Explain The Poem Once Upon A Time By Gabriel Okara?


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This poem, "Once upon a Time," talks about how at youth nothing was fake. Not their words, laughter, or smiles.
The speaker is addressing his son and is telling him he wants to go back to a youth where all was true and nothing was fake and people used their hearts.
The speaker of the poem is telling his son to re-teach him the ways of truth, how to smile, and how to laugh.
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Anonymous answered
Once Upon A Time describes the clashing of cultures and tradition - Gabriel Okara is a Nigerian poet who is talking to his son about the false pretences that are enacted by the western people they live around. The first three stanzas have the same structure - they begin with an analepsis into the past where people acted positively, then switches to the negative reality. The falseness of the adults contrast to the openness of youth - and ultimately asks the question of how important we value others perceptions of ourselves. Furthermore, it explores how we relate to others, and how others see us - through individuals like the father in the poem developing and changing to fit in with society and social traditions binded around it.
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Anonymous answered

Okara in his poem 'Once Upon a Time' speaks about Africa's cultural changes
with the coming of western cultures. What I realized is that these changes can
relate to what happened to Sri Lanka, the country that once stood together to
face the British invasions to Kandy. Once the British left us Sri Lanka, as
Africa described in this poem was left insincere and fake.

One of those
changes the poet speaks about is the handshake. The handshake was not
originally present in the African culture. However, with the invasions of the
European nations and the coming of the western cultures the people got used to
the handshake and the ‘left hand work’.

"Now they shake hands without hearts

While their left hands search

My empty pockets"

Am not
trying to be racist or anything here. Am just wondering if Sri Lanka was
affected by the western culture like Africa was. I'm not talking about fashion,
English language or cool music. Did the Sri Lankans lose their real wealth
(their good qualities such as hospitality, friendship and genuineness) and
become "empty pockets" the same way Africa did, according to Okara?
Personally, I think the Sri Lankan "ayubowan" is a much better
greeting than the handshake, though I am against the Sri Lankan custom of
worshipping elders. The gesture of 'ayubowan' gives our neighbor much more
respect than a handshake which is often forced, as not many people like to make
any kind of physical contact with a stranger. If one thinks that the gesture of
'ayubowan' has too less kindness and connection between two maybe a hug is a
better substitute.

Then we have
Gabriel Okara speaking about the art of appointments.

“…and when I come

Again and feel

At home, once, twice,

There will be no thrice-

For then I find doors shut on me.”

Sri Lanka
and Africa, both countries were known for the hospitality of the people. This
countries were said to have people who welcome strangers in and offer them
food, drink and lodging generously. But now we live in an age where we don’t
open a door to almost anybody. People have become cruel and dangerous. Further
if no one takes an appointment to visit us we find them annoying and an intrusion
to our privacy. Though the local people found this appointment thing an extreme
pain when we were under the British rule (when the Gam Sabha was abolished they
had to take appointments, blah blah blah) it is the descendents of the very
same people who follow this trend today.

And the
other thing Okara is speaking about is the fakeness of people. This could have
come to both countries with industrialization and business. In a business,
everybody is out for themselves and all they think about is there profit. This
is the heart of fake kindness and stuff like these mask like faces;


Officeface, streetface, hostface, cock-

Tailface with all their conforming smiles”

We’ve got to
admit, all of us have these multiple faces. And the other thing that Okara
speaks about?

“…to say

When I mean
‘Good riddance!’

To say ‘Glad
to see you,’

being glad; and to say ‘it’s been

Nice talking
to you,’ after being bored.”

We all have
done these at least once in our lives. Is it that we care about hurting the
other person’s feelings? Or are we just selfishly concerned about what kind of
impression we would leave on the other person? Anyway, why should we be fakes
in our lives? People should love us for who we are and not what they want us to
be. This poem really gives us a lot to think about…

Tweet me your comments @Leonvictorious

Anonymous Profile
Anonymous answered
Once upon a time critical appreciation

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