inu Rere” begins with a conditional statement: “When your heart is clean/And your mind is good.” The next five stanzas show what will happen if one fulfills this condition. One should not wish others evil or even do them evil. This is what the poet means by having a good mind.

In stanza two, the poet says one “will walk through fire” but “will not be burnt.” By this, the poet means that a good-minded person will always come through the difficulties and turpitude of life unhurt.

In stanza three, the poet avers that one “will run the race” and will not be tired”. One’s good mind is enough to keep one going in the race of life.

Stanza four confirms that in one’s darkest moments, one’s good-naturedness will bring one hope and a change in fortune. It says “You will see a star/On the darkest nights.” Darkest nights symbolise one’s moments of difficulties. The star, by virtue of being an astral being, represents divine intervention.

Stanza five expresses the reward of having a good conscience in terms of mouth-watering unblemished food: “yam” that is “white and crisp”, and “bread” that is “soft and warm”. These signify the good and smooth life good conscience brings one.

Stanza six concludes that one will become the yardstick others measure themselves by. They will want to associate themselves with one. One becomes a point of reference when good virtues are mentioned. In the stanza, “your song” may mean one’s behaviour. As expressed in the last line of the poem — “The world will like to sing” —, one’s behaviour becomes what people emulate.

Figures of Speech

Synecdoche: “your heart” and “your mind” are good examples of synecdoche. They are parts of human anatomy and phenomenon respectively.

Hyperbole: There is an example of hyperbole in line 12 of the poem: “The world will like to sing”. To say the entire world will like to sing a person’s song is a gross exaggeration.

Alliteration: The following are examples of alliteration:

will walk (l. 3)
be burnt (l. 4)
run … race (l.5)
see … star (l. 7)
your yam (l. 9)
will … white (l. 9)
world … will (l. 12)

Parallelism: Lines 4, 6, 9, 10, and 11 have the same grammatical structure, that is, the SPC grammatical pattern (Subject—Predicator—Complement). Lines 5 and 7 have the same SPO pattern (Subject—Predicator—Object).

Symbolism: The poem is quite symbolic. “Fire” in line 3 describes the turpitude of life. “Race” has the literary sense of life as a contest. “A star” is symbolic of hope and providence. “Darkest nights” refer to one’s trying and most difficult moments.

Themes

A theme refers to the recurring idea or message passed across in a work of literature.

In “Inu Rere”, the prominent theme is the theme of good-naturedness. The poem also emphasizes its benefits.

We should have good disposition towards others. The poem notes that having a good mind is a precursor to a lot of good things. Highlighted below are the messages passed across in the poem:

  • Having a good mind will help one to scale through life turpitude unharmed.
  • A good mind can keep one going in one’s chosen endeavour.
  • A clear conscience attracts heavenly intervention during one’s trying moments.
  • Being good-minded makes life easier.
  • A clean mind can make one someone others look up to.

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