Leopold Sedar Senghor Negritude And Poetry Early Life • Senghor was born near Dakar in the town of Joal. • His mother was Roman Catholic, and sent him to a seminary to fulfill his first dream of becoming a priest. • At age 20 he discerned out of the call to the priesthood and transferred to a secondary school. • In 1928 he moved to Paris and continued his studies Lycée Louis-le-Grand and the Sorbonne. • During these years he discovered the imprint of African culture on modern culture, and it cemented his belief in Africa’s potential contribution to modern culture. • He joined the French army during World War II and spent 18 months in a German prison camp. • While he was in the prison camp he wrote some of his best poems. • Eventually became Senegal’s first democratically elected president, which he held for the next twenty years. Negritude • Negritude is defined as the effort to reclaim a for Negros a lost sense of pride and confidence, and discovering a sense of identity again. • Senghor is known for being a major contributor to the Negritude movement. • His biggest contribution was his poetry. I Will Pronounce Your Name • I will pronounce your name, Naett, I will declaim you, Naett! Naett, your name is mild like cinnamon, it is the fragrance in which the lemon grove sleeps Naett, your name is the sugared clarity of blooming coffee trees And it resembles the savannah, that blossoms forth under the masculine ardour of the midday sun Name of dew, fresher than shadows of tamarind, Fresher even than the short dusk, when the heat of the day is silenced, Naett, that is the dry tornado, the hard clap of lightning Naett, coin of gold, shining coal, you my night, my sun!… I am you hero, and now I have become your sorcerer, in order to pronounce your names. Princess of Elissa, banished from Futa on the fateful day. I Will Pronounce Your Name (Continued) • When looking at this poem, at first it seems that Senghor is giving praise to a woman named Naett. • However, when looked at closer, the Negritude themes become apparent. • In line 1, Senghor says “I will declaim you, Naett!” • To declaim someone means to say their name theatrically and poetically. • By saying Naett’s name dreamily, Senghor is presenting his love for Africa, which was strong and undisplaced. I Will Pronounce Your Name (Continued) • As Senghor continues his poem, the theme of Negritude becomes all the more apparent. • He compares Naett to a number of natural breath takers, and doesn’t praise the lady herself, but rather her name. • In line 2 he likens her name to cinnamon, an aromatic spice and fragrance. • Her name is like the savannah in line 4, and at midday the sun catches it at just the right moment. • Senghor continues this throughout the poem, comparing Naett’s name to morning dew (line 5), dusk (line 6), and a tornado in line 7. What’s the big deal with the name? • Names have power, and by invoking Naett’s name, Senghor is invoking the power of Africa. • Take into account that he names the woman “Naett”. Not Sarah, not Julie, not some other white name, but Naett. • The name even sounds African, so by giving his muse an African name, Senghor is setting the stage for his argument for Negritude. • By comparing her name to so many different things, Senghor is exposing the beauty of Africa for the world to see. The Last 2 Lines • The last 2 lines of the poem “I am you hero, and now I have become your sorcerer, in order to pronounce your names. Princess of Elissa, banished from Futa on the fateful day.” can be viewed as Senghor’s start of the Negritude movement, and his desire to instill a lost confidence back into the African people. • Line 9 show’s Senghor stepping into the role of a leader, “in order to pronounce your names.” • Line 10 can be viewed as the lost identity of the African people, and Senghor, by using Naett as a symbolf for Africa, is talking about the many freedoms that were stripped from the Africans during their time in slavery. • The entire poem is spent praising Africa because of it’s beauty, but the last two lines turn the poem into a battle cry, a call to arms to bring back that lost sense of nationalism that was “banished from Futa on that fateful day.” To New York • With this poem, Senghor seems to be speaking out against western culture. • He opens the poem with “At first I was bewildered by your beauty” which suggests that he was in the process of being seduced by the culture and lead away from his heritage. • The first stanza pretty much sets the tone for the poem, with the first half talking about how Senghor was almost reeled in by the western culture before it is exposed as artificial. Second Stanza • The second stanza mixes Senghor’s faith and his pride in his African heritage. • In this stanza he talks about Harlem, and the tone of it is hopeful saying “now is the time of manna and hyssop” both of which are nods to his Christian faith signifying purification (hyssop) and nourishment (manna). • With this line it seems as though Senghor is calling for the rebirth of African pride and for New York to open its eyes to a culture that has very much to offer. (Continued) • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • “Harlem, Harlem! Now I’ve seen Harlem, Harlem! A green breeze of corn rising from the pavements Plowed by the Dan dancers’ bare feet, Hips rippling like silk and spearhead breasts, Ballets of water lilies and fabulous masks And mangoes of love rolling from the low houses To the feet of police horses. And along sidewalks I saw streams of white rum And streams of black milk in the blue haze of cigars. And at night I saw cotton flowers snow down From the sky and the angels’ wings and sorcerers’ plumes. Listen, New York! O listen to your bass male voice, Your vibrant oboe voice, the muted anguish of your tears Falling in great clots of blood, Listen to the distant beating of your nocturnal heart, The tom-tom’s rhythm and blood, tom-tom blood and tom-tom” Third Stanza • The third stanza picks up the tempo, and Senghor is earnestly imploring New York to “let black blood flow into your blood.” • When looked at with the themes of Negritude, this line does two thing: • 1: it implores the western culture to be more accepting of Africans. • 2: It comes off as a cry to Africans to rise and find their identity. Third Stanza (Continued) • • • • • • • • • • • • • Senghor seeks to make New York aware of just how much of Africa’s culture is held within it. He encourages the people to “Let it give your bridges the curve of hips and supple vines. Now the ancient age returns, unity is restored, The reconciliation of the Lion and Bull and Tree Idea links to action, the ear to the heart, sign to meaning. See your rivers stirring with musk alligators And sea cows with mirage eyes. No need to invent the Sirens. Just open your eyes to the April rainbow And your eyes, especially your ears, to God Who in one burst of saxophone laughter Created heaven and earth in six days, And on the seventh slept a deep Negro sleep.” With all of this imagery, Senghor is implanting the thought of Negritude into a people who were probably very closed off, and rallies his Negro brethren to take pride in their heritage. Sources • http://afrilingual.wordpress.com/2011/04/02/i-will-pronounceyour-name-leopold-sedar-senghor/ • http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/238778 • http://www.monitor.co.ug/artsculture/Reviews/Leopold-SedarSenghor--colossus-of-African-poetry/-/691232/1418188//uhsqeuz/-/index.html • http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/534541/LeopoldSenghor • Drake, St. Clair 1972 Hide My Face?: On Pan-Africanism and Negritude. In Soon, One Morning: New Writing by American Negroes 1940-1962. Herbert Hill, ed. Pp. 77–105. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.