Monday, February 19, 2018

Léopold Sédar Senghor

Léopold Sédar Senghor (1906—2001) is a Senegalese poet who was also a professor at the universities of Tours and Paris between 1935 and 1945. Despite his higher education he was given the rank of private when he enlisted in the French army in 1939. He spent two years in Nazi concentration camps; upon his release he joined the Resistance in France. He served as the democratically elected President of Senegal from 1960 to 1980.

As a poet, in 1978 Léopold Sédar Senghor received the lucrative Prix Mondial Cino Del Duca — an international literary prize, established in France. In 1990 his poetry was collected in Oeuvre Poétique (Poetical Work).

The following was translated by John Reed and Clive Wake.

from Prayer For Peace — II

Lord God, forgive white Europe.
It is true, Lord, that for four enlightened centuries, she has
----scattered the baying and slaver of her mastiffs over my lands
And the Christians, forsaking Thy light and the gentleness of
----Thy heart
Have lit their camp fires with my parchments, tortured my disciples,
----deported my doctors and masters of science.
Their powder crumbled in a flash the pride of tatas and hills
And their bullets have gone through the bowels of vast empires like
Daylight, from the Horn of the West to the Eastern Horizon
They have fired the intangible woods like hunting grounds, dragged
Ancestors and spirits by their peaceable beards,
And turned their mystery into Sunday distraction for somnambulant
Lord, forgive them who turned the Askia into maquisards,
----my princes
Into sergeant-majors
My household servants into ‘boys’, my peasants into wage-earners,
----my people into a working class.
For Thou must forgive those who have hunted my children like wild
And broken them in with whips, have made them the black hands of
----those whose hands were white.
For Thou must forget those who exported ten millions of my sons
----in the leperhouses of their ships
Who killed two hundred million of them.
And have made for me a solitary old age in the forest of my nights
----and the savannah of my days.
Lord, the glasses of my eyes grows dim
And lo, the serpent of hate raises its head in my heart, that
----serpent that I believed was dead.

This post was suggested by my friend Burl Horniachek.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Ampersand (2018, Cascade). His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock, including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.