This Week’s Poem by Leopold Sedar Senghor

January 13, 2024
1 min read

Noliwe
 
By Leopold Sedar Senghor
 
The weakness of the heart is holly…
Ah! You think that I never loved her
My Negress fair with palmoil, slender as a plume
Thighs of a starlet otter, of Kilimanjaro snow
Breasts of mellow rice-fields, hills of acacias under the
East Wind.
Noliwe with her arms of boas, lips of the adder
Noliwe, her eyes were constellations there is no
need of moon or drum
But her voice in my head and the feverous pulse of the
night…
Ah! You think that I never loved her!
But these long years, this breaking on the wheel of the years, this carcan strangling every act
This long night without sleep I wandered like a
mare from the Zambezi, running and rushing at the
stars
Gnawed by a nameless suffering, like the leopards in the
trap.
I would not have killed her if I had loved her less.
I had to escape from doubt
From the intoxication of the milk of her mouth, from
the throbbing drum of the night of my blood
From my bowels of fervent lava, from the uranium
mines of my heart in the depths of my Blackness
From love of Noliwe
From the love of my black skinned People.
 
Leopold Senghor was a poet, writer and a leading African politician and thinker. Born on October 9, 1906, he was the first president of Senegal and the first African to sit as a member of l’Académie française.
 
His poetry was widely acclaimed, and in 1978 he was awarded the Prix mondial Cino Del Duca. His poem A l’appel de la race de Saba published in 1936 was inspired by the invasion of Ethiopia by Italy. 
 
With  Aimé Césaire and Léon Damas, Senghor created the concept of Négritude, an important philosophical movement that sought to distance African culture from European influences.
 
In 1948, Senghor compiled and edited a volume of francophone poetry called Anthologie de la nouvelle poésie nègre et malgache for which Jean-Paul Sartre wrote an introduction, entitled “Orphée Noir” (Black Orpheus).
 
He died on December 20, 2001.
 
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