Thursday, April 08, 2010

Prayer to Masks by Léopold Sédar Senghor

Black mask, red mask, you black and white masks,
Rectangular masks through whom the spirit breathes,
I greet you in silence!
Any you too, my lionheaded ancestor.
You guard this place, that is closed to any feminine laughter,
   to any mortal smile.
You purify the air of eternity, here where I breathe the air of
   my fathers.
Masks of markless faces, free from dimples and wrinkles,
You have composed this image, this is my face that bends
   over the altar of white paper.
In the name of your image, listen to me!
Now while the Africa of despotism is dying - it is the agony
  of a pitiable princess
Like that of Europe to whom she is connected through the
   navel -
Now fix your immobile eyes upon your children who have
   been called
And who sacrifice their lives like the poor man his last
So that hereafter we may cry 'hear' at the rebirth of the
   world being the leaven that the white flour needs.
For who else would teach rhythm to the world that has
   died of machines and cannons?
For who else should ejaculate the cry of joy, that arouses
   the dead and the wise in a new dawn?
Say, who else could return the memory of life to men with
   a torn hope?
They call us cotton heads, and coffee men, and oily men,
They call us men of death.
But we are the men of the dance whose feet only gain
   power when they beat the hard soil.

Léopold Sédar Senghor

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