In Anvil and Harmer, the persona is faced with the pathetic displeasure of the new change in his life, the change that is obviously not positive, one that brings regret and nostalgia. This is the African experience of cultural disruption. The speaker is not in agreement with the effect of western civilization on the African way of life. He regards the two cultures as items that cannot be conveniently put together comparing them with the anvil and hammer. He experienced a bit of this new life still but wishes to revert to the old misplaced way of life which he prefers.

Stanza one of Anvil and Harmer

The first explains the dissatisfaction of the persona; and the dilemma of choosing between the African culture and western civilization. This is captured in the first two lines: ‘caught between the anvil and the hammer in the forging house of a new life’. The forging house is a place where metals are heated and transformed into useful tools. But in this situation, it doesn’t look like changing for the better. Rather, the new experienced is not a welcome one. He is transformed by this new culture to have a new experience which he compared to songs.

Stanza two

The second stanza reveals how the persona is very used to his African way of life which he says is ‘tenuous and woven with the fiber of sisal’ with the sacrifices they are used to. But he adds that the European system is coming to change this tradition. When a thing is described as glorious, that thing is supposed to be good, but the persona describes this glory as flimsy, and the language of the Europeans as jargon (senseless).

Stanza three

In the third stanza, while searching for the best way to live, he calls out to the older people who are believed to know more about the African ways to revive the lost culture so that they can still be practices alongside the new culture “sew the old day for us, our fathers, that we can where them under are new garment”. They may not be able to stop practice the western way of life but the African life should not be completely wiped away.

Stanzas four and five of Anvil and Harmer

In stanzas four and five: our daily experience has been dominated by this new culture but we should continue to sing the African songs, wear the African cloths and talk about Africa in African languages. “And listen to the reverberation of our songs in the splash and moan of the sea:” sea, which is said to splash and moan, represents the west which has taken over the African people.


The experience of this speaker is what affects Africans in general. Have you wondered why some Africans marry two or three times instead of one. They call one traditional marriage; the second, white wedding before they may talk about court wedding. This is the confusion that this person is talking about. It becomes so difficult to live an exclusive African life, even though we are not willing to completely embrace the western culture. If you try to be African, you are criticized; if you try to be western, you are criticised so then which way would you go?

You are adviced to read How to Analyse Poetry.

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