Night Rain by John Pepper Clark analysis, themes, literary devices

Background of the poet

John Pepper Clark was born Kiagbodo in Ijaw, 1935. He was educated at Government College, Ughelli and has an English degree from University College, Ibadan. He was the founding editor of The Horn, Student poetry magazines which played a crucial role in the history of literary development in Nigeria. He worked for a while as a newspaper editor, was a Parvin Fellow at Princeton University in the United State and Research Fellow at the University of Ibadan. He taught at University of Lagos where he became Professor and head of Department. He retired voluntarily in 1980 and set up the first Repertory theatre in the country, PEC Repertory Theatre. He was for ten years editor of the Black Orpheus.

Night Rain by J. P. Clark

 What time of night it is

 I do not know

 Except that like some fish

 Doped out of the deep

 I have bobbed up belly wise

 From stream of sleep

 And no cock crow

 It is drumming hard here

 And I suppose everywhere

 Droning with insistent ardor upon

 Our roof thatch and shed

 And through sheaves slit open

 To lightning and rafters

 I cannot quite make out over head

 Great water drops are dribbling

 Falling like orange and mango

 Fruits showered forth in the wind

 Or perhaps I should say so

 Much like beads I could in prayer tell

 Then on string as they break

 In wooden bowls and earthenware

 Mother is busy now deploying

 About our room let an floor

 Although, it is so bad

 I know her practiced step as

 She moves her bins, bags and vats

 Out of the run of water

 That like ants filling out of the wood

 Will scatter and gain possession

 Of the floor. Do no tremble then

 But, turn brothers, turn upon your side

 Of your loosening mats

 To where the others lie.

 We have drunk tonight of a spell

 Deeper than the owl’s or bat’s

 That wet of wings may not fly

 Bedraggled up on the iroko, they stand

 Emptied of hearts, and

 Therefore will not, stir, no, not

 Even at dawn for then

 They must scurry  in to hide.

 So let us roll over our back

 And again roll to the beat

 Of drumming all over the land

 And under its ample soothing hand

 Joined to that of the sea

 We will settle to sleep of the innocent and free.

Analysis & summary J. P. Clark’s Night Rain

Night Rain” by John Pepper Clark is a poem of one – stanza with forty seven lines. “Night Rain” is a narrative poem in which the poet – speaker renders account of his plight and also of his family during a heavy downpour. In the first two lines of the poem, John Pepper Clark discloses that he is completely oblivious of when the rain starts in the night

“What time of night it is

 I do not know”

Apparently, the ostensible reason for John Pepper Clark’s inability to know when the rain started is simply because it begins by drizzling, and then soon becomes torrential, disrupting J. P. Clark from sleep.

 “I have bobbed up belly wise

 From stream of sleep“.

The suddenness in which John Pepper Clark wakes up from sleep is depicted as: “…like some fish/ Doped out of the deep.” Symbolically, dope refers to a chemical poison which kills any fish that comes in contact with it. The immediate effect is that it makes the fish to float on the sea. John Pepper Clark, therefore, uses this image of dope instantaneous killing of fish and making it to float quickly on the sea to refer to his sudden wake from sleep.

Also read: Abiku by John Pepper Clark analysis, theme, literary devices

The setting of the poem, “Night Rain,” is literally a rural area, specifically in Niger Delta. The means of knowing the time is by cock’s crow. John Pepper Clark says that there was no cock’s crow to detect if it is morning or not, at the time of the heavy downpour, but the rain “is drumming hard” on the roof of their house and perhaps “I suppose everywhere” in the village.

The rain becomes extremely torrential as it drone “with insistent ardour upon/ Our roof thatch and shed.” Soon, through the opening of the thatch roof, the rain drops continuously. John Pepper Clark compares the rain that leak through the thatch roof similarly to orange or mango which falls down during a great wind that blows and shakes the entire branches of a tree.

Great water drops are dribbling

Falling like orange and mango

Fruits showered forth in the wind.”

His mother, who has also waken up, begins to move about the room with wooden bowls and earthenware, placing the wooden bowls appropriately at the direct leaking holes of the thatch roof so as to prevent the entire rooms from being drenched by the night rain that came unexpectedly.

In wooden bowls and earthenware

 Mother is busy now deploying

 About our room let an floor.”

Despite the darkness of the room, John Pepper Clark could detect the footfall of his mother as she moves about, putting all her essential possession out of the reach of water. This poem, “Night Rain,” shows that J. P. Clark is narrating his childhood experience, and of course the destitution that stings many families in the Niger Delta.

J. P. Clark, being the eldest of the children in the family, counsels his brothers not to “tremble” but they should move and sleep on the mats where others sleep.

Do no tremble then

 But, turn brothers, turn upon your side

 Of your loosening mats

 To where the others lie.

J. P. Clark laments about their predicament which is worse than animals such as owl and bat in line 34 and 40. These animals are always drenched by rain. But as human, they are living in the shelter of a thatch house, yet they are drenched like those animals when it rains. He encourages brothers that even though the state of their thatch house is extremely bad and rain wets things in the house, they should roll their back and sleep despite the heavy rain that threatens their sleep: “We will settle to sleep of the innocent and free.

Themes in J. P. Clark’s “Night Rain”

The two dominant themes in “Night Rain” are poverty and havoc of rain.

Poverty: The theme of poverty is portrayed through the house which John Pepper Clark, brothers and mother live in. The image of a thatch house is an indication of not having a money to build a zinc – roof house. J. P. Clark avers that he knows her mother’s “practised step as/ She moves her bin and bag” out of the reach of rain. It is the poor the poor family that mostly used mats to sleep instead of bed. This is to show that they are unable to afford or purchase bed to lie on. There is also no one in the family who possesses wristwatch or wall clock. They all depend on cock’s crow to determine night or day.

Havoc of Rain: The theme of rain havoc is another theme which is noted the poem. The poem, “Night Rain,” draws the reader attention to the havoc of rain which disrupts the J. P. Clark, his mother and brothers. The havoc is particularly seen and observed that it will destroy things in the house if effort to put things out of rain is not applied.

Literary devices in J. P. Clark’s “Night Rain”

Simile: The comparison of things in the poem are:

“falling like orange or mango” – line 16

“like ants filing out of the wood” – line 28

“like some fish” – line 3

“much like beads” – line 19

Language: John Pepper Clark uses a simple language to poetically narrate the ordeal a poor family faces. Words such as “ants filing” means ants are moving in group; “Droning with insistent ardour upon” showcases the heavy downpour on the roof of the thatch house.

Alliteration: Alliteration is employed in:

Line 4: “Doped… deep” – /d/.

Line 7: “cock crow” – /k/.

Line 19: “fruit … forth” – /f/.

Line 47: “settle … sleep” – /s/.

Enjambment: John Pepper Clark employs enjambment in the poem, Night Rain. There is a run on line from the beginning of and other lines of the poem. For instance:

 “What time of night it is

 I do not know

 Except that like some fish

 Doped out of the deep.”

Imagery in J. P. Clark’s Night Rain

The notable image in the poem, “Night Rain,” is sleeplessness and restlessness. The rain disrupts both the poet – speaker, his mother and brothers, denying them sleep when people were already asleeping. Instead of sleeping, they were busy moving possessions from one place to another.

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