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Saturday, 2 September 2017

I Will Pronounce Your Name by Leopold Sedar Senghor

I will pronounce your name, Naett, I will declaim you,
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
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 your hero, and now I have become your sorcerer, in
order to pronounce your names.
Princess of Elissa, banished from Futa on the fateful day.

Literary Analysis (Summary)

Leopold Sedar Senghor, a major pioneer of the negritude movement, takes the notion of Africa seriously as he constantly seeks to promote the appreciation for the black continent: Africa. In his poem I will Pronounce your Name, he shows his deep reverence and knowledge of Africa. I will Pronounce your Name is a lyric poem which sings the praise of lady called "Naett" who Senghor determinedly pronounces her name.

He "declaim"(s) her name "Naett" which is a poetic way of reciting something. He not only pronounces her name but theatrically recites her name as if he is performing for an audience. The use of an exclamation mark after "Naett" shows the excitement and mood of the poet persona. In the second line, the poet compares the name "Naett" to the mildness of cinnamon using simile. He says her name is mild-soothing and not too strong in flavour-like cinnamon. Cinnamon is a spice used in cooking which adds a unique aroma to the food. The aroma it gives is one which is soothing to the olfactory nerve. "Naett" appeals to the poet’s sense of smell; it is the name which arouses the poets sense of smell because he perceives the unique soothing aroma of her name. "Naett" "is the fragrance in which the lemon grove sleeps". The poet makes us understand that the name "Naett" holds such a fragrance as that of an orchard of lemon. "The fragrance which the lemon grove sleeps" refers to the fragrance of the lemon grove. It is important to know that the poet isn't praising the lady herself; he is praising her name.
In line 3, the poet appeals to our sense of taste and sight by referring to Naett's name as the "sugared clarity of blooming coffee trees". Coffee trees produce the beans used for making the beverage: coffee. One who has tasted coffee wouldn't say that coffee in itself contains any form of sugar. It has a bitter taste. The "sugared clarity of coffee trees" sounds rather contradictory to the attribute of coffee trees. The poet compares Naett to be the sugared clarity that makes coffee trees blossom. What makes a black man's coffee good is when he adds sugar too it. What enhances the taste of coffee is sugar to most people. Naett is the obvious sweetness which gives the earth a better taste. In line 4, the name "Naett" resembles the "Savannah" which "blossoms forth under the masculine ardour of the midday sun". This line appeals to our sense of sight and our sense of touch. The name Naett resembles the tropical grassland with scattered trees which blooms in all beauty under the hot midday sun. The use of "Savannah" as well as " masculine ardour of the midday sun" refers to the continent of Africa. Africa is home to the largest hot desert in the world which is at North Africa and Africa also houses tropical grasslands. This together is a reference to praise Africa by proudly making mention of her properties. Naett being compared to the Savannah could mean that Naett is a beautiful vegetation which blooms under the "masculine" community. The name Naett is an eye catcher for the men; hence the use of "masculine ardour".

Naett blossoms under the watchful eye of the men. If a woman's name receives this amount of praise then the woman must be a phenomenal woman.
The next line the name Naett is called "Name of dew" because of the light and refreshing air that her name carries – just as dew. Her name is "fresher than the shadows of tamarind". Tamarind is a tropical tree with its pulps used as an Asian spice. Naett is once again compared to the aromatic spice which enhances the overall taste of a meal. Tamarind is also a dark brown colour which many Africans can relate to as it is the colour of our skin. The use of "Tamarind" refers to and appreciates the beautiful brown of Africa; our skin, our complexion. Naett is "fresher" than the " shadows" of tamarind. The shadows refer to the different shades of brown we have in Africa. It is an appreciation of all brown skin, whether light tamarind or dark tamarind. But the poet says that the name "Naett" is fresher than any of these shades.

This could lead us to assume that the poet is also referring to Hispanics and all other browns; European or American, Asian or Puerto Rican. If Naett represents Africa then the poet means to say Africa's brown is fresher than all other browns. But then again, if Naett doesn't stand for Africa as a whole, it could stand for Leopold's fatherland. He could be appreciating the brown of Senegal amongst all other African browns.  All the same, the poet appreciates the brown of Negros by making mention of it. He goes further to describe how fresh "Naett" is in the next line. The name "Naett" is "fresher" than the "short dusk". "Short dusk" symbolizes the other colour of Africans which is black. In the previous line, he made mention of "tamarind" which is a brown colour, now he makes mention of " dusk" which is a dark colour most probably black. This is also an appreciation of our black-skinner Africans. The poet makes use of personification by referring to the dusk as "short". "Short dusk" talks of the length at which dusk extends to.

One could suppose that at the time the poet wrote this poem he was either experiencing or reminiscing on the short nights we have in Africa, that is, more day and less night. "short dusk" could also refer to the idea of black annihilation. It's no longer a secret that the white men- europeans and americans amongst others- are threatened by our existence. The idea of black annihilation is driven by the fear of being dominated by Africa. The aged motion of racism has been a tool to carry this idea out. It's also been a shady cover to hide the underlying motive. The poet’s use of "short" along with "dusk" could be his way of indirectly referring to the gradual reduction of Africans. It was as if the poet saw into the future the racial bigotry which has been manifested in the present politics; the American politics but as the poet puts it, the mere name "Naett"-Africa- is "fresher"-and will prevail- than the "short dusk"-threats and acts of annihilation. Naett is "fresher" than the "short dusk" "when the heat of the day is silenced".  It seems that the "heat of the day" speaks only during the day. When it's night time, it is silenced not just by the "short dusk" but by the freshness of Naett's name.
The poet inks nature in the next line by referring to Naett as the "dry tornado" and the "hard clap of lightining". A tornado is a violent windstorm characterized by a twisting, funnel shaped cloud. It's a natural disaster which is capable of bringing a whole country to nothing. This is a force with so much power and the poet refers to the name Naett as a "dry tornado" because it evokes power. Her name being as a "dry tornado" could also refer to the Saharan desert situated in North Africa which is characterized by its dry winds. When the fierce winds of the Sahara desert blows, it is dry because of the climatic condition there. "dry tornado" is also a way of appreciating Africa. Her name is also the "hard clap of lightning" which similarly evokes power. The hard clap of lightening appeals to our sense of hearing.
Naett is the poets "coin of gold" and "shinning coal". As his "coin of gold" she is his wealth. Africa being Naett is often called the "Pot of Gold". Africa is blessed with so many resources! She is a wealthy place. When the poet refers to Naett as his "coin of gold", he speaks of Africa's wealth. Naett is also his "shinning coal". Senghor speaks of Africa's "shinning" black by referring to Naett as his "shinning coal". The question is, does coal shine? No. The coal which Senghor speaks of is different and it shines. Naett is also his "sun" and his "moon". She is his source of light both in day time and at night time. Light is often symbolic to hope. If Naett is his sun and moon, then she is his hope at all times. Africa is Senghor's hope at all times for his existence. It's sort of paradoxical for Naett to be his sun and moon at the same time but it is true. It simply shows the gravity of hope which Naett gives and the importance of Naett.

In the line before the last, he tells of how Naett has transformed him from being her "hero" to being her "sorcerer". As her hero he often declaims her name with the help of fine spices and nature but that's clearly not enough. To pronounce her name, he has to transform from being a mere hero to a sorcerer. Africa is the home of sorcery practice. To be a sorcerer in Africa is to possess such powers that command and control. It's not the finest term for those who practice witchcraft because they are frowned upon. The western world has brought in a religion which does not accept our culture and religion. It has taught us to war against every form of sorcery because it's evil. The poet as an African has decided to embrace his African traditional religion which involves the use of magical and mysterious powers, spells and all sorts of witchcrafting – because that's the only way he can pronounce "Naett" (Africa). In this line the poet makes it clear that the only way to truly show our love for Africa is by returning to our roots – not necessarily religion but culture.  That's the only true way of not merely theatrically loving Africa but truly showing our love with our genuine actions.
Notice that the poet says "names" rather than "name". In the previous lines, it was easy for him to declaim the name "Naett" and none other. It would take a whole new different orientation, skill and determination to pronounce her other names. It is easy to talk about Africa as a whole but it's a little harder to speak of all the African countries. One could come up and say, "Africa is a black continent" , and he/she wouldn't be wrong, but to speak of the different shades of black is to speak of the countries within Africa; to speak of Gambia, Ghana, Egypt, Senegal, takes a deeper level of understanding –  a transformation of ideology and practice.

In the last line, the poet speaks of a princess, the "Princess of Elissa" who was "banished" from Futa". Futa, a West African kingdom although no longer existent comes to mention in Leopold's poem. One ought to think that "Elissa" is another name for Naett. Elissa is an alternative name of "Dido, Queen of Carthage" in Greek mythology. Carthage is an ancient kingdom in North Africa, now Tunisia. Sengar combined Greek mythology with African history so as to make his point, and his point exactly is to show that Africa has been banished from her own land even though her feet still walks on its soil. Her banishment is one of culture because she has now accepted Westernization and can no longer belong to the land of the ancients. The use of royalty here depicts the royal status of Africa .
Leopold Senghor is indeed a brilliant poet. By putting together this piece he not only pushes his negritude ideology forward but also shows his appreciation of women. Why doesn't he use "he" for Naett? He shows his deep interest in the subject of women, comprising her beauty to the wonders of the world. He also shows that to appreciate her beauty is to go beyond the visible- spices, landscapes and beautiful settings amongst others-into the world of mystery because woman is a mystery in herself; it only takes a sorcerer to understand and appreciate one.

Literary devices

1) Repetition; "Naett" is repeated  six times in the poem.

2) Simile; "your name is mild like cinnamon"

3)Personification ;
"...lemon grove sleeps"
"...short dusk"
"...heat of the day is silenced" (personifies the human attribute of silencing and being silenced)
" hard clap of lightining"(personifies the human attribute if clapping)
", my night, my sun.."

"...dry tornado"
"...shinning coal"

6) Onomatopoeia
".. .hard clap of lightining"

7) Hyperbole
"Fresher even than the short dusk..."
"...fresher than shadows of tamarind"

8)Allusion;  reference to Futa, an ancient Kingdom in North Africa.
Reference to Elissa, queen of Carthage also known as "Dido queen of Carthage".

9)Symbolism; Use off Naett to symbolize Africa. Use of "Coal" and "dusk" to symbolize  the blackness of Africa. Use of "tamarind" to symbolize Africa's brown. The use of "coin of gold" to symbolize wealth and riches, resources and materials. The poem in itself is a symbol appreciation of Africa and a definition of her struggle

10)Imagery. The poet uses carefully selected words to create a vivid image in the mind of his readers. The use of well described words such as "sugared clarity of blooming coffee trees", "coin of gold", "shinning coal", "dry tornado", "shadows of tamarind", "savannah"....

Tone and mood: The tone of the poem is one of admiration for Naett while the  general mood of the poem is praise singing and respect for the beauty of the name "Naett".

Structure: The poem is a panegyric poem with ten lines and no rhyme scheme. It could also be called a lyric poem as it sings the praise of Naett.

1) The beauty of Africa
2) Love for Africa
3) Reverence of Naett
4) The concept of Negritude

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