A Poem By Aimé Césaire: A Leading Figure In the Negritude Movement

January 13, 2024
1 min read

By Aimé Césaire
Tuesday, April 22, 2008.
Editor’s note: Originally written in French but translated by Rethabile Masilo who also wrote the accompanying bio.
There,where adventure keeps a clean eyethere where women shimmer with languagethere where death is beautiful in the hand like a milk season birdthere where on bended knee the underground gathers a wealth of sloes more violent than caterpillarsthere where for nimble wonder anything goes
there where vigorous night bleeds the speed of true vegetables
there where bees of stars sting a hive’s sky brighter than nightthere where my heel sound fills space and counts down the removal of the face of timethere where my word’s rainbow must bring together tomorrow and hope, infant and queen.
for having insulted my masters bitten the sultan’s soldiersfor having moaned in the wildernessfor having called out to my guardsfor having appealed to jackals and hyenas shepherds of caravans
I watchthe wild horse of smoke hurry on the stage hem for an instant the lava of its fragile
   peacock’s tail, then tearing off its shirt suddenly split its chest and I watch it as      the British Isles as islets as broken rocks melting bit by bit into the lucid sea of the airwhere bathe ominouslymy face    my revolt       my name.
Frantz Fanon wrote that “before Césaire, West Indian literature was a literature of Europeans.”
Aimé Césaire was born on June 26, 1913,  in Basse-Pointe, Martinique, in the Caribbean.  He died on April 17, 2008, in Fort-de-France, the capital of Martinique.
While studying in Paris he came into contact with several literary-minded black students from all over the world, including the late Léopold Sédar Senghor, poet, intellectual and President of Senegal. The two men struck a friendship and exchanged ideas and experiences, founding the Negritude movement in the process.
They also set up the magazine L’étudiant Noir (The black Student), in whose pages the term négritude first appeared. The essence of negritude was the rejection of assimilation by colonialism and other racial systems, and the expression of one’s own being. It was mostly cultural and less political.
When Aimé Césaire declared that je suis de la race de ceux qu’on opprime (I am of the race of the oppressed), there was little colour in the meaning, but much harmony with oppressed people.  Mr Césaire has left for us volumes of poems, plays and essays.
With thanks to www.Blacklooks.org.
Please e-mail comments to comments@thenewblackmagazine.com

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