Luxembourg 1939

By Léopold Sédar Senghor 1906–2001 Leopold Sedar Senghor

Translated By Melvin Dixon

This Luxembourg morning, this Luxembourg autumn,
As I walk back and forth upon my youth,
No strollers, no fountains, no boats in the water,
No children, no flowers.
Ah! September flowers and the sunburnt shouts of children
Defying the coming winter.
Now only two old fellows trying to play tennis.
This autumn morning without children—the children’s theater closed!
This Luxembourg where I no longer find my youth,
The years as fresh as cut grass.
Comrades, my dreams are vanquished in despair, are they not?
Here they fall like leaves with other leaves,
Older, mortally wounded, trampled, bitter with blood,
Gathered together for what common grave?

I no longer know this Luxembourg, those soldiers at attention.
They set up cannons to protect the Senators’ aimless retirement
They dig trenches under the bench where I learned about
The sweet budding of lips.
This sign, ah! yes, of dangerous youth! . . .
I watch the leaves fall into these false shelters, into graves
Into trenches where the blood of an entire generation flows
Europe is burying the nations’ leaven
And the hope of new races.

Léopold Sédar Senghor, “Luxembourg 1939” 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 Living, Youth, Time & Brevity

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 Living, Youth, Time & Brevity

POET’S REGION Africa

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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