By Bob MajiriOghene Etemiku
Romantic poetry is love for, and of nature and lovers of nature often write nature poems. Poetry as such was known as Romantic Poetry. That was the Romantic Age in the development of English poetry, and what actually helped to define it as such was the interest, and then, the influence that certain individuals invested in the expressing what trees, rivers, mountains meant to the ecosystem. It also included their attempt to trying to unravel the unseen forces that were said to inhabit some of the core of the natural elements –earth, wind, water and fire.
There were certain individuals who defined that epoch. They were John Keats, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William Wordsworth, William Blake and Percy Shelley. In the Lyrical Ballads, (1798), William Wordsworth was to declare that poems are the ‘spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings; it takes its origin in emotion recollected in tranquility’. While the stories surrounding these individuals – John Keats, ST Coleridge and William Wordsworth – continue to fascinate and delight those interested in them, what it was that satisfies was in that they sang their hallelujahs in honour of the elements around them – the trees, the lakes, the unseen wind, and to their transience.
That epoch was eventually lost to the second half of the industrial revolution, 1760 – circa 1840, where these trees, rivers and lakes had to give way for ‘development’. And in seeking to ‘conquer’ nature and surmount the mountains, humanity adopted a lifestyle totally at variance with the beauty that once was. Today, once untouched rivers and lakes are polluted with effluent from revving factories; the air is mixed with dangerous greenhouse gases from fossil fuels. The ozone is depleted. What presently subsists is the awkwardness of Climate change – scientists say that the world is at a tipping point – a condition ascribed to the heating up of the earth to such an extent that ice melting from this heat in the colder regions would result in tsunami capable of washing away entire coastal cities; erosion, desertification, crazy weather and atmospheric conditions, and which has already led to an irreversible condition that can only be mitigated by a reduction of the emission of Co2 gases. A ‘Harvard Political Review’, January 2020, ‘Who’s Really Responsible for Climate Change?’ Elliot Hyman, says that only 100 investor and state-owned fossil fuel companies are responsible for around 70 percent of the world’s historical Green House gas emissions. Continuing, Hyman says that ‘at the current rate of global greenhouse gas emissions, climate change could displace two billion people due to rising ocean levels…cause upwards of 250,000 additional deaths per year – all before 2100.
But focus shouldn’t really be on who should carry the can for the calamity of climate change, but on the attempts being made to mitigate it – from treaties being signed (the Kyoto, the Paris and the activities of the United Nations Convention on Climate Change, UNCCC), towards keeping alarming temperatures within the pre-industrial levels, and to the reduction of the use of fossil-generated energy, and to tree planting.
Trees…they are known to protect the planet in ways that have not been thought of – from the oxygen they give out, to the carbon monoxide they mop up, to moderating temperature and water conservation and strengthening biodiversity. Most trees are no ordinary structures. Biblical as well as contemporary accounts attest to their capacity to hold the keys to life and death, ascribing some relevance to speculations amongst nonbelievers that the paradise being sought in heaven is actually on earth, with trees holding the non-pharmaceutical prescription to a long and healthy life. Just like humanity or man in general, trees have been invested with an intellectual and artistic make up. They have a unique DNA like the rest of humanity in terms of our ability to procreate, to be mobile, to absorb nutrients and regulate and adjust to external stimuli. We draw our first and last breathes just as trees draw theirs.
In looking to examine the artistry of the tree, WADONOR visited the Ogba Zoo, located on the outskirts of the Airport Road in Benin City. Run by a private individual after government turned its back on it, the Zoo is about 60 years old, and occupies a large expanse of land often in the eyes of greedy individuals seeking choice land for ‘development’. In the name of a zoo, what would basically attract are the animals – the lions, crocodiles, camels, monkeys, hyenas, gorillas and baboons.
Yet, it is the three quarters of a century old trees that often leave discerning visitors to the zoo breathless. Like architectural masterpieces designed by an ultimate artist, these trees leave an imprint of aesthetic flavour, and beam a warm aura all around. Keepers at the Ogba Zoo say that the trees possess healing properties and have existed before the zoo was established. Their fabulous heights can match any skyscrapers of New York or Abu Dhabi or Auckland; their hue come at you in shades of green, reminiscent of the world famous Amazon Rain Forest in Brazil. For instance, famous African trees – the Iroko, Mahogany and Obeche – each stand tall in all their might and splendor like some guardians of the vale, surrounded by lush vegetation, ferns, shrubs and an assortment of flora.
If the trees convey a sense of beauty and opulence from what one sees outside, the rinds of some of them transport extraordinary patches and inlays that indicate that a master craftsman has invested time and expertise in the composition of these wondrous works of art. For instance: the first thing anyone would see of a tree is its seemingly rough exterior. But beneath that rough exterior lie the inner bark or phloem and several other sections like the cambium cell layer and the sapwood. Within the innards of some of these trees are several hues, several patterns, several vertical and horizontal textures and frames that speak about the mind of a high artist.
While there are a great many who will chop down these trees to use as an energy source in most part of the world especially Africa, others use them to create intricate works of art, representing a spiritual link with the netherworld. WADONOR editor in chief visited one of such coteries at the Osun Shrine and the other at the Nike Galleries, all in Osogbo Osun State. Whilst there, WADONOR met with the wood carvers who said that they get pictures or images of what to carve from an interaction with a specialized group of priests who feed them stories of the ethereal world. But that is not all there is about the visit to Osogbo.
Etemiku is Editor in Chief of WADONOR, Cultural Voice of the Niger Delta.