Summary and Themes in Niyi Osundare poem Ours To Plough Not To Plunder

Summary and Themes in Niyi Osundare poem Ours To Plough Not To Plunder


A poem is a group of words, either spoken or written, that creatively and vividly convey concepts or feelings. A specific rhythmic and metrical pattern makes up a poem. As it is either in free verse or metrical rhythm, it is actually a literary device that differs from prose or everyday speech. Poets and writers find it easier to communicate their feelings via poetry or writing than through other forms of expression. It acts as a light to guide the readers in the proper direction. Occasionally, it imparts a moral message to them using pretentious language.

The poem “Our earth is ours to plough and not to plunder” by Niyi Osundare is a powerful piece that highlights the importance of responsible stewardship of the Earth. Osundare, a Nigerian poet and professor, uses vivid imagery and thought-provoking language to convey his message.

The title of the poem immediately sets the tone and theme, emphasizing the idea that the Earth is not something to be exploited or taken advantage of, but rather a precious resource that should be nurtured and protected. The use of the word “plough” suggests a sense of cultivation and care, while “plunder” conveys a sense of greed and destruction.

Throughout the poem, Osundare employs various literary devices to convey his message effectively. One such device is imagery, which helps to create vivid mental pictures for the reader. For example, in the first stanza, he writes:

“Our earth is ours to plough and not to plunder,

Great green garden where all mortals must wander,

Each morn we come on bended knees

To kiss its sod and plant our seeds.”

Here, Osundare paints a picture of a lush and fertile earth, emphasizing its beauty and abundance. The act of coming on “bended knees” suggests humility and reverence towards nature.

Another notable aspect of the poem is its use of repetition. The phrase “our earth is ours” is repeated throughout, reinforcing the idea that humans have a responsibility to take care of the Earth. This repetition also serves to emphasize the possessive nature of our relationship with the planet, reminding us that it is our collective duty to protect it.

Osundare also employs strong metaphors in his poem. In the second stanza, he writes:

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“But now we come with greedy eyes,

With hands whose fingers are ten times ten,

To snatch away what others have sown,

To claim what others have grown.”

Here, he compares those who exploit the Earth to greedy individuals with insatiable appetites. The use of the metaphorical language helps to convey the destructive nature of plundering the Earth’s resources.

The poem continues to highlight the consequences of our actions, warning that if we continue on this path of plunder, we will ultimately destroy the very source of our sustenance. Osundare writes:

“And when we have eaten up all that is green,

When we have drunk up all that is sweet,

When we have breathed up all that is clean,

When we have taken all that is meet,

Then will we know what our greed has done.”

These lines serve as a stark reminder of the potential consequences of our actions if we do not change our ways. The depletion of natural resources and the degradation of the environment will ultimately lead to our own downfall.

Analysis Of Niyi Osundare’s “Ours To Plough Not To Plunder”

Niyi Osundare’s “Ours to Plough, Not to Plunder” is an agricultural poem using the rewards found in planting and harvesting as the reasons to encourage people to embrace farming. Based on natural phenomenon and the words of the poet, farming is a very useful investment. The poet or the poem speaker is of the faith that people’s engagement in agriculture and farming will divert their attentions from wrong implementations of the huge material rewards the Lord God have kept in the soil for humans benefit.

The structure of the poem is a free verse of unequal stanzas. The poet was preoccupied with the need for people to embrace farming, so he used the third person point of view in expressing his feelings. The poem very evident poetic devices in the poem are repetition, alliteration, antithesis, and metaphor, etc. “The hoe is her barber” is an example of both metaphor and personification. “The dibble her dimple” is an example of metaphor, alliteration and personification. “Ours to work not to waste/ ours to man not to main” both lines are example of a parallelism with embedded antithesis. “Let’s put a sun in every night” symbolizes the practice of mining at night.

Themes And Analysis Of Osundare’s Poem “ How To Plough Not Plunder”

Judging by the use of figurative terms and the grammatical choice of the poet, one can conclude that the diction of the poem is a very easy one. It must also be noted that the poet used a persuasive tone to encourage the love for agriculture and mining.




In “Ours to Plough Not To Plunder”, the elements of nature – the forest, rocks and rain are employed as metaphors for the exploration of life and the activities associated with farming. Thus, Osundare’s preoccupation in the collection include emphasis on human responsibilities and actions to save Nature, aesthetics of reconciling humanity with Nature, a critique of capitalists’ commodification of Nature and the environment, the dynamics of ecopoetry or eco-criticism in reclaiming Nature, and the impacts of global capitalism.

 In the “Earth” which is of course the first poem in the collection, Osundare uses the metaphor of the earth as the ephemeral house of man “dust”, perhaps after the death of man. He further celebrates the earth as the source of food: “breadbasket / and compost bed” and also reveals its relationship with other nature embodiments such as “water”, “rivers”, “muds”, “sun”, “sea”, and ‘sky”


The poet in his poem “Ours to Plough Not To Plunder” portray the soil as one of the most important treasure which God has given to man this could be seen in thus;

“Let wheat fields raise their breadsome hands

To the ripening sun

Let legumes clothe the naked bosom

Of shivering mounds

Let the pawpaw swell and swing

Its headward breast” (stanza. 3)

The environment is the planetary support on which all human activities depend. It includes the land we live on, the water we use, the air we breathe and the space we see everywhere. We are all products of the environment, with the earth being our forte. Our environment makes or mars us. Besides, without environmental security, a component of human security, which concerns living in a healthy physical environment spared from desertification, deforestation and other threats that endanger our survival, we are all in trouble.

The poet acknowledges land as a free gift of God to mankind which all life excised.  Nigeria has the benefit of having large stretches of fertile land available to cultivate. This country has one of the largest expanses of land in Africa with more than 900 thousand square kilometers and 70 percent of it is able to be cultivated to produce sustenance for the population of Nigeria. This land provides Nigeria with practically an unlimited source of farming food, providing agricultural produces and jobs for the people.

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Niyi Osundare’s poem “Ours to plough and not to plunder”, the poet portray many riches and the irony of what it has become today. Mother Earth is forced to drink the blood of her children, her beautiful clothes of rich green grasses and trees of various kinds with sweet smelling flowers has turned into rags from oil spills, refuse dumps, decomposing corpse, flood and the numerous destruction from the various bombing activities of different  groups.

Why do we bring so much shame to her, why do we turn ourselves who are her children into instruments of her pain. Even God himself weeps at the sight of what she has become. Nigeria, we used to be Africa’s pride, her giant, her beauty, her glory… Where are these now… All of them, we have traded and for what? Greed, pride and covetousness. Our home land which is supposed to provide refuge and succor has turned into large mouths of scary pits that swallow us.

Did I hear you ask “where are the elders?”… Of course we have them, but they themselves are the reason for our downfall. They were to lead us to greatness but instead they lead us to perdition, they were to guide us but they seem confused themselves, they were to care for us but they neglect us, caring for themselves and their pockets. The youths they say are the leaders of tomorrow but they have turned us into thugs, thieves, assassins and all sorts of evil machineries.


In conclusion, Niyi Osundare’s poem “Our earth is ours to plough and not to plunder” serves as a powerful call to action for responsible stewardship of the Earth. Through vivid imagery, repetition, and metaphors, Osundare conveys the importance of nurturing and protecting our planet. The poem serves as a reminder that it is our collective responsibility to preserve and care for the Earth, as it is not something to be exploited or plundered.

Niyi Osundare have not only engaged in writing ‘nature’ for the sake of writing, but they have through their poetry addressed many. This ranges from the emphasis on the beauty of nature, therapeutic power of nature, protective power of nature, the providential power of nature, and a great advocate to desist from destroying the nature particular the capitalistic tendencies of the imperialists in the commodification of natural endowments.

Therefore, these poets though celebrate nature’s beauty and potentials, they also use their poems to chastise humanity and urge moral and social change in favour of the natural environment. Also, it is noticeable that the poets’ particular environments influenced the form and style of their poetry.

Mr. Harrison

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