woman wearing white sweater

Black Woman was written when Leopold Sedar Senghor was in exile in France. The celebration of the black body of a woman was rare in the art that the poem when published became revolutionary in its implications.

Leopold Senghor is the greatest of the Francophone African poets. He was born in Senegal, in 1906, and schooled both in Dakar and in Paris, France.

Naked woman, black woman
Clothed with your colour which is life, with your form which is a 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 the 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 eager caresses
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, on the 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 turns you to ashes to feed the roots of life

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