Nostradamus? ("Elegy for Alto")

Suzan G. Davidson, Brown University '93 (English 32, 1990)

In "Elegy for Alto," Christopher Okigbo presented his final testament. In 1966, at the age of 34, one year before being murdered by the Gowon Military, he prophecized a bleak future for his country. This poem "bemoaned the death of a great dream. The country stood at the brink of war, and the reversion to chaos, only temporarily staved off, continued with accelerated speed. For a man who had stood at the center of the great dream of Nigerian nationhood, the alienation and sense of doom were most distressing and painful.

For beyond the blare of sirened afternoons,
beyond the motorcades;
The voices and days, the echoing highways; beyond the latescence
Of our dissonant airs; through our curtained eyeballs, through our shuttered sleep,
Onto our forgotten selves, onto our broken images; beyond the barricades
Commandments and edicts, beyond the iron tables beyond the elephant's
Legendary patience, beyond the inviolable bronze bust; beyond crumbling towers --
beyond the iron path careering along the same beaten track --
The Glimpse of a dream lies smouldering in a cave, together with the mortally wounded birds.
Earth, unbind me; let me be the prodigal; let this be the ram's ultimate prayer to the tether . . .

-- "Elegy for Alto," Christopher Okigbo


Emmanuel N. Obiechina, Language and Theme (1990) pp.235-236.

Postcolonial Web Africa OV Nigeria OV Christopher Okigbo

Last Modified: 15 March, 2002