Wole Soyinka's "Wall of Mists"

Julia Edwards, '93 (English 32, Spring, 1990)

As the name "Wall of Mists" suggests, Soyinka descibes through an absent narrator, the intangible sounds that defined his existance during his months of isolation. Yet, these mysterious and "shrill" echoes are blatantly juxtaposed with the stark and revolting realties which are the "link of all bereaved": i.e., "monster beetles in wall ulcers," "mildew drying," "soiled streams," "brown waters," and "dark channels." Although this horrifying physicality composes a certain aspect of decay in prison, Soyinka states in his introduction that his poems provide a "map of the course trodden by the mind, not a record of the actual struggle against vegetable existance -- that belongs in another place." The description, delivered in a distant third person, exemplifies the secondary importance of physical reality. The physical decay of this section merely sets and provokes the ominous scene of the devastating transformation of the mind into something no longer human. Soyinka makes use of a Western mythological symbol, Circe, to represent the mental "metamorphosis" and destruction of human will that occurs amongst such "vileness":

Mist of metamorphosis
Men to swine, strength to blows
Grace to lizard prances, honour
To sweetmeats on the tongue of vileness

Soyinka uses images ("Witches' Sabbath," "Circe calling home her flock") and intangible motifs ("disembodied laughter," "There rose a shrillness in the air/Grunts, squeals, cackles, wheezes") to illustrate the psychological (un)reality of human isolation.

Poems List