In Memoriam

By Léopold Sédar Senghor 1906–2001 Leopold Sedar Senghor

Translated By Melvin Dixon

Today is Sunday.
I fear the crowd of my fellows with such faces of stone.
From my glass tower filled with headaches and impatient Ancestors,
I contemplate the roofs and hilltops in the mist.
In the stillness—somber, naked chimneys.
Below them my dead are asleep and my dreams turn to ashes.
All my dreams, blood running freely down the streets
And mixing with blood from the butcher shops.
From this observatory like the outskirts of town
I contemplate my dreams lost along the streets,
Crouched at the foot of the hills like the guides of my race
On the rivers of the Gambia and the Saloum
And now on the Seine at the foot of these hills.
Let me remember my dead!
Yesterday was All Saints’ Day, the solemn anniversary of the Sun,
And I had no dead to honor in any cemetery.
O Forefathers! You who have always refused to die,
Who knew how to resist Death from the Sine to the Seine,
And now in the fragile veins of my indomitable blood,
Guard my dreams as you did your thin-legged migrant sons!
O Ancestors! Defend the roofs of Paris in this dominical fog,
The roofs that protect my dead.
Let me leave this tower so dangerously secure
And descend to the streets, joining my brothers
Who have blue eyes and hard hands.

Léopold Sédar Senghor, “In Memoriam” from The Collected Poems, translated by Melvin Dixon. Copyright © 1998 by The Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia on behalf of the University of Virginia Press. Reprinted by permission of The University of Virginia Press.

Source: The Collected Poems (The University of Virginia Press, 1998)

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Poet Léopold Sédar Senghor 1906–2001

POET’S REGION Africa

Subjects Relationships, Family & Ancestors, Activities, Travels & Journeys, Nature, Seas, Rivers, & Streams

Biography

Senegalese poet, writer, and statesman Léopold Sédar Senghor was born near Dakar in the town of Joal to a Fulbe mother and a Serer trader father. He was educated at the École Nationale de la France d’Outre-Mer in Paris, where he became friends with Aimé Césaire and future French president George Pompidou. After earning his French citizenship, Senghor taught in Tours and Paris. He joined the French army during World War II and . . .

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Poems by Léopold Sédar Senghor

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Relationships, Family & Ancestors, Activities, Travels & Journeys, Nature, Seas, Rivers, & Streams

POET’S REGION Africa

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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