Fulani Cattle by John Pepper Clark: Summary

The poem is a brilliant and sympathetic rendering of the poet's feeling on the fate of the Fulani cattle. The context is African. The poet feels agony in his heart when he finds himself face to face with the dead cattle. The whole poem is about poet's sympathy on the animal’s death - the pathos roused by man's inhumanity upon the innocent cattle.

John Pepper Clark

The natural death of the cattle is somehow satisfactory and consoling as against the brutality of man upon animals. The intention is to condemn man's inhuman and cruel nature. Now let's see how the poem develops through paraphrasing

I have a sense of regret Contrition winds me round like a snake. I coil round because I feel that I have done something wrong. This happens more so when I come to watch the dead body of your clan. There develops deep agony in me. I see in your face the whole mystery. I reflect upon your death in the slaughterhouse. Once you are suitable you are taken for butchery. But I see in your hump (back) some secret hope and knowledge. You are courageous. You are silent, mute and pale-looking (wan). You are totally innocent of the fact that you are taken to the slaughterhouse for killing (butchery). This forces me to reflect on the question - Is it for the shopping of your twisted and crooked horn that you are taken in the slaughterhouse? But the passions in you are far stronger than the storms which pass through Niger republic. With your death you are free from all such trammels. Now no drover's whip will come to strike on your balding back and crest. The "shocks of ecstasy' are all over now. With your death the trouble of life is also over. The drunken journey from the desert, through the grass and forest, to the "hungry" towns is now not necessary. "Hungry towns", a metaphor, speaks of the hungry people for the meat of the Fulani cattle. Now you are at rest. Your tail is patient but, the "long knife" is still required to feed the townsmen by the sea.

The speaker in the poem can be a slaughter man himself. He realizes the crime committed by him. So there is contrition in him. But the fate of the Fulani cattle is the same whether it dies a natural death or dies in the slaughter house. Despite the neat observation and evocation of pain and agony at the fate of the cattle, the speaker comes to terms with his action. The poem has, though irregular, good rhyme scheme. He poses some serious questions about what he observes. Questions are part of the rhetorical structure of the poem.

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Literary Appreciation of Fulani Cattle

Critical Appreciation of Fulani Cattle

Biography of John Pepper Clark