POETIC INSIGHT (ISSUE 6)
A TREATISE OF “WEDDED AND WEEDED” BY KUKOGHO IRUESIRI SAMSON
A Review by Adewumi Olumide Benedict
The poem “Wedded and Weeded” is one that invites the reader to a very familiar journey. A journey through the mapped path of two characters; a man and a woman who are in a webbed relationship of some “heaven and hell” affair. This journey’s familiarity is based on the peculiarity of the poem’s thematic pre-occupation as a coexisting phenomenon in our immediate society.
The poem is titled, “Wedded and Weeded” not just for the mere purpose of achieving a play on words, but to act as a way of giving passage to the reader’s reception of the poem. The two most important words that form the title are, to a reasonable degree, contradictory, therefore producing an oxymoron. The word “wed” means to “Unite or join firmly as if by the affections of bond or marriage” (Merriam Webster dictionary), while “weed” (an agricultural allusion) means to remove an unwanted plant that has been deemed useless or redundant, which in this context represents a marital entity. It immediately becomes a question of bringing to notice, the reason these two contradictory words are placed together to form the title of the poem.
First of all, the poet uses it as a way of introducing the reader to the power of tonality through the use of alliterated composition, including the point that they sound almost alike and have the same number of alphabets, and stress pattern (syllables). The second reason and the most important, is to function as a presage into the subject of the poem. This is inferred because of the arrangement of the words as wed precedes weed, there also, to be united precedes to be scattered. This makes the reader aware of the imminent event even from the start of the poem.
The poem is paired into six stanzas with each pair under a heading, “Just yesterday…, Now today… and Tomorrow…” These headings create a time frame/chronological arrangement of the poem whereby the reader is aware of what was, what is and what will be of the poem. It is composed of twenty-four lines with regular rhyme scheme except for the third stanza which has an irregular rhyme scheme; this could be as a result of the poet’s ploy to graphically illustrate the violent atmosphere, tone and mood attached to that stanza.
Plummeting into the poem, the first stanza of the first pair tells of a wedding ceremony where two couple walk down the aisle in a tie and veil, indicating a man and a woman:
He wore a tie, she wore a veil.
And yes, I looked, no face was pale
As both of them walked down the aisle
In sweet rehearsed musical style. (Lines 1-4)
Their faces are described as having no sign of paleness or emotional unhappiness, which expresses their mood. The poem does not specify whether the couple are in the presence of a congregation like normal everyday wedding processions, rather, only the couple are mentioned as existent. This must be a deliberate act on the poet’s part to create a world where only the couple exist, therefore placing them in a role of emphasis. Although, there is an indication that the poem has a narrator, but this narrator appears to be part of their journey as he sees all they do in their hiding place. The narrator is both a first person narrator, seen through the use of “I looked” (Line 2) and also an omniscient narrator who sees evenly those things they will not reveal, as well as their future.
At the end of the second stanza, all things pertaining to the wedding have been completed, as “She took the ring” and sheds “soft tears of joy amidst “buried fears…” (Line 8). This act of shedding tears in the midst of fears is as a result of the spirit of expectancy, a yearning towards the unknown and a plunging into questions related to her imminent home and family.
Grippingly, there is something particular about the lines contained in the second stanza. It is the exclusion of the woman from any form of verbal doings during the wedding and also her being relegated to act as a complete and enthralled receiver, and a partial puppet, which gives the impression that the wedding itself, even though appearing complete, does not really have a proper wholeness. This is seen as the man happens to be the only one who “…gave the ring” to his partner, with “no guile” on his face, to act as a symbol of their marital bond, while the woman merely acts as one who “took the ring” from him without giving hers in return:
He gave the ring sporting a smile
And said the words showing no guile
She took the ring brimming with tears… (Lines 5-7)
Conventionally, giving of rings during weddings, just like wedding bands, symbolises a binding of souls, a decree of complete fidelity to the ring-giver, whereby the one who receives the ring is under an oath, both physically, as she carries it around in his/her ring finger (fourth finger) and also metaphysically, as a transcendent word of honour. That is why both partners are expected to give and receive their own rings to ensure an outright and even act of fidelity. But in the case where one partner is allowed the privilege of giving out a ring without receiving another in return, the one who receives becomes the oath taker, and the soul giver, just like how Portia in the Merchant of Venice offers a ring to Bassanio, her husband-to-be, therefore binding his mind to Portia’s and as well placing him under her will: no wonder Portia becomes displeased when she learns of what happens to the ring. With this, the woman can therefore be said to be under her husband’s authority, control and submission whereas the man isn’t, because, of course, he has no ring!
Although, it can still be debated that the man’s avowal of his vows to his wife can stand in place of the ring he didn’t receive since the woman also does not say her own vows. However, one can say this is merely the case of the lantern one sees and the sun one doesn’t see; the former presents a physical presence and performs its duty while the latter does not. Also, one can say her acceptance of the ring which expresses a physical appearance by the woman is more valued and valid than words that cannot be verified as true.
Also, it must be recognized that one cannot really say what the content of his vow is, whether or not it is the real thing or a negation of the actual popular marriage vow. But coming to reckon with why the woman’s vow is skipped immediately creates an intuition that the content may, after all, be deceptive. If so, it means if the woman is allowed to recite the vow as well, it will become unfavourable for him in the long run. Thus the exclusion of the woman’s recitation of her vow can be said to be a deliberate means of escape orchestrated by the man.
The man in question, during the wedding performs various roles: he is the husband-to-be, he is the priest who officiates and seals the marriage, he is also the event planner who dictates when the words should be said; giving him the power to do and undo. This brings the question whether there is actually a real marriage in the first place since it is under an influence, even though the man shows no sign of deception and remained guileless during the wedding.
In the first stanza of the second pair (third stanza) “Now today…” there is a picture of what the marriage has become. There is a breach of peace and the destruction of happiness in the marriage of “yesterday”. The third stanza starts with, “He shouts and throws two angry fists” and as these blows collide with a surface, they “leave her pretty face reshaped” (Line 12). This portrays the level of violence that has grown in the marriage, her same eyes that brought out those “soft tears of joy” (line 8) have now become the “Two teary eyes that defy their lids” (line 16). This type of situation where the man tortures his ‘dear’ wife, can be found in many homes existing in Nigeria. Many men who engage in the act of wife beating, do so for various reasons which include: to prove their physical dominance, to express their anger, and even some can be related to their biological background in the sense that these men who grew up in environments where their fathers beat their mothers may believe it is the right thing to do when any disagreement ensues, so they do the same over and over.
In most cases their wives are not able to hinder the continuity of this violent act due to their unequal physique, as challenging them may result into further abuse. Another hindrance is their belief in the spiritual dominance of their husbands as their head and that standing up to them, may incur curses on her.
According to Wikipedia, “victims of domestic violence may be trapped in domestic violent situations through isolation, power and control, cultural acceptance, lack of financial resources, fear, and shame or to protect children.” No wonder why she hides “Under a bed…” as her “…young heart bleads” (line 15). The word “under” indicates inferiority and oppression, to be under is to remain beneath which shows that she is not only emotionally oppressed, or just physically, but also mentally as she becomes scared or ashamed of revealing her pain, perhaps for the protection of her children or perhaps her marriage (which still ties her down to the ring). What does one find under the bed, but things that have been lost or regarded irrelevant? That is the kind of state she is reduced to, a state where her state of mind states no further importance. This violent state reveals further the true intent of the content of the man’s marriage vow: that it is indeed a negation of the actual vow since he does the exact opposite by becoming the sickness that impedes his wife’s wellbeing.
The last pair of stanzas conjoined into “Tomorrow” is a prophetic inference into the future. This can be implied through the extensive use of the modal auxiliary verb “will” which is a future tense. The poet tries to warn against domestic violence and marital oppression by revealing the end result of such domestic inconsistencies. Most violence invested marriages usually end up as broken homes, where the couple with “bulging files” in their hands head to court for a separation. It is for this reason the number of words that form each stanza titles, “Just yesterday…, Now today” which are two words changes into one, “Tomorrow” to symbolise a break up or separation between the couple in the future. The two people who have been together through the other conjoined stanzas are now standing as one in the last pair of stanza.
Additionally, there is a reason for the pluralization of “rings” in Line 17, “They’ll go with bulging files- not rings-”: it is firstly a way of referring to an allusive boxing ring, depicting their violent marriage while the second ring is the wedding ring that is given to her by her husband, which symbolises the physical and spiritual leverage the man has over his wife. So the addition of these two types of ring is what the poet pluralizes to become “rings”. The removal of these rings, implies an end to their life together, as before the court eventually grants them divorce, they are already unofficially separated.
Furthermore, one thing with broken homes is that, the grasses always suffer the tramping of the fighting elephants. The children become the collateral damages of the divorce. They become “wrinkled and scarred before their teen” (Line 24). They become broken and pained because the joy in receiving love from both parents is no longer there. This most likely may lead to parental alienation, where the child is psychologically torn from his/her parents as a result of a divorce. Some after going through the trauma of seeing their parents exchange words like spittle to tongue, they will have to also experience the start of the parent’s marital end or separation; this tears them apart, rips their emotional and mental states and leaves them unguided and unprotected.
Conclusively, the poem, “Wedded and Weeded” systematically admonishes married couples against erring their marriage vows by engaging in violent activities, both verbal and non-verbal that may lead to injury, death, pain, fear, “reshaped” faces and broken homes which in the long run will result into a deformed, nonchalant and defaced parental upbringing for their offspring. It warns against the usual thingification that occurs in many African homes where the man sees his wife or, perhaps vice versa, as an item, a “thing” or property that can be thrown around with no care or consideration of health. Also since a larger percentage of kids from broken homes end up as law breakers, and add to the issues of the society, the poem preaches against these act of violence in order to curb the rise of the ills perpetrated in the society by kids traumatized by such mishap.
Kukogho, Samson. “What Can Words Do?” Lagos: Parresia Publishers Limited. 2013.
Wikipedia “Domestic Violence”. January 10, 2017. January 14, 2017.<http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Domestic_Violence>
“Wed”. Merriam Webster Dictionary Electronic Dictionary: Paragon Software Group, 2007.
Adewumi Olumide Benedict A.K.A. Mide Benedict is a poet, playwright and a prosaist. He studied Literature in English at Obafemi Awolowo University Ile Ife. Some of his works have appeared on several online forums and have been published both in print and in E-formats. He’s a graphic designer, blogger at Temple of Words and a lover of art.