Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 415
This poem celebrates Africa as a beautiful, proud continent. One way Senghor communicates the beauty of Africa to the reader is by using personification. For example, he personifies Africa as a "Naked woman, black woman," with a "solemn contralto voice" and "watered skin." By personifying Africa like this, it becomes easier for the reader to visualize and empathize with its beauty.
The line "Naked woman, black woman," or a variation of the line ("Naked woman, dark woman") is repeated throughout the poem firstly to emphasize that this is proud continent, which is why it stands naked and unashamed, and secondly to emphasize that its blackness is the source of its pride.
The personification of Africa continues later in the poem, when the speaker describes the "stars on the night of your skin" as "pearls." Pearls connote preciousness and beauty, and the metaphorical image of the stars as pearls adorning the skin of the personified Africa also suggests how vast Africa's beauty is.
In the third stanza, the speaker says, "I come upon you, my Promised Land, / And your beauty strikes me to the heart, / like the flash of an eagle." In this quotation, the speaker addresses Africa as his "Promised Land," which is a biblical allusion to God's promise to Abraham that the Israelites would inherit a homeland. This allusion emphasizes how sacred Africa is to the speaker. In this quotation the speaker also describes how Africa's beauty figuratively "strikes (him) to the heart." The word "heart" is repeated three times in this stanza, emphasizing the speaker's emotional connection to and deep love of Africa. The smilie comparing the striking quality of Africa's beauty to "the flash of an eagle" suggests that the beauty is majestic, like "an eagle", but also so powerful as to be disorientating, like a sudden "flash" of light.
At the end of the poem, the speaker declares that he will celebrate the beauty of Africa while he can, before "jealous fate" turns it "to ashes to / feed the roots of life." There is a juxtaposition in this quotation between the "ashes" on the one hand, which imply death and decay, and "the roots of life" on the other, which suggest new life. This seems a conspicuously ambivalent end to the poem, which up to this point is almost unadulterated celebration and positivity. Perhaps Senghor chose to end the poem in this way to suggest that even when death visits Africa, it will have the power to create new life again.