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

Poem analysis:

Leopold Sedar Senghor, as a pioneer of the Negritude ideology structured this poem to match-up to his ideology. In the poem, ‘I Will Pronounce Your Name’ Senghor uses heavy imagery to present his ideas. In the poem, he forms a female character by the name of Naett. Throughout the poem, he expresses his affection for Naett through the few lines that mkae-up the poem. Leopold makes reference to Naett’s beauty, and ironically calls ‘beautiful’, attributes which are commonly regarded unattractive outside the African continent. The poet makes reference to such aspects as “Shinning coal” (Line 8) and “You my Night sun” (Line 8). He thus makes it clear that the reader should not make a direct translation and interpretation of the words he uses in the poem, but should consider them as the images they are.

Leopold Sedar Senghor

Leopold Sedar Senghor (Image Source: Wikipedia)

The intended readers of the poem should make sense of the symbols and imagery used in the development of the poem for the effective communication of the contained message. Though, as Leopold writes, Naett has experienced some level of ‘shame’ in being banished from Futa, he decided to become her Sorcerer, proclaiming her name. At the beginning of the poem, the poet makes the promise of declaiming Naett, which expresses his readiness to ‘immortalize’ her through the spoken word. Indeed throughout the poem, Senghor communicates his celebration of the beauty and wealth of the African culture. In the writing of the poem, the poet translates the ideas and concern of the Negritude movement and its relationship with the African continent. He makes symbolic reference to the African continent in different lines of the poem, which cannot be mistaken for any other entity. In line four (4) of the poem, the poet makes reference to the ‘Savannah’ and ‘midday sun’ which are symbols closely associated with the African continent. In consistence with the themes of the Negritude movement, the poem celebrates the beauty of the African continent. The celebration of such aspects is achieved in mentioning the natural features associated with Africa.

At a deeper level of symbolism, the character of Naett can be considered to represent the African continent. Hence, the poet eulogizes his love and admiration for the African continent (as personified in the character of Naett) through the few lines that make-up the poem. The Negritude movement mainly encouraged the ‘glorification’ of the African continent, which was contrary to the views and opinions of the French colonialists in West Africa. Leopold Sedar Senghor likens Africa’s beauty to that of the lady he calls Naett. According to the poet, the world’s perspective of Africa and its beauty does not demean the underlying beauty of the continent in any way.