Representation of Nature in the Poetry of Olajire Olanlokun

This article is published by the Zamfara International Journal of Humanities.


Ugochukwu Ogechi Iwuji, PhD
Department of English & Literary Studies,
University of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, Umuagwo, Imo State, Nigeria
ugoiwuji@gmail.com, 08068781712


This paper appraises selected poems from Olajire Olanlokun’s Children’s Poetry for Pleasure. It aims at establishing the extent to which the poems are archetypal nature poems. The theory deployed in the study is Ecocriticism, a school of thought which studies the relationship between literature and nature. The paper is significant in the sense that it enlarges the corpus of discourse in Children’s poetry in particular and Green Literature or Ecocritical studies in general. There has been a pronounced dearth of research in Children’s poetry in Nigeria as attention has been particularly paid to the prose fiction (stories) in expense of the poetic genre (verses). The peculiarities of both genres are poles apart as while stories can be complex and extensive, poetry is crisp and short. Children’s poetry also comes with sound and cadence, hence easily excites the psyche of children; making a work of this nature symbolic. The paper is also significant as it explores verses of nature predilection in a world which batters its natural endowment and environment, despite its attendant risk to humanity. The methodology used is qualitative as relevant poems are identified and evaluated in line with the literary elements they embody.

Key terms: Children’s poetry, Ecocriticism, Green literature, Nature poems


This paper is envisioned to discuss the representation of nature in Olanlokun’s Children’s Poetry for Pleasure. Nature, according to Barry (1995) is a present entity which affects us, and which we can affect, perhaps fatally, if we mistreat it. What this implies, then, is that nature occupies an important place in humanity. It is always with man and therefore needs a good treatment from him. This is even as Barry has warned that nature could turn against man when ill-treated. The theory of ecocriticism comes handy in this scenario as a potent tool in the preservation of nature which when destroyed only brings environmental crises. Cherry Glotfelty has provided a set of questions that address aspects of genre, ecology gender, institutional attitudes towards nature, and more. She suggests asking the following questions:

      i.            Are the values expressed in a given literary work consistent with ecological wisdom?

    ii.            How do our metaphors of the land influence the way we treat it?

  iii.            Do men write about nature differently than woman do?

  iv.            In what ways has literacy itself affected mankind’s relationship to the natural world?

    v.            How has the concept of wildness changed over time? (Dobie, 2013: 243-246).

Though late, Olajire Olanlokun published the only Children’s poetry title on the stables of Literamed Publication, a work which this research is interrogating for its nature essence. Some of his other titles include Tunde’s Birthday party, My Baby Sister, Fugitive in love, The Choice, City Boy etc. Indeed Olanlokun’s titles exceed well over twenty, making him win a post-humous award by the company, Literamed.

Nature in Olanlokun’s Children’s Poetry for Pleasure

Olanlokun’s “Sunflowers” for instance has an overwhelming representation of nature. In this poem, the persona appreciates the great effects nature has through the blossoming of flowering plants. Flowers to him occupy a prominent position in the natural world and of course commands a commendable presence:

Bright sunflowers

Your extended branches

Announce your presence to all

The foliage you display

Shows the essence

Of your being (1).

                The symbol of ‘Bright’ as used in the poem shows that nature is beautiful and lively. Anything that is bright unarguably commands attention. In presenting nature (through the sunflowers) as bright, the persona consciously gives ‘nature’ a symbolic toga of a piece of beauty that should be cherished and appreciated and not destroyed.

                The imagery of ‘foliage’ is that of a blooming mass of green leaves that exudes freshness and hope. Interestingly, it is this foliage, according to the persona that ‘shows the essence of being.’ Once again nature is given an adorable beam which is capable of engaging the minds of children in appreciating the entire essence of nature. The symbol of foliage is also that of shelter. Nature is thus, presented as capable of shielding its inhabitants from the extreme hazards of the environment and danger.

                Following the overwhelming eulogy of nature in the poem “Sunflowers” one can conclude that it is an ode written to nature, which is instructive especially to those who do not see anything vital in little flowers by their homestead; hence they derive joy in brushing and “harming” them. The adventurous nature of children often leads them to pluck innocent flowers on their way, an action they take unconsciously without underscoring the ecological dangers to which they indirectly expose themselves. This further makes the focal point of this thesis very valid as children are meant to understand that nature should be protected and not deflected. In the poem under study for instance, the flower (nature) is significantly presented as exuding sweet fragrance, such that makes it appear like a queen: ‘The sweet smell around you/Makes you a queen/Among your peers’(1).

The symbol of ‘sweet smell’ is significant in the poem for a number of reasons. First, anything that smells fine easily attracts people, which implies therefore that if nature attracts people, the people so attracted should accord it a pride of place. Furthermore, it implies that nature is friendly; for if nature were not friendly, it would not exude ‘sweet smell’. The smell, perhaps, would have been stale or insipid. In its totality, however, the symbol of sweet smell gives nature an attractive quality. It is for this reason therefore that the persona insists that nature is made a queen by its sweet fragrance.

                The use of ‘queen’ evokes the imagery of royalty and magnificence, thus lending credence to a biblical allusion that King Solomon in his entire splendour was not as beautiful as the birds of the air (nature). The illustration of the Sunflower with its queenly gaiety further heightens the imagery. The head of the flower has a crown-like decoration which adorns and gives prominence to the beautiful foliage.

                According to Garrard (2004: 18), “Ecocriticism is unique amongst contemporary literary and cultural theories because of its close relationship with the science of ecology”. In using ecocriticism, therefore, as a key-opener to nature representation in Olanlokun’s Sunflowers, nature represented by flowers is made more attractive, important and special in the psyche of children.

                In the “Moon” by the same poet, the persona similarly gives nature a prominent position. He accords nature a beautiful description in the opening stanza:

The moon crawls along the sky

Like a river flowing into the sea

Wrapped in black colour

With clothes of cloud (10).


                The abundant use of personification in the poem as in ‘’crawl’, ‘flowing’ ‘wrapped’, ‘clothes’ is all symbolic of the living attribute of nature. They are symbols effectively describing the form and movement of the moon. Evidently not satisfied with painting the moon in glowing terms, the persona goes ahead thus: ‘The moon forms a semi-circle which later becomes a circle/Providing a clear light brighter than that of NEPA’(16).

                In lines 3 and 4 of the stanza above, nature represented by the moon is presented as providing ‘clear light’ to mankind to help lighten his path. In this vein, the moon is presented as a symbol of light that extinguishes darkness. Children loath darkness because it is an agent of fear and worry to them hence the joy which pervades the veins of children when there is light is usually great. In portraying the ‘moon’ as providing an incandescent light, the persona implies that nature is a purveyor of happiness and joyful essence to man (especially to children).

                There is a marked use of antithesis in lines 3 and 4 in comparing nature and man’s creation, where the moon is presented as supplying ‘clear light’ compared with the blurred one by NEPA, an acronym for National Electrical Power Authority. In presenting nature as a symbol that supplies ‘clear light’ and NEPA, a human creation with its artificiality and errors, the persona eloquently proclaims that the importance of nature cannot be comparable to any other thing that performs a similar function. It follows that if NEPA supplies light like nature, that of the latter is brighter and better. Its light is ‘clear’, and of course naturally bright; whereas that of the former is described as blurred as it does not shine like the natural light that is represented by the ‘moon’.

The use of satire that is subtly intended to lampoon the authorities for being unable to provide a formidable electric power system to its populace draws from the ecocritical tenet that nature is kind, while man is unkind to his fellows. In being unable to stabilize NEPA, the authorities, according to the persona has impliedly failed to provide care to children who need light to play. This is why in the subsequent stanza, the persona, who is obviously a child, entreats the moon to grace him and his fellow children with his presence:


Come to us always

Provide unblinking light

For children to play

And make merry(16).


                ‘The moon’ is further presented as a symbol of happiness and comfort. The children express their joy and delight at its presence as they use it to ‘play’ and make ‘merry’. By nature, Children are adventurous hence children always want to play and be happy. The presence of darkness and blurred light symbolized by NEPA is repulsive to them. They need light and its warmth actuated by the play and merry they make in its presence.

                The imagery of ‘unblinking’ is that of something which never gets tired of shinning or beaming. Nature, by implication is presented as an element which is infinitely functional in providing light. In according an eternal status to nature, the persona impliedly validates the beautiful essence of nature in the provision of joy to children.

                The metaphor of ‘woman’ accorded nature in lines 9 and 10 is instructive of the kind essence of nature: “But the moon is a woman/kind, lively, caring mother”. In comparing the moon to a woman, the persona undoubtedly valorizes nature by giving it a motherly status which in itself is symbolic of kindness, care and liveliness. Impliedly therefore, while a mother cannot harm or overtly show hatred to her child, NEPA is a direct antithesis of whatever nature represents. For, where the moon (nature) does not blink, NEPA blinks. Where the moon is bright, NEPA is blurred. Furthermore, where the moon is kind, NEPA is unkind because children cannot play and merry under the blurred light it gives. Finally, where the moon is motherly, NEPA is indifferent. The import of these binaries goes a long way in revivifying the significance of ecocritical studies which expresses the relationship of literature and nature. Consequently, children desire the presence of the moon (nature) always as in ‘’come to us always’’ just as they see nothing good in NEPA which does not favour their cause with its blinking light.

                Olanlokun’s “The moon” is similar to Iris Hesselden’s “Starlight”, where nature elements of ‘star’ and ‘moon’ are given a pride of place. Whereas, Olanlokun’s ‘The moon’ brings ‘clear light’ that gladdens the minds of children, Hesselden’s “the moon” is symbolic of peace: ‘I gazed at the stars in the silent sky/when the earth was calm and still and/I watched the moon as she sailed aloft over the distant will/And I wished that this piece can still remain’ (Thomson ed. 2012:136).

                The moon in the poem is symbolic of peace. If therefore nature is a symbol of peace, it follows that nature should be appreciated by man. Anything that is peaceful is loved by man; as such no sane person cherishes a situation of strife and disturbance. The persona so desires this peace that he proclaims: “And I wished this peace could still remain and last through the/coming day to calm the world with its stress and strife/And soothe the worries away” (136).

Nature represented by ‘moon’ is once again seen as a symbol of peace that comes to quell the crisis into which humanity has been engulfed. The imagery of ‘stress’ and ‘strife’ as used in line 3 above is that of a world that has been thrown into pandemonium and restiveness perhaps by industrialization and activities that denigrate nature and its essence. When therefore the consequences of this disdainful treatment of nature emanate, nature is once again entreated to come to the rescue. In this light, nature is viewed by the persona as the deux ex machina in a world full of crisis and worries; full of regrets and tears.

                The reverence accorded to nature as represented by the moon is also extended to the stars, which the persona equally views as a symbol of peace and hope: ‘But I thanked the stars for the peaceful night/and the hope they gave to me!”(136). If according to the persona, nature brings peace and hope, it shows that nature is held in high esteem, for peace and hope are two factors so desired by man in a world that holds but little of them for its populace. For a child reader, it has its varied implication. One, when there is peace, a child grows and develops properly. He also experiences love and consequently exudes it. Importantly too, peace heralds hope, the beautiful anticipation of a glorious future - a future full of promises and good tidings. Fortunately, it is nature that is the harbinger of this peace and hope that foregrounds a child’s happy future. If this is so, ecocriticism therefore stands tall amongst other literary theories in being the key opener with which a critic appreciates nature and what it represents. And for the child reader, the representation of nature in the works he so reads serves as a tonic to sustaining his interest.

                All in all, the tone of the poem is that of adoration for nature which is evidently depicted and valorized in glowing terms. For instance while the moon according to the persona symbolizes peace, the stars symbolise both peace and joy. Yet the persona is not done with nature. Having romanticized the star and moon, he alluringly presents the ‘sun,’ another gift of nature to man thus: ‘and when I awoke, the sun shone out/A joy for all to see” (136). For the persona, ‘sun’ is symbolic of joy. The imagery of joy here is that of delight and glee experienced by a persona ensconced in solitude and melancholy. The metaphor of joy as symbolized by the sun, to a child reader, is reminiscent of the beauty of nature which deserves appreciation and unreserved attention. In this light, the function of Literature is appreciated, as according to Huck et al (1993:10) ‘Literature develops children’s imagination and helps them to consider nature.’

                In line with ecocritical tenets, which Glotfelty and Fromm expounded in The Ecocriticism Reader, works of art that bring the essence of nature to the fore help to raise the needed consciousness which nature deserves. It is also in the light of this that Olanlokun’s “Preserve the Environment” eloquently proclaims the beauty of nature and the need to shield it from harm. He begins with a glowing commendation of nature:

Forest of a thousand trees

Your inhabitants are counted in dozens

Birds fly like the jets

Antelopes run faster than sport cars

Trees harry to reach the sun

(Olanlokun, 2003: 38).


                The tone of the verse is that of admiration for nature. Like a paid praise singer, the persona hails nature and calls it, ‘Forest of a thousand trees’. The use of this metaphor is in utmost reverence to nature represented by the forest.

                The use of simile in ‘Birds fly like the jet’ is in admiration of the beauty that is nature. It is also symbolic of the completeness of nature. Since jets are made in the mode of birds, it can be safely adduced that the manufacturers are only imitating nature, yet this imitation can only remain as any other which cannot be like the original. This is even as the persona quickly in the next line validates the superiority of nature over artificialities: ‘Antelopes run faster than sport cars.’ Fast as the sport cars could be, they still cannot equal the fastness and glory of nature illustrated by ‘antelopes.’

                The use of personification in ‘trees hurry to reach the sun’ is symbolic of the living attribute accorded nature. The persona uses human attributes for it in apparent admiration of its active essence. The imagery of hurrying trees determined to reach the sun shows how effortlessly nature blooms and blossoms to protect mankind from extreme heat and hazard.

                Another significant use of simile in ‘streams flow as if they have an appointment’ is symbolic of the seamless coursing of the stream (nature). This natural flow has been observed by scientists to be responsible for the purification of the water from germs and other infections. In turn man enjoys this water by way of using it to cook and drink. Impliedly, therefore, if nature could be this kind it means it needs mankind’s collective attention and preservation. Little wonder the persona ends in a didactic tone, “For every tree felled, plant another/preserve the environment for all.” In implying that humanity should embark on afforestation when a tree is felled, the persona impliedly postulates that the destruction of nature is inimical to the survival of man. In this light, nature is made significant in the poem in line with ecocritical poetics. In ‘Preserve the Environment for all’, the tone of the persona is that of disgust with the untoward attitude of mankind towards the natural environment, where people mindlessly destroy nature and at the end expect to be protected by it. For the child-reader who gains consciousness towards nature through a poem of this ecocritical bent, he unconsciously matures to be a lover of nature, an attribute that gives impetus to the whole essence of ecocriticism.

                Olanlokun’s poem, “Cotton Bud” is one poem that radiates with vitality as it proclaims the indispensability of nature. The symbol of the ‘sun’ in this poem, for instance, is that of an indispensable element that helps the environment retain its green glamour. The cotton bud is presented as a plant which depends on nature for survival just like every other plant does. In the poem, the cotton bud makes a passionate appeal for the sun to come and shine on it in: ‘Beckoning the sun for a chat/with the lips parting ways.’ The use of personification ‘beckoning’ once again reinforces the belief of ecocritics that nature is a living thing that needs to be given attention. For, if man could go to sleep or rest, nature in all its splendour does not. It works round the clock to make the earth habitable for man. Yet man most does not appreciate this as he wantonly destroys it.  

                The imagery used in the last line, “with the lips parting ways” is a sensual one showing the symbolic reception of the sun by the cotton bud. It is this that represents the photosynthetic activities of the sun which in turn aids the growth and greening of plants. Indeed, without this symbolic ‘chat’ between the ‘sun’ and the ‘cotton bud’; the latter will not effectively blossom and produce the needed raw materials that are processed for clothes to be made. Human beings are the direct beneficiaries of this ‘chat’ as the clothes so processed are worn by them. In more ways than one, therefore, nature has effectively asserted its central role in man’s life. It follows that humans must recognise the important place of nature in their lives so as to defend its cause.

                Olanlokun’s ‘Cotton bud’ is also symbolic of the complex roles nature plays as the persona not only salutes the sun, he also recognises the symbolic presence of the “harmattan’’ which according to him is a ‘friend’ of the “cotton bud in the farm land”. The use of harmattan is symbolic in that it is the singular natural season or activity that instigates the process of pollination in flowers and as such helps the cotton to bloom. After the pollination, comes the beauty that is symbolically brought about by the sun, an action which the persona does not fail to admire and commend.

                Indeed a child-reader whose awareness of nature is raised by a poem such as ‘Cotton bud’ stands to gain immensely. One, he will have at an early age learnt to take a helpful recourse to nature, which has proved, after all to be a potent element to the survival of mankind. Furthermore, his behavior and bearing will have been cultured to the things of nature, an attitude advocated by Ogbeide Victor in his “Beyond Complexion, class and race: An Ecocritical study of Alex La Guma’s A Walk in the Night and A Threefold Cord,” where he quotes Rigby (2006:535) as advocating a unity between nature and culture.

                The representation of nature also gets a vivid picture in ‘Nigeria, My Country’ a poem where Olajire Olanlokun valorizes nature for the beautiful impartation it has made in the country Nigeria:

Nigeria, my country

The land of the ever-brightening sun

Watered by rivers Niger and Benue

Blessed with gold and diamond (5-7).


                Nature in this poem is variously represented by the ‘sun’, ‘River Niger and Benue.’ The image of the sun is that of a natural element which not only brightens the horizon, but also aids the growth and productivity of nature products such as agricultural produce. It is for this that the persona maintains that Nigeria is a land where nature (yam, cassava and guinea corn) can ‘Tame hunger and put off the flame/ of famine.’ The image of the sun is further heightened in these lines as a helpful and beneficial natural force that makes agriculture to flourish bountifully. This in turn wards off the cold hands of hunger and famine whose rage and pains could be debilitating. Significantly, the symbol of ‘sun’ has been a recurring motif in the nature poems presented in Olanlokun’s Children’s Poetry for Pleasure. It is present in ‘Cotton Bud’and ‘Preserve the environment’, a representation that lends credence to the overwhelming presence of nature in the stability of man’s happiness and wellbeing.

                The symbol of Rivers Niger and Benue as presented in the poem is reminiscent of the life and power which nature (through both rivers) bring in the stability of the country Nigeria. Being two rivers that criss-cross through many states in Nigeria, Rivers Niger and Benue have significantly served as a means of transportation of humans, goods and services across the length and breadth of Nigeria, in addition to serving as good sources of irrigation for Agriculture. Symbolically, the place of Agriculture in providing food to feed the hungry lot of Nigeria cannot be overemphasized. And farming is one activity that does not take place in a vacuum, especially where there is no water. Furthermore, the presence of the two rivers is symbolic in providing reliable sources of potable water for Nigerians. When therefore the poet’s persona proclaims that the country of Nigeria is watered by Rivers Niger and Benue, he takes into useful account, the power of water in the affairs of mankind.

                Everything about nature in Olanlokun’s poetry is markedly presented to exalt its centrality in the affairs of man. Like the persona glowingly recognizes the place of nature in ‘Nigeria, My Country’ where rivers Niger and Benue are presented as the sources of water that prosper the land, nature in ‘Wind of joy’ is once again proclaimed by the persona as putting smile on the face of mankind:

Wind of joy

Be our companion

And put a smile

On the face of mankind (18).


                The metaphor of the ‘wind of joy’ in the poetry is symbolic of nature’s usefulness in giving man the needed happiness and joy. This obviously could be by way of the wonderful ventilation it blows across, which helps to douse the heat produced by the ecosystem; as well as its ability to instigate the process of pollination in plants which makes them bloom and boom. When this happens, the aesthetics of nature and its agricultural import is appreciated and utilized.

                 The tone of the poem is that of admiration for nature for being a harbinger of joy to mankind. In appealing to the wind of joy to ‘blow across the land/and soothe the pains /of those in sorrow,’ the persona impliedly reposes trust and confidence in what the wind is capable of doing. The symbol of ‘pain’ and ‘sorrow’ is reminiscent of the recurring famine and poverty pervading the ranks of humanity, an indication that man has not been able to be of any significant help to fellow man. Similarly, the imagery invoked by ‘pain’ and ‘sorrow’ is that of people benighted by hopelessness and gloom, a situation that throws them in a state of mourning where they bemoan their fate with pangs of regret. Sending a clarion call to nature to come to the rescue therefore aptly revalidates the premium humanity places on nature as a dependable ally that can put a smile/on the face of/mankind (19).

                The representation of nature is made more evident in Olanlokun’s “Drought” where nature is passionately entreated by mankind to come to the rescue in the debilitating situation of drought ravaging the land. Indeed, the outcry of the persona is mournful:

The drought has come again

Like a thief in the night

Taking away from the land

The treasures we all cherish (33).

The imagery of the ‘drought’ in this poem is that of a heartless fiend who makes the people to grieve in utter helplessness. Indeed, the persona brands it ‘a thief in the night,’ an appellation befitting only to an enemy of the people, who does not want them to eat or be happy. Similarly the imagery in the third line (taking away from the land) further pictures the surreptitious act of drought in purloining the treasures (happiness) of the people.

The gory picture of the stark effects of the drought is succinctly captured by the persona in his mournful outburst thus: ‘There is thirst in the land/There is hunger in the land/There is illness in the land’(line7-9). The imagery here is a serious one as the stark reality of the drought is presented in a frightening manner. By so doing, the use of catharsis to evoke pity at the untoward condition of the people is symbolic of the helplessness of humanity in the face of drought. Consequently, the persona passionately beckons on nature to come to the rescue of the people so as to restore their land, lost treasures and health: ‘’Earnestly we pray/Rain, please come again’ (lines 10-11).

                The tone of the poem is that of an emotional plea for nature to intervene amidst the rampaging drought engulfing humanity. The symbol of this appeal to nature for restoration and merciful intervention revs up against the backdrop of the stabilizing role of nature. Man thus retains the belief that nature’s role in his overall well-being is just non-negotiable. Impliedly, therefore, the persona is full of respect and gratitude to nature (rain) for possessing the innate capacity to protect and shield man from hunger and sickness, a role which he beseeches it to play in order to salvage their pitiable condition of drought.

The capacity of nature in restoring normalcy in a land ravaged and beclouded by drought in Olanlokun’s ‘Droughts’ is figuratively proclaimed by the persona who goes emotional in pleading that nature sends rain to drive away drought, which by implication shows nature as the ultimate solution to man’s unending problems. This much is reasserted in Iris Hesselden’s ‘Wishes’ where the persona presents a number of his heartfelt wishes for his beloved who is apparently in a serious, pitiable situation:

I wish you a rainbow after storms

And a soft wind from the sea

With small wild flowers round your paths,

Which others may not see

(Thomson ed. 2012:4).


                The natural elements of rainbow, soft winds and wild flowers, are symbolic of the solace that is nature. For, despite the degree of his distress and solitude, the persona is optimistic that nature can effectively restore his lost joy and glory. In the light of the foregoing, the tone of the poem is that of optimism that nature’s restoration power can certainly end the distressful situation of his beloved. For if the ‘rainbow’ with its beauty and splendour can give the beloved a wonderful entertainment, a ‘soft wind from the sea’ is capable of serenading him to a peaceful sleep which blesses the deep recesses of his soul and fills him with delight and pleasure thereafter.

                The value of nature is once again explored in the last stanza as the persona proclaims his last wish for his beloved:

I wish you the beauty of nature

The wonder of all you can see

With love growing stronger around you

And all that tomorrow can be (line 18-21).

                Nature is glowingly valorised in the above lines as possessing immense beauty that can rhapsodise a distressed person. This way, nature is presented as being self-sufficient enough to give comfort to the discomforted, happiness to the unhappy and rest to the restless. This self sufficiency in beauty and splendour is heightened in the second line where the persona metaphorically considers nature as ‘The wonder of all you can see’ which is capable of giving a distressed and a hopeless, hope as seen in the last two lines: ‘With love growing stronger around you/and all that tomorrow can be’. Nature, thus, betokens hope which makes mankind to be symbolically positive about life. The consequent effect of this is joy which pervades mankind.

                The representation of nature is apt in Olanlokun’s “I look up the Sky” where the persona views nature with admiration and love. Like a typical Romanticist of Wordsworthian mould, he stands in utter wonderment at the workings of nature. At the end of his studious assessment, he arrives at the conclusion that ‘I have no control on all’(60). This lends credence to the timeless and well-routined way that nature could exert some level of control over other things besides it. In this light he views nature as awesomely unique. The workings of nature further astound the child-persona as he proclaims,

I look up the sky

The sun rising from the east

I look up the sky

The sun setting in the west (60).


                The symbol of the sun is once again invoked by the persona as one piece of beauty with which nature decorates earth. In other preceding nature poems in this anthology, the persona had seen the sun as a symbol of hope to mankind with its brilliant light which adds glamour to every nook and cranny of the earth. The persona may have laboriously wondered what and how the earth could have been if the sun had not been in existence. He may have also imagined how plants would grow food for man without the positive touch of the sun. In this light therefore, the imagery of the sun becomes that of a benevolent force that makes the sky and the earth glow.

                For the child-reader, the implication of the poem is that his sense of adoration for the natural environment is heightened and intensified. He also gains some nature-induced knowledge on how the sun significantly rises and sets. With these nature-workings in mind, a child’s awareness of nature is aroused and consequently sustained. He may even revel in the splendour of the rising and setting of the sun, an activity that may prompt him to stand symbolically like the illustrated child in the pages of the book who stands with hands placed across the chest, marveling and pleasantly wondering on how the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. With mouth agape at the piece of beauty he so imagines, as aptly illustrated by the image of a child standing with eyes admiring the sun, the child’s sense of appreciation is further aroused as he may unconsciously plunge the results of his imagination to a physical drawing that captures his thoughts.

                Nature also manifests in the poem with the symbolic reference the child persona makes at the moon as that which makes the night ‘bright’ for children to be happy and hopeful: I look up the sky/The moon making my night/bright (line 5-7). The symbol of the moon to the child persona is that which makes the night beautifully bright and inviting, thus confirming the fact that children are not in love with darkness. A child engulfed in darkness that the night brings is gloomy and full of fear. His melancholic state could even make him see nothing good in nature and all its bounties and beautiful essence. Therefore, the symbolic presence of the moon not only makes the night pleasant for him, it also makes it friendly. For instance, when the moon shines and exerts its brilliance on the earth, a child’s enthusiasm to play and make merry is aroused.

                The tone of ‘The moon making my night/bright’ stems from the fact that children want to be thrilled always as they do not cherish or contemplate any dull moment. Their simple nature and mind goads them to engage in any activity that may makes them glow with joy and triumph. When therefore the brightener of the day (sun) gives way and that of the night (moon) sets in, the adrenalin to play literally revs up in the child. In this light, the moon assumes a symbol of joy for the child-persona who makes merry under its influence. This is even as the persona had in a similar poem referred to the moon as ‘a woman/kind, lively, caring mother.’ These are symbols of goodness represented by the moon.

                The admiration of nature as expressed by the child-persona is taken a notch further as he relishes the process of rainfall which nature facilitates. In his pleasant puzzlement, he exclaims: “I look up the sky/The rain falling on my head” (line 8-9). The tone of these lines is that of love and appreciation for what nature offers to humanity. The persona apparently expresses his excitement at the manner the rain splashes on his head. The symbol of rain to a child-reader is significant in many ways. First, the rain provides a pleasurable experience for children, an experience which motivates children to march out with glee to play and merry under the rain. Secondly, the rain is always needed for children to drink in order to be healthy. Nature, thus becomes an object of good health for children. Also, the symbol of rain is that of a natural force that encourages greenery because when it rains, plants and crops are fed to blossom and bloom, a process that generates food and makes the environment healthy.

                Nature according to Hesselden (2012:104) ‘has a perfect plan/A special magic to impart’. This lends further credence to Olanlokun’s lines in “I look up the sky,’’ where the perfect plan of nature is clearly manifested in the timely rising of the sun in the east and its setting in the west, as well as the blossoming of the moon at night, and the falling of the rain at its appointed time. If nature has a perfect plan, according to Hesselden, it then means nature requires mankind’s collective appreciation and admiration, a gesture which should be shown through the preservation of nature in order to enable it function adequately.

                The power of poetry in capturing man’s treatment of nature is instructive. Like Olajire Olanlokun in his Children’s Poetry for Pleasure, under study, many ecocritical poets are emerging gradually in Nigeria. These are poets who are concerned with the representation of nature in art; while some represent nature by appreciating its workings, others represent it by repudiating humanity for the undue harm it exerts on it. Uche Umez’s Dark Through The Delta, for instance laments the degradation of nature by oil explorers:

I see the fat of the land

Being eaten out

By the bourgeoning pollution

By the intricate machinery of oil greed (2005: 8).


                The grim imagery in the above lines is symbolic of the harm that has been mindlessly done on the natural environment especially in the Niger-Delta parts of Nigeria. This harm has indeed adversely affected the living conditions of the people who have to live in very unacceptable situations because their major means of livelihood (the river) has been polluted. Accordingly the tone of the poem is mournful as the poet’s persona is obviously sad at the state of his once prosperous land now ‘eaten out’ by unfriendly ‘machinery of oil greed’. The symbol of the ‘fat of the land’ is that of the wealth of the people that sustains them, but which has been obviated by oil explorers. The persona characterises these explorers as greedy because they are oblivious of the harm their activities bring to the people. Figuratively therefore, he sees them as enemies of nature who do not mean well for the environment of the people.

                The child-reader through this learns that it could be harmful to degrade nature; and as the ‘fat of the land’ is being ‘eaten out’ by the utter neglect of nature, a child reader is faced with the choice of embracing nature and its ideals so as to sustain their beautiful environment, which after all forms the beckon of his survival.

                The disgust of Umez in the degradation of nature is also evident in “No Honey Flows Here” where the poet’s persona bemoans the fate of the land in the hands of oil explorers who exploit their oil and ravage their environment without caring a hoot. He therefore decries the abject poverty into which his people are thrown after their natural environment has been destroyed:

No honey flows here

Where children scavenge the streets

In search of mildewed bread in the bins

No honey flows here….

Just the undying bitterness of a land shaded (10).


                The imagery of the above verse is scary and frightening as a situation where children suffer and wander hopelessly in search of ‘mildewed bread in the bins’ is unacceptable to the poet’s persona. Similarly a condition where the ‘honey’ of the land has been drained away by greedy oil companies is totally disgusting to the persona. The symbol of ‘honey’ as used in the passage is the natural environment which has over the time shielded the people from poverty and hopelessness. Unfortunately, it is this nature’s gift to the people that has been mindlessly ravaged and purloined hence children, who after all, are always the worst-hit; roam about in a helpless adventure for food. The symbol of ‘bitterness’ and ‘shackled’ used in characterizing the land of the people evokes pity and soberness of the mind.

                According to Garrard (2004:1) ‘pastoral peace rapidly gives way to catastrophic destruction.’ This is indeed evident in the lamentation of Umez whose ecocritical poetry is mournful in tone, arising from the mindless plundering of the natural environment of the Niger Deltans, a people who have historically been at the mercy of multi-national oil giants whose activities have been inimical to the ecosystem of the people. Impliedly, therefore, Umez is of the strong opinion that the oil explorers in the Niger Delta should preserve the natural environment of the people so that they do not entirely lose out both in the area of their oil and their environment.

                A beautiful natural environment attracts tourists besides serving as a people’s beacon of hope and survival, a type of environment which Gostelow (2007) captures in describing the natural beauty of South Africa thus:

South Africa has a magic that captures every visitor. It casts its spell on one summer’s night spent under the stars in the sands of the Kalahari. As the sun slipped below the horizon, we barbecued around a camp fire before resting our heads beneath the most romantic roof in the world (87).

                The imagery of an aesthetically pleasant nature environment in South Africa pervades the mind as one read this. It is the allure of this environment that draws visitors and tourists to South Africa. It follows, therefore, that nature on its own has an attractive essence. And the symbol of magic in the excerpt above represents no other thing than the presence of a natural environment unspoiled by the activities of an industrialized world. It is this presence that Gostelow (2007:3) reminisces yet again about Pretoria: ‘The region around Pretoria – called Jacaranda city for its avenues of trees that blossom into purples clouds in October is scattered with mansions and monuments that encapsulate in stone and bronze the country’s exciting history.” The pride of place accorded the natural environment of South Africa is symbolic of the premium placed on nature by ecocritics. As an ecocritical journalist, Gostelow does not hide the sole purpose of the attractions and fascinations accorded South Africa, which is the beauty of the natural environment there.

                It is in the light of this that Olajire Olanlokun maintains in “The Night and the Moon” that nature has a special beauty that makes it exude hope to mankind. In the poem, the child persona represents nature by capturing the relationship in function between ‘The night’ and ‘The moon’. For instance when night, which of course symbolically divides two separate days, sets in, it brings darkness which is not in any way endearing to children. However, while mankind prepares for night through ‘lamps of various sizes’ which ‘Run to embrace him,’ (Olanlokun 2003:62-63) the persona still patiently awaits the arrival of the moon.

                The child-persona uses the metaphor of ‘a bride in the waiting’ to compare the moon. The symbol of ‘a bride’ is that of a highly valued, cherished person whose absence could mar a wedding occasion. In symbolically presenting the moon as ‘a bride in the waiting,’ the child persona implies that it is the presence of the moon that actually adds glamour to the night. And for children who are affrighted by a gale of darkness, it is this bride in the waiting that changes their gloom to bloom.

                The tone of the poem is that of hopefulness. This is even as the child persona is confident that the moon (a bride in waiting) will ‘creep in’ and extinguish the darkness that frightens children. The valorization of the moon here which is symbolic of the working of nature is significant because ecocritics are always interested in how nature is represented in a literary work.

                According to Chukwu (2008:5) ecocritical poets are unique for their exceptional ability to gauge the beauty of nature. It is in this light that Dorothy Morris, like Olajire Olanlokun, profusely admires and illuminates the essence of nature in “Living Flowers”, a metaphor for beautiful birds and butterflies like the ‘Peacocks’ and ‘Admirals’. The imagery cast by the mere perching of these creatures is that of flowers that are living and moving:

They settle on the buddleia

And I could watch for hours

Red admirals and peacocks

Like living, moving flowers

With the middle-faintest tremble

As though wafted by a breeze (Morris, 2012:50).


                Indeed it is only a poet obsessed by the exquisite offering of nature that can, like William Wordsworth, highlight the symbolic appearance of birds on the buddleia. The use of simile in line four typifies the flowery appearance of the birds on shrubs. The persona’s comparison of the birds’ appearance on the buddleia heightens with his disclosure that they create beautiful patterns that surpass that of an emperor:

And I can gaze at ease

At the richness of their patterns

More exquisite by for

Than the jewels of an emperor (8-11).


The symbol of ‘richness’ and ‘exquisite’ is that of adorability at the natural beauty of birds. In being rich in beautiful patterns, the persona implies that the sight of birds offers engaging and admirable scenery which in its exquisiteness an on-looker ‘can gaze at ease’. The result of this quiet gaze is peace, a reason for which Greenslade (2012:49) writes:

Inside, you’ll feel tranquil and unwind

Relaxing, you’re healing within

Refreshed in your mind you will find then

What a state of composure you’re in

(Thomson ed. 2012:49).


Nature therefore offers peace in many ways. And this peace has a marked significance of providing a bastion of comfort in which mankind could forget his troubles and trials, a comfort which Gent (2012:91) describes as Nature’s gift in fulfilling ‘her time-honoured tryst’ with mankind.


Children’s poetry presents a potent tool for social orientation and integration in a world that is fast losing its essence. Man’s natural environment is under a grave depletion masterminded in part by the activities and negligence of man himself. Studies in Children’s poetry of nature predilection come timely to fill a yawning epistemic space. Children by their nature have a psychological capacity to be influenced by what they read or taught. Olanlokun’s Children’s Poetry for Pleasure embodies archetypal poems of nature which can influence little minds to become conscious of nature and its centrality in the affairs of men. Markedly, nature poems easily permeate the psyche of children because nature itself is pervasive, and indeed part of the children’s wellbeing.


1.       Barry, P. (1995). Beginning Theory. United Kingdom, Manchester University Press.

2.       Chukwu, E. (2008). The Poet and His Nation. Port-Harcourt: His Grace Printers.

3.       Dobie, A. (2012). Theory into Practice: An introduction to Literary Criticism. USA: Wadsworth.

4.       Garrard, G. (2014). Ecocriticism USA: Routledge.

5.       Gent, B. (2012) ‘Tranquility Beckons’ in The People’s Friend. Thomson (Ed) London D.C Thomson Annuals.

6.       Glotfelty C. and Fromm H. (1996). The Eocriticism Reader: Landmarks in Literary Ecology. London: Longman Group.

7.       Gostlelow, M. (2007). South Africa USA: Jpia Publications.

8.       Hesselden, Iris (2012). “Perfect Plan” in The People’s Friend. Thomson (Ed) London: D.C Thomson Anuals.

9.       Ogbeide, Victor (2014) Beyond Complexion, Class and Race: An Ecocritical Study of Alex La Guma’s a Walk in the Night and a Threefold Cord in Journal of Emerging Trends in educational research and policy studies, Scholarlink Research Institute Journals (ISSN:2141-6990).

10.    Olanlokun, O. (2003) Children’s Poetry for Pleasure. Ibadan: Literamed.

11.    Onuekwusi, J.A (2002). Romanticism in Literature. Owerri: Alphabet Niageria Publishers.

12.    Umez, P.U. (2005). Dark Through the Delta. Owerri: Edu-Edy Publishers.

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