Mango Seedling Poem by Chinua Achebe – Analysis and Summary

Read our detailed notes on the poem Mango Seedling by Chinua Achebe. Our notes cover Mango Seedling poem analysis and summary.

Mango Seedling Poem by Chinua Achebe

Through glass window pane
Up a modern office block
I saw, two floors below, on wide-jutting
Concrete canopy a mango seedling newly sprouted
Purple, two-leafed, standing on its burst
Black yolk. It waved brightly to sun and wind
Between rains—daily regaling itself
On seed-yams, prodigally.

For how long?
How long the happy waving
From precipice of rain swept sarcophagus?
How long the feast on remnant flour
At pot bottom?
Perhaps like the widow
Of infinite faith it stood in wait
For the holy man of the forest, shaggy-haired
Powered for eternal replenishment.
Or else it hoped for Old Tortoise’s miraculous feast
On one ever recurring dot of cocoyam
Set in a large bowl of green vegetables—
These days beyond fable, beyond faith?
Then I saw it
Poised in courageous impartiality
Between the primordial quarrel of Earth
And Sky striving bravely to sink roots
Into objectivity, mid-air in stone.

I thought the rain, prime mover
To this enterprise, someday would rise in power
And deliver its ward in delirious waterfall
Toward earth below. But every rainy day
Little playful floods assembled on the slab,
Danced, parted round its feet,
United again, and passed.

It went from purple to sickly green
Before it died,
Today I see it still—
Dry, wire-thin in sun and dust of the dry months—
Headstone on tiny debris of passionate courage.

To the memory of Christopher Okigbo May 1968

Mango Seedling Poem Introduction:

The poem Mango Seedling communicates a sentiment which is extremely touchy and mind catching. It discusses a little, delicate Mango Seedling which is courageously combating for life in a little corner in a city. The poem utilizes this as a stretched out illustration to allude to present day Africa itself. The condition of degeneration has set in such a great amount to a huge degree that man actually needs to fight forever. It portrays in clear detail the present day, occupied, apathetic city where life goes on mechanically with man having a brief period for the little marvels of nature. It helps us the poem to remember

 

Mango Seedling Poem Summary:

At the beginning, a separation is made between the speaker and the mango seedling. It is a completely present day set up and it is a solid wilderness with no space for nature. The separation is set up through glass window sheet two storeys beneath on wide jibing solid covering’. The mango seedling has grown on this solid covering. The place has turn out to be so dry and dead. This seedling does not have soil on the earth to plant itself. Be that as it may, it can as it were have the solid overhang. But still it has not lost its support and excitement forever. It waves splendidly to Sun and Wind. The downpours of rains do come yet they don’t sustain the seeding. Here the speaker makes explanatory inquiries which bring up the transient of its life, “How long the happy waving from precipice of area swept sacrifices”? The word ‘Sarcophagus’ is the way to demonstrate that the mango seedling’s introduction to the world is established in its demise. “How long it will be at pot bottom”? Such arrangement of inquiries are logically critical in tone. However, the seedling in any case waves bravely waving its head between the primordial fight of Earth and Sky, endeavoring intrepidly with sink establishes in objectivity, midair in stone. Everything appears restricted to its survival. In any case, the battle is still on; the rain may by some supernatural occurrence keep the start life in it alive. But, it rapidly lost its essentials with positively no assistance from any quarter. It went from purple to wiped out green convey to towards the earth blow for its survival.

 

Through glass window pane
Up a modern office block
I saw, two floors below, on wide-jutting
Concrete canopy a mango seedling newly sprouted
Purple, two-leafed, standing on its burst
Black yolk
.

The poet says that he is standing on the second floor of a four storied office building. The poet says that through the glass window pane, he says that a mango seedling is present at the second floor of that particular building. He at that point depicts that the mango seedling is adhere to a solid shade and it has held this mango seedling. The mango seedling is a newly sprouted means it has recently been soiled to grow. Then he describes the physical stature of the mango seedling that its color is purple, it is a two leafed and is standing in its burst black yolk. These lines tells us about the location and existence of the mango seedling. It clearly indicated that that the environment for the growth of the mango seedling is not favorable and it can perish away any time.

 It waved brightly to sun and wind
Between rains—daily regaling itself
On seed-yams, prodigally.

The poet in these lines says that the mango seedling is standing to face the sun and wind. Both the sun light and the wind are important for the photosynthesis process of the mango seedling without which it cannot survive. So the poet points to them as the mango seedling stands to face them. But the issue is that the rain does not reach to hit the mango seedling. This creates a problem for the mango seedling because with the sunlight and wind, rain water is very important for the growth of the mango seedling and the absence of rain water can bring a calamity to this mango seedling. The poet says that in the absence of the rain, the mango seedling eats its own roots to survive but this cannot be for a longer time as it is like eating its own part. These lines focus again on the survival in difficult circumstances. The poet again clarifies that the environment for the survival of the mango seedling is not a good one and the mango seedling has to fight very hard in order to survive.

For how long?
How long the happy waving
From precipice of rain swept sarcophagus?

The poet here asks a question that for how long this mango seedling can survive in such a situation where there is no water and rain. He asks for how long this mango seedling can wave happily to sun and wind. He compares the floor where this mango seedling stands with the stone coffin of ancient times. The point of the poet is that this floor without the rain is like a stone coffin for the mango seedling and this will end in the death of the mango seedling. This mango seedling, according to the poet, cannot survive in such an environment.

How long the feast on remnant flour
At pot bottom?

In these lines the poet asks another question as to what extent, the mango seedling can eat for the pot. Because, in the absence of water, the process of photosynthesis cannot take place. In addition to sunlight and wind, the presence of water is extremely essential for this process to take place. The point is that the mango seedling cannot eat for the roots for a specified time but after that its survival will become difficult and impossible.
 Perhaps like the widow
Of infinite faith it stood in wait
For the holy man of the forest, shaggy-haired
Powered for eternal replenishment.

The poet in these lines says that this mango seedling stands in window pane in the wait of someone who could come and save it. the poet says that this mango seedling has a believe that the man would come from the forest and will be having a shaggy-haired. This arrival would give the mango seedling power to grow more and more in a better way.

Or else it hoped for Old Tortoise’s miraculous feast
On one ever recurring dot of cocoyam
Set in a large bowl of green vegetables—

The poet says that the mango seedling in the way that things could better as a tropical plant like cocoyam gets better in a large bowl of green vegetables. But it is not the scenario and nothing gives help to the mango seedling.

 These days beyond fable, beyond faith?
Then I saw it
Poised in courageous impartiality
Between the primordial quarrel of Earth
And Sky striving bravely to sink roots
Into objectivity, mid-air in stone.

The poet says that now the survival of the mango seedling has become impossible because there is a quarrel between the two opposite forces of nature. The sky is not showering the rain and the mango seedling is in search of water for the survival. The poet says that the sky wants to help the mango seedling but the earth has gone such dry that nothing is offered to the mango seedling and hence the survival of the mango seedling is now impossible.

I thought the rain, prime mover
To this enterprise, someday would rise in power
And deliver its ward in delirious waterfall
Toward earth below.

The poet in these lines calls the rain as the prime mover. He says that the rain would someday fall very heavily and the water would reach to the every corner of the earth and hence everything will get a fresh breather.

 But every rainy day
Little playful floods assembled on the slab,
Danced, parted round its feet,
United again, and passed.

The poet`s thought that heavy rainfall that would glow everything again is shattered into pieces. He says that the rain which falls every day in nothing to give the resistance to the mango seedling for the survival. He says that with every rain fall, some drops of water come and they pass away without changing the situation of the mango seedling.

It went from purple to sickly green
Before it died,

The poet says in such a scenario when the water is less and the mango seedling has no chance of survival so its color goes from purple to sickly green and then it dies.
Today I see it still—
Dry, wire-thin in sun and dust of the dry months—
Headstone on tiny debris of passionate courage.

The poet then compares his current situation to the circumstances of the mango seedling and says that on that day when he was writing this poem the scenario was not changed and things were same for the people of his community.

Mango Seedling Poem Themes:

Struggle and Identity:

The struggle for life and renaissance that is shown by the mango seedling has echoes of an model, a prime ordinal struggle for presence also, identity by man. Aside from this, saw in the African setting, it additionally mirrors the battling of the local for identity and roots, against the western impact and expansionism. The poem is composed in a clear generic tone, however it is this very generic quality that brings out monstrous sensitivity for the seedling. By implication the poem mirrors the impacts of common war on the Africans by looking at the status of poor mango seedling.

Mango Seedling Poem Critical Analysis:

  • Mango Seedling by Chinua Achebe is a free verse of 38 lines.
  • Mango Seedling is partitioned into 4 stanzas of unequal lengths.
  • The setting of the poem is urban.
  • It narrates the story of the life span of a mango seedling which manifested its life in a place void of sufficient soils to sustain its living (the mango seedling was growing on a concrete roof in a second floor of a four storey office building).
  • The second stanza of the poem saw Achebe questioning how long the happy seedling would live even though the brave mango seedling was stocked between unfathomable.
  • In the third stanza, the poet blamed the rain for not helping the mango seedling move to a better place full of soil to sustain its future giant root.
  • In stanza four, Chinua Achebe said he found the mango seedling in a couple of weeks later dead after gone from a little purple plant to a sickly green:
    “It went from purple to sickly green
    Before it died,
    Today I see it still—
    Dry, wire-thin in sun and dust of the dry months—
    Headstone on tiny debris of passionate courage.”
  • “These days beyond fable, beyond faith?
    Then I saw it
    Poised in courageous impartiality
    Between the primordial quarrel of Earth
    And Sky striving bravely to sink roots
    Into objectivity, mid-air in stone.”
    From the excerpt above, Achebe claimed that the short-lived mango seedling resulted from the dissension between two major forces of nature; namely earth and sky, where the word sky is a metonymy for heaven. The mango seedling was so helpless even the rain which the poet referred to as “prime mover to this enterprise” could not move the mango seedling out its circumstantial danger.
  • This is a mild elegy to the great memory of Christopher Okigbo, a classic African poet.
  • Who is Christopher Okigbo?
  • Christopher Okigbo was a Nigerian librarian, teacher and poet who lived between 1932 and 1967; he lost his life fighting for the acquisition of Biafra and one among his well-known poem is Passion Flower. Chinua Achebe dedicated many poems to Christopher Okigbo and “Mango Seedling” written in May of 1968 is one of them.
  • Mango Seedling has vivid imagery such as “glass window pane” “sickly green”.
  • Poem has alliteration “Sky striking bravely to sink root” as well.
  • The poem contains rhetorical question such as “How long the feast on remnant flour at the pot bottom?”
  • There is repetition “beyond fable, beyond faith”

And then “Danced, parted round its feet” is an instance of personification in the poem.