The poem\’Soul Errand\’ is a poem that dwells on the moral laxity of mankind and the need to re-awaken the consciousness of the Soul as an herald of Truth.The poet himself finds himself in a situation where he has no other option than to appoint his soul on a great mission to\’Give the Lie\’amid fierce opposition and seeming extinction of morality.The soul is a temporary component of the human being that leaves him at death.Thus the poet says in the second line:
\’The body\’s guest\’
The poet intimates us with the ephemeral life man has.He has to immortalize his name while on earth not by making name in the world of materialism.
\’Who in their greatest cost.
Seek nothing but commending\’.
The poem was written on the eve of the poet\’s execution.This creates a perfect platform for him to propagate the gospel truth.This only gospel truth is-Discovering man\’s purpose in life.The poet makes us to know that our society and its doctrines are cloaked in a shroud of hypocrisy which has blinded the human race from the pursuit of the spiritual welfare.
It is instructive that the poem tries to expose the falsehood behind every social ideologies.He says\’Zeal wants devotion\’\’Love is lust\’and others.By this he is not saying that these social virtues are not entirely beneficial,but he is telling us of their pervesion by our social institutions and the society that feeds on them.
The poet exploits a rich amount of imageries and figures of speech to paint the vividness of his message.He mostly used personification to achieve this purpose.Words like\’shinning like rotten wood gives an oxymoronic image of the hypocrisy of court.
He comprehensively personified Truth,Time,Love and others.He gives each stanza an element of rythm and musicality through ryhmes.
WAEC EXAMINER PROVIDES QUESTION AND ANSWER
Question: Treat Sir Walter Raleigh’s Soul’s Errand as a satire
Satire is use of humor and wit with a critical attitude, irony, sarcasm, or ridicule for weakness and mistakes of the society.The Soul’s Errand also called The Lie can be seen as a political or social satire which seeks to expose the weaknesses and flaws of the society. The poet speaks in commanding tone throughout, he sends his soul to go “upon a thankless errand” and tell various people and institutions of their misdeeds and wrongdoings. And if they object, the poet commands to publicly accuse them to be lying, or “give them the lie.”
The poem moves quickly through a variety of scenes and situations of falsehood and corruption, all of which the poet condemns. The persona accuse the court of being arrogant and yet wholly rotten, instead of giving fair judgment ends up bringing the poor to justice and leaving the affluent and those powerful off the hook. The palace which represent the court in the olden days have also amass wealth through taxes and use to enrich itself to the detriment of the masses who contribute it for their welfare.
The church is also chastised of being inactive and apathetic despite its teachings. Here one finds the church which teaches essence of giving end up amassing wealth without taking care of the poor and needy in their midst such as the widows, the sick, orphans etc. and giving attention to the rich who can donate in huge amounts. It’s also funny how the church gleefully embark on evangelical exercise to win more souls without finding ways to retain those already in their fold.
The poet is further found accusing those in government (potentates) of favoritism and greed, respecting only those in large numbers. In addition lambast men of high condition that though they claim to have come to render service to the society, their real intent is to satisfy their personal ambition to the detriment of the masses.
Lastly, bits of satire or irony can be found in some phrases:
Tell zeal it wants devotion; Here we find the zealous especially the jobless like the young graduates who become hungry for job turn to lack commitment or become lackadaisical after finding employment at the government sectors.
Tell honour how it alters; also we also find how men of honor easily become corrupted after being ushered into top rank position and soon forget their humble beginning and use the masses as carpet of grasses.
Tell charity of coldness: here too one can deduce the ugly side of receiving aid or donation. The persona criticize how people or countries under the pretext of charity or gift to turn this means to manipulate their recipients to their whims and caprices.
Lastly the poet mocks at the court which is expedite justice ends up delaying it and most often denying the aggrieved the justice or fairness needed….tell justice of delay.
More satirical elements abound in the poem and the writer will entreat candidates to dig and find them
By Adjei Adjei-Baah.
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