Poem: Naked Woman By Leopold Sedar Senghor; This poem is necessary for students who are sitting for the following examinations and should be studied so as to stand a chance of passing the exams. JAMB, WAEC, NECO, GCE.
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 come upon you, my Promised Land,
And your beauty strikes me to heart
like the flash of an eagle.
Naked woman, dark woman
Firm-fleshed ripe fruit, sombre raptures
of black wine, mouth making lyrical my mouth
Savannah stretching to clear horizons,
savannah shuddering beneath the East Wind’s
Carved tom-tom, taut tom-tom, muttering
under the Conqueror’s fingers.
Your solemn contralto voice is the
spiritual song of the Beloved.
Naked woman, dark woman
Oil that no breath ruffles, calm oil on the
athlete’s flanks of the Princes of Mali
Gazelle limbed in Paradise, pearls are stars on the
night of your skin.
Delights of the mind, the glinting of red
gold against your watered skin.
Under the shadow of your hair, my care
is lightened by the neighbouring suns of your eyes.
Naked woman, black woman,
I sing your beauty that passes, the form
that I fix in the Eternal,
Before jealous fate turn you to ashes to
feed the roots of life.
— Leopold Sedar Senghor
THEMES IN THE POEM NAKED WOMAN
Theme of beauty: The poet’s most prominent human quality in Black Woman is physical beauty. The persona admires the woman’s bright eyes, dark skin tone, naked form, and graceful movements.
The poet paints a picture of a continent that is whole and perfect in every way in highly exaggerated terms. Indeed, the nudity of the black woman resembles the innocence and natural beauty of Africa as opposed to Europe’s sun-baked passes. As a result, it represents Africa’s unblemished natural state prior to the arrival of foreign colonial dominance.
The Reaffirmation or Idealization of Blackness: For a reason, the poem is titled “Black Woman.” It’s meant to extol the virtues of being black. It is a poem that strongly opposes the prevalent belief at the time that white is superior to black.
The poet employs literary devices such as metaphor and repetition to properly reaffirm the virtues of black Africa.
For example, he compares the beloved black woman to valuable objects such as gold and pearls. The poet’s frequent use of the words “black” and “dark” emphasizes the importance he wants Africans to place on their skin color and culture.
Theme of womanhood: In “Black Woman,” the poet evokes all of the well-known aspects of being a woman in Africa. She is A mother who loves and cares a lover who is the epitome of beauty, and a sexual object
As a result, while the majority of these aspects of womanhood are very positive, others in African culture make the woman subservient to the domineering male persona (a “conqueror” of women).
Theme of nostalgia: Black Woman, like most Negritude poetry, does not only extol the present. The poet reflects on the past and expresses a deep longing for bygone days. His longing for the past is strongest when he recalls his gentle African mother’s love and care for him.
However, as we’ve seen thus far, his nostalgia for his childhood extends beyond the personal. It is a yearning for pre-colonial Africa’s untainted innocence. The poet wishes to restore the pure glory and beauty of African landscape and culture before conquering colonizers decimated them.
Now that he lives in Europe, he has a better appreciation for his own continent’s beautiful climate.
“And now high on the sun-baked
pass, at the heart of summer, at the heart of noon,
I come upon you, my Promised Land.
And your beauty strikes me to the heart
like the flash of an eagle.”
POETIC DEVICES IN THE POEM NAKED WOMAN, BLACK WOMAN
Diction: The poet’s choice of words to represent the beauty of the black woman is breathtaking.
He purposefully employs words such as nakedness, blackness, and darkness, which are perceived as negative attributes, to extol the natural beauty of the black woman. The poet also challenges African women to appreciate their natural beauty rather than bleaching their dark skin in the name of Western sophistication.
Metaphor: A prominent figure of speech used in the poem is a metaphor. In lines 4, 7, 12, and 13, the black woman is compared to the “promised land,” “ripe fruit,” “Savannah,” oil, and gazelle.
Personification: Senghor’s country, Senegal, is personified by the “black woman” in a figurative sense. The poet uses the beauty of the African woman’s skin colour to personify the rich African culture prior to western influence and colonization.
Simile: In line 5, “your beauty strikes me to the heart like the flash of an eagle,” the comparison recalls the beauty and nobility of an eagle.
Repetition: Line 1 is repeated: “naked woman, black woman” and. Line 6 “Naked woman, dark woman” is repeated in lines 11 and 16 to emphasize the African woman’s natural beauty.
Imagery: The poet uses natural imagery to connect the beauty of the black woman to nature and, by extension, to his homeland of Senegal. Wind, sun, moon, night, and stars are depicted as attributes of the African woman’s skin’s darkness.
Symbolism: Symbolic words such as “the promised land,” “ripe fruit,” “Savannah,” “oil,” and “gazelle” are used to represent the natural beauty of the black woman as a person, as well as a symbol of an African woman and mother Africa.
Alliteration: In line 1,2,3,6,7,9, the poet employs alliteration to emphasize the beauty of the black woman.
Line 1,6,11 and 16 naked women black woman
Line 2 “clothed with your colour which is life, with your form which is beauty”
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…”
SUMMARY OF THE POEM NAKED WOMAN, BLACK WOMAN
In “Black Woman,” the poet persona praises the African black woman as a person and a symbol of African culture’s richness. It elevates Africa’s beauty, purity, strategic location, cultural heritage, and personality, which has been personified as a woman who provides tremendous comfort to the persona.
When the poet persona says, “in your shadow have grown up,” it conjures up images of a mother who dutifully nurtures a child from infancy to adulthood, and “the gentleness of your hands was laid over my eyes” conjures up images of the soothing comfort of a mother’s caress.
In the poem, the black woman is seen as a mother, daughter, and sister whose beauty is natural and perfect.
In the last stanza, lines 30—33, I Sing your beauty that passes, the form that I fix in the eternal, / Before jealous fate turn you to ashes to feed the roots of life.”,
Here, the poet says that as one boasts of his possessions, one should also be aware of attracting envious eyes, even from ‘fate,’ and because the persona is well aware of this fact, he ends his praise by hinting at the “woman’s” impending demise by “her” detractor, ‘fate.’ This impending destruction is what drives the persona’s need to sing the “woman’s” praises while she can still appreciate them. The poet also uses the poem to emphasize the importance of giving the black woman her rightful place in African society.
QUESTIONS IN THE POEM NAKED WOMAN
1) How are language and diction used in the poem “Black Woman”?
2)Discuss the background and setting of the poem “Black Woman.”
3)What are the poetic devices in the poem “Black Woman”?
4)Discuss the themes in the poem “Black Woman.”
5)How does the theme of the beauty of Africa affect the overall mood of the poem “Black Woman”?
6)What does the repetition of “black woman naked woman” contribute to the poem?
7)Discuss the theme of “African Land as a Woman”
8)What are the literary devices in “Black Woman”?
9)What is the meaning of “shuddering beneath the East wind’s eager caresses” in “Black Woman”?
10) Discuss two Poetic devices used in “Black Woman”