Full Summary and Analysis of J. P. Clark’s “Abiku”

This post carried out a good full summary and analysis of J. P. Clark’s “Abiku.” This post carried out a good full summary and analysis of J. P. Clark’s “Abiku.” It goes from the biography of the poet to the summary and analysis to other features of the poem. You can trust on the summary and analysis in this poem to guide you right.

Biography of J. P. Clark

J. P. Clark was born and raised in Niger-Delta part of Nigeria. He was educated in the Niger-Delta and the rest of the South East before he got admitted to study at the University College, Ibadan. In the university, he was active in writing and delivered a lot of works for campus journals and magazines. After finishing from Ibadan, he wrote poems and plays that became popular. He is recognized as one of the top writers of Nigeria’s first generation of writers.

His works are deeply rooted in praise of African culture, heritage and landscape. His poem, “Abiku,” came at the early point of his career and is influenced by his time in Ibadan since Abiku is part of Yoruba culture and belief system. Most of his set in University College, Ibadan, were greatly attracted to the culture of the Yoruba people where the school is located. This, in a great way, influenced this poem.

Clark also wrote of popular poems and plays. He was an important poet and writer, and was part of Nigeria’s first generation of writers. His contribution to Nigerian literature is considered as one of the biggest. He died in the second decade of the 21st century.

Background of the Poem

This poem is deeply rooted in belief system and culture of Abiku. What is Abiku? Abiku is the belief of the humans’ strong connection to the spirit realm. As such, some children are so connected to the spirit realm that they cannot remove themselves from that realm. These children, when they are born on earth, cannot really stay on earth. So, they die.

This belief system does not only stop at this children dying, they also return to earth through another childbirth. Then, they die again. Then, they return again. It is on the backdrop of this belief system that J. P. Clark writes this poem.

The “Abiku” belief system is present in a majority of the cultures in Southern Nigeria. The literal meaning of Abiku in Yoruba is “born to die.”

Full Summary and Analysis of J. P. Clark’s “Abiku”

The poem is a single stanza of 26 lines.

The persona begins with making an allusion to the activities of the Abiku of coming and going. The Abiku chooses not stay. He plays on the suffering and emotions of his parents. The persona is exhausted from the stress caused to him by this Abiku. His tone in the poem is angry, and at the same time, he pleads for the Abiku to make up his mind and stay.

Describing the friend of this strange child as your “kindred spirit,” the persona makes a bold statement of the child’s strong connection to the spirit realm. Then, he goes on to describe his poor house that “leaks through the thatch,” and where “bats and owls tear through at night;” thus, this strange child should have mercy on him and stay. He should step in to stay not to die again.

The persona writes about how he knows the knife mark on the child’s back (a mark they give to a dead Abiku child). In most cases, this strange child is given an indelible mark so that the child won’t return. This is to make the child feel to ashamed in the spirit realm to return to the suffering parents.

The persona encourages the child to stay that the house has seen many children grow and become great. In the last lines, the persona makes pleads for this strange child to stay because of his suffering mother. The mother, tired and weary from giving birth to dying babies, has milk that is going sour.

Themes in J. P. Clark’s “Abiku”

African Metaphysics: This is the predominant theme in the poem as there are two realms in the confines of the poem: the physical earth realm and the spirit realm. It is from this spirit realm that children are created and send forth to their parents. For the Abiku children, they refuse to stay as they come and go, and are born to die.

Belief in Reincarnation: Most African cultures believe in reincarnation. Thus, it is not surprising that the child being spoken to has a mark. The mark was given to him in his former life to scare him from coming back. However, he comes back with the same mark.

Mortality and Suffering: The mortality situation of humans is exposed in this poem. The child dies, only to come back, then dies again to reborn. It simply shows that human life and existence is of two points: the beginning (birth) and the end (death). Virtually, aside from this strange child, all humans are born to die, it is just a matter of time.

The parents, just like everyone, suffers the pain of death. Theirs is more because the child dies quickly after he is born.

Nature’s Connection to Human Life: This part is seen in the persona’s mention of nature elements like the “baobab tree,” “bats,” “owls,” and many others. There is a strong connection between human life and existence with nature.

Figures of Speech in J. P. Clark’s “Abiku”

There is the use of figures of speech and sound devices in the development of the poem. These figures of speech are present as thus:

Antithesis: “Coming and going these several seasons …”

Personification: “ … the bats and owls tear in at night”

Simile: “ … the knife scars/serating your back and front/like beak of the sword-fish” and “ … both your ears, notched/as a bondman to this house.”

Sound Devices

Alliteration: “Coming and going these several seasons …” and “… that dries the fresh fish up on the rack.”

Onomatopoeia: “serrating” and “tinder.”

Tone/Mood of the Poem: The tone and mood of the poem is sad. This is so because the persona recounts what the parents experience in the hand of the Abiku child.


This full summary of J. P. Clark’s “Abiku” will guide you properly in understanding the poem. This is a great attempt at analyzing the poem in details to you. You should do well to read the original contents of the poem as against this summary and analysis. It will help you out in your exam. Success!

Don't miss out!
Get FREE Stories and Tips!

Get Good Intriguing Stories and LIFE HACK tips sent to your mail for FREE!

Invalid email address
Take action. We don't spam. You can always opt out.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: