Léopold Sédar Senghor: To Senegalese Sharpshooters Who Died For France
To Senegalese Sharpshooters Who Died For France
by Léopold Sédar Senghor (Senegal, 1938-40)
Here is the Sun
That makes virgins’ chests stick out
That makes old men smile on benches
That would awaken the dead under a maternal earth.
I hear the sound of cannons – Is it from Irun?
They are placing flowers on tombs; they are reheating the Unknown Soldier.
You, my obscure brothers, no one names you.
They promise five hundred thousand of your children to the glory of the future dead;
they thank them in advance future obscure dead
The black dishonor!
Listen to me, Senegalese sharpshooters, in the solitude of the black
earth and death
In your solitude without eyes without ears, more than my dark skin in
the depths of the
Without even the heat of your comrades asleep next to you, as in days of yore in the
trenches as in days of yore during village discussions
Listen to me, black skinned sharpshooters, albeit without ears and without eyes in
your triple night enclosure.
We did not hire female lamenters, not even the tears of your ancient wives
-- They remember only your big expressions of anger, preferring the ardor of
The moans of the too clear female lamenters
The cheeks of your wives dried too quickly as in the dry season the torrents of the
The hottest tears too clear and too quickly drunk at the corner of forgetful lips.
We bring you, listen to us, we who spelled your names during the months when
We, in these days of fear without memory, we bring you the friendship of your
comrades of your age.
Ah! would that I were able one day with a voice the color of embers, would that
I were able to sing
The friendship of comrades fervent like intestines and delicate, strong like tendons.
Listen to us, the Dead spread out in the water in the depths of the
Northern and Eastern
Receive this red soil, under the summer sun this soil reddened by the blood of
Receive greetings from your black comrades, Senegalese sharpshooters
WHO DIED FOR THE REPUBLIC!