Subject: Literature In English,
Topic: Analysis Of The poem “The Black Woman”
Lesson Objectives: By the end of this lesson, the learners should be able to:
- Recite the poem ” The Black Woman”
- Narrate the background of the poet,
- State the subject matter of the poem,
- Identify and describe the themes used in the poem,
- State the structure of the poem,
- Mention and explain the styles in the poem,
- Evaluate and place judgement on the poem.
Lesson summary Aids: See referenced materials below contents.
Lesson Summary / Discussions
The Full Poem
LEOPOLD SEDAR SENGHOR ( The Black Woman)
Naked woman, black woman
Clothed with your colour which is life, with your form
Which is beauty !
In your shadow I have grown up; the gentleness of
Your hands was laid over my eyes.
And now. High up on the sun – baked pass, at the heart of
Summer, at the heart of noon, I came upon you, my
5.And your beauty strikes me to the heart like the flash of
Naked woman, dark woman
Firm-flesed ripe fruit, somber raptures of black wine,
Mouth making lyrical my mouth
Savannah stretching to clear horizons, Savannah
Shuddering beneath the east wind’s eager caresses
Carved tom-tom, taut tom-tom, muttering under the
10. Your solemn contralto voice is the spiritual song of the beloved.
Naked woman, dark woman
Oil that no breath ruffles, calm on the athlete’s
Flanks, on the flanks of the princess of Mali
Gazelle limbed in Paradise, pearls are stars on the right
Of your skin
Delights of the mind, the glinting of red gold against
Your watered skin
15. Under the shadow of your hair, my care is lighted by
The neighbouring suns of your eyes
Naked woman, black woman,
I sing your beauty that passes, the form that I fix in the
Before jealous fate turn you to ashes to feed the
Roots of life.
ABOUT THE POET
Leopold Senghor was born in joal, Senegal in 1906, he was Educated in Dakar, Senegal and Paris, france. Leopold was the first west African to graduate at the Sorbonne (a part the university of paris). He was regarded as the Father of negritude (negro) . it is based on the philosophy that promotes the consciousness and pride in the African heritage, it cherishes the state of being a black man, and his cultural values.
As a Catholic, he wanted to be a priest, but later got involved in the cultural and political activities of his country. During the second world war, he fought on the side of the French and was taken as a prisoner of war in the then Nazi Germany. He rose to the position of deputy of Senegal in the French constituent Assembly. In 1960, he became the first president of an independent Republic of Senegal of Senegal. He retired from active politics in 1980.
This poem was originally written in French as “femme notr”, and later translated to English. It is a hymn of praise to the African black woman as a person and symbol of the richness of African culture. The black woman is seen as a mother, daughter, sister and indeed the poet’s home country, Senegal. Senghor’s experiences while living abroad influenced his writing of this ode to the black woman, whose beauty is natural and perfect. He also uses the poem to ,stress the need to accord the black woman her rightful place in the scheme of things in the African society.
the poem has the controlling theme of the beauty of the black woman. The poet admires the beautiful smooth skin of the African woman. Which strikes his heart ” like the lighting of the eagle” he appreciates the powerful black presence of the natural black woman around him right from his childhood. The African woman’s body is compared to the of a ripened fruit, and whose resonant contralto voice is regarded as the spiritual anthem of the nation. Senghor describes the African woman as elegant, graceful and pure in all her physical attributes.
There is also the theme of the African woman as the source and sustainer of the growing child. The poet express his love and appreciation to his mother and indeed mother Africa, for the care, protection until he enters the “promised land” of adulthood. The ability of black woman to give birth and sustain the life of the infant child is commended in the poem. The role of the African woman as the first teacher of the child is exposed by the poet, as he remembers his mother’s tutelage at the various stages of childhood that sustained his growth into adulthood.
The poem also has the theme of the beauty of Africa. The poet personifies Africa as the black woman , who’s ever beautiful. He is proud of the undiluted culture and physical features that make the African heritage unique. Senghor presents mother Africa a paragon of beauty and complete perfection without any western influence before the colonization. It is important to note that the poem uses word like : nakedness, blackness, darkness to describe the perfect beauty of Africa. These words are normally used to Connor the “uncivilized peoples” of Africa. The poet sees nothing negative or evil about Africa, but rather a “promised land” that flows with milk and honey.
The theme of the nurturing role of mother Africa also pervades the poem. Senghor reflects on his childhood, and long for the land of his birth, Senegal. His reflection is necessitated by the experiences in France. Which made him to remember where he was brought up as a child. He recollects his childhood days, and regards the period as a form of paradise. Besides, he refers to the black woman as the ” promised land” in the poem. He describes how the African woman nurtures her child in the African continent. In the light of this nurturing role, he sees the black woman not only as an individual but by extension the symbol of African heritage.
There is also the theme of praise in the poem. The poet uses choice word to praise the black woman, and the greatness of African woman. He showers praises on the natural black colour of the African womans skin, and everything about the black woman. Her smooth skin is compared to that of an athlete. He further praises the African woman as graceful and elegant as a gazelle. Is praises of the natural beauty of the black woman, also implies the richness of the African culture before the colonization. Childhood memory is another theme in this poem. The poet looks back to the period of his childhood, and remembers his place of birth, Senegal. “In your shadow I have grown up; the gentleness of your hands was laid over my eyes”. It is a memory lane down to his frowning days as a child, which he considers as living in paradise. He sets on a poetic journey to the ” promised land” of his home land, Senegal. He recalls the Caring attitude of his mother, which sustains him as a child. He appreciates the black woman as a wife and mother, who nourishes his childhood.
In the first stanza, the poet expresses his fondness for the black woman. He describes the black colour of her skin as beautiful. Senghor presents Africa as a maternal mother who gives life through birth. And under whose shadow his childhood has been nourished. He sees the gentility of his mother as a shield from any harm until he comes upon the poet’s heart ” …like the flash of an eagle “. He loves and adores the dark skin of the African woman.
Senghor presents the black woman as a lover in the second stanza of the poem. He compares the black body of the African woman of a ripened fruit, and the Savannah which ” shuddering beneath ” eagerly caress the east wind. Her skin is further compared to the well “carved tom-tom, taut tom-tom” drum the mutters under a valiant conqueror’s fingers. Besides, her solemn contralto voice has become “….the spiritual song of the beloved ” one’s. Even the words like. Naked and dark are used positively to describe the perfect body of African woman.
In the third stanza of the poem, the adoration of the black skin of the African woman continues. Her smooth skin is further compared to that of an athlete “… On the flanks of the princes of Mali, ” the elegant and graceful movement of the black woman is also compared to that of a gazelle limbs formed in paradise. While the pearls shine as star on her skin on a heavenly night of celebration. The shadow of her hair is seen as a cover that has the ability to melt away the worries of the poet by “the neighboring suns” of her charming eyes.
In the concluding stanza of this poem, Senghor sees the black woman as Africa personified. He prefers to keep a live the beauty of the African woman perpetually hanging on the walls of his mind. This memory will not be affected even when “…jealous fate (death) turns her .. to ashes to feed the root of life. The natural beauty of the African woman is compared to that of Africa before the colonial masters invaded and colonized the continent.
Diction: the poet uses choice of words to symbolized the beauty of the black woman. He deliberately uses words like nakedness, black and darkness which are seen as negative attributes to praise the natural beauty of the black woman. The poet is also challenging the African woman to appreciate her natural beauty. And to bleach the dark skin in the name of sophisticated culture of the western world.
mood: the mode of the poem is that of Adoration. The poet adores the awesome beauty of the black woman. He describes everything about the African woman as naturally beautiful. Senghor sees Africa as the black woman he loves to celebrate. He seeks to adore that state of natural beauty before it is taken away by death.
Tone: the poet’s tone of the appreciation of natural beauty of the black woman pervades the poem. He praises the African woman not only for her natural smooth dark skin, but also for the way and manner she brings up her children.
Ode: the poem is a hymn of praise to the black woman, an African mother, daughter or sister and indeed mother Africa which deserves to be treated like a woman, the poet praise the natural beauty of the African woman, and stresses the need to accord her the rightful place in the society.
Metaphor: the figure of speech prominently used in the poem is that of metaphor. The black woman is compared to the promised land, ripe fruit, Savannah, oil and gazelle in lines 4,7,12, and 13.
Simile: the literary device is used by the poet in line 5 “your beauty strikes me to the heart like the flash of an eagle, ” the comparism brings to mind the beauty and nobility of an eagle.
Repetition: line 1 “naked woman, black woman” and. Line 6 “naked woman, dark woman ” are repeated in lines 11 and 16 respectively to emphasize the natural beauty of the African woman.
Symbolism: Senghor uses symbolic words like: the promised land, ripe fruit, Savannah, oil and gazelle to symbolize the natural beauty of the black woman as a person, as well as a symbol of African woman and mother Africa.
Apostrophe: it is a literary device that poet employs to address the black woman, the object of praise as though she were physically present with him.
Personification: the black woman is figuratively used to personified the African continent and Senghor’s country, Senegal. The poet uses beauty of colour of the African woman skin to personified the rich African culture before western influence and colonization.
Imagery: the poet natural imagery to link the Beauty of the black woman to nature, and by the same token to his homeland of Senegal. Natural images like: wind, sun, noon, night, and stars are presented as attributes of the darkness of the African woman’s skin.
Alliteration: the poet uses alliteration to buttress the beauty of the black woman in lines 1,2,3,6,7,9 etc.
Line 1,6,11 and 16 naked woman black woman
Line 2 “clothed with your colour which is life, with your form which is beautt”
Line 3 “…grown up; the gentleness….”
Line 7 ” firm-fleshed ripe fruit….. Mouth making lyrical my mouth ”
Line 9 “carved tom-tom, taut tom- tom…”
Line 12 “…flanks, on the flanks…”
Evaluation / judgment
The poem written in the first person singular, is no doubt an amazing ode to the black woman. Senghor living abroad, away from his home country, Senegal feels estranged in the midst of Western culture. In the circumstances therefore, he uses this poem to reflect on his childhood and the role played by his mother ( black woman). She is referred to as “promised land” in the poem. He praises the African culture which finds expression in the beauty of a black woman.
The greatness of the poem lies in descriptive and rhythmic ways and manner the black woman is presented to the reader. The poet uses choice words to effectively shower praise on the African woman, whose back skin is seen as life and beautiful. The black woman is presented as Senghor’s affirmation of his cherished African heritage. Some popular musician have also showcased the beauty of the African woman in their song lyrics. Example include “African Queen by 2face Idibia”.
1. Discuss the poet’s diction in “black woman”.
2. Discuss the effective use of imagery in the poem.
3. Comment on the use of metaphor to portray the beauty of the black woman in the poem.
4. Discuss the theme of the beauty of the ” Black woman “.
5. Examine the poet’s mood in the poem.
6. What is the poet’s attitude towards the ” black woman ” In the poem.
7. Examine Senghor’s use of symbolism in the poem.
8. How does the “black woman” reveals the poet’s childhood and love for mother Africa.
9. How does the poet’s tone portray the beauty of an African woman.
10. How does the poet depict “Black woman” as a nourisher in the poem.
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Ibitola, A.O (Ed.). (2018). Essential Literature In English for senior secondary schools. Tonad Publishers limited.
Victor J. O. (Ed.). (2019). Study Guide to Selected Poems, Prose, & Drama Texts for SSCE . Harmony-Pen Publications.