INTRODUCTION TO AN AFRICAN POEM “BLACK WOMAN” BY LEOPOLD SEDAR SENGHOR. BACKGROUND OF THE POEM/POET, SUMMARY OF THE PLOT, THEMES AND POETIC DEVICES

Black Woman” by Leopold Sedar Senghor,

Black Woman (“Femme Noire”).

Naked woman, black woman

Clothed with your colour which is life,

With your form which is beauty!

In your shadow I have grown up;

The gentleness of your hands was laid over my eyes.

And now, high up on the sun – baked pass,

at the heart of summer, at the heart of noon

I come upon you, my promised land

And your beauty strikes me to the heart like the flash of an eagle.

 

Naked woman, dark woman

Firm – fleshed ripe fruit, sombre raptures

of black wine, mouth making lyrical my mouth

Savannah shuddering beneath the East Wind’s eager caresses

Carved tom – tom, taut tom – tom, muttering

Under the conqueror’s fingers

Your solemn contralto voice is the spiritual song of the Beloved.

 

Naked Woman, Dark Woman

Oil that no breath ruffles, calm oil on the athletes’ flanks, on the flanks of the princess of Mail

Gazelle limbed in Paradise, pearls are stars on the night of your skin

Delights of the mind, the glinting of red gold against your watered skin

Under the shadow of your hair,

My care is lightened by the neighbouring suns of your eyes.

 

Naked Woman, Black Woman,

I sing your beauty that passes, the form

that i fix in the Eternal,

Before jealous fate turn you to ashes to feed the roots of life.

 

 

Background of the poem/poet

This Senegalese poet Leopold senghor wrote and published this poem in 1945. It was originally written in French “Femme Noir” but was Later translated into English “Black Woman”. The poet was instrumental in starting the emotional, intellectual, political and literal movement called “Negritude” along with other writers of African origin.

 

Summary of the plot:

“Black Woman” is an ode or eulogy to a black woman or daughter and most importantly African, the poet’s continent which could love and be loved just like a woman. This natural black woman is highly esteemed in the poet’s life. The poet treats the traditional themes of love, death, solitude, suffering, the beauty of nature, of woman, longing for the homeland. Senghor posits his passionate love for Africa, his native land. This is why he dignifies it, praises it’s culture and eulogizing the black colour of its skin which has been the main cause of its brutality by the colonial masters during the British rule. As a typical Negritude writer, he shows in abundance, the philosophy of Africans. Despite the plurality and diversity of African culture, they still share the same experience of racial prejudice and brutality.

List of themes from the poem

  1. The beauty of Africa
  2. The beauty of an African woman.
  3. Nostalgia/Homesick.

 

Poetic Devices

  1. Apostrophe: The poet addresses the “black woman” as if it was present
  2. Simile: “Your beauty strikes me to the heart like the flash of an eagle”
  3. Metaphor: The black woman is referred to as the promised land, ripe fruit, savannah, oil and gazelle.
  4. Tone: The tone is that of praise and appreciation of the African woman.
  5. Language: Each of the words is symbolic and thoughtful. Etc.
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