Poem of the Week

Cesaire_Cover_FinalFor the third week of National Poetry Month, we share an excerpt from our authoritative bilingual edition of Aimé Césaire’s Journal of a Homecoming ⁄ Cahier d′un retour au pays natal, translated by N. Gregson Davis. Originally published in 1939, Cahier d′un retour au pays natal is a landmark of modern French poetry and a founding text of the Negritude movement.

 

O friendly light
O pristine source of light
those who invented neither gunpowder nor compass
those who have never tamed steam or electricity
those who have not explored either seas or sky
but without whom the earth would not be the earth
excrescence growing more benign even as the earth continues to desert
the earth
grain silo where there germinates and ripens what is most earth upon
the earth

My negritude is not a stone, its deafness heaved
against the clamor of day
my negritude is not a film of dead water on the dead eye
of earth
my negritude is neither a tower nor a cathedral
it delves into the red flesh of the soil
it delves into the burning flesh of the sky
it digs through the dark accretions that weigh down its righteous
patience.

Hurray for the majestic Cedrate!
Hurray for those who have never invented anything
for those who have never explored anything
for those who have never vanquished anything
but they surrender, possessed, to the essence of every thing
ignorant of surfaces but possessed by the movement
of every thing
unconcerned to vanquish, but playing the game of the world

truly the elder sons of the world
permeable to all the breaths of the world
fraternal compass points for all the breaths of the world
deep lake bed for all the waters of the world
spark of the sacred fire of the world
flesh of the very flesh of the world, palpitating with the very
movement of the world!
Foreday morning warm with ancestral values

Learn more about Journal of a Homecoming ⁄ Cahier d′un retour au pays natal.

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