Notebook of a Return to the Native Land – Aimé Césaire

“Vainly in the tepidity of
your throat you ripen for
the twentieth time the
same indigent solace
that we are mumblers of words.

Words? while we handle
quarters of earth, while
we wed delirious
continents, while we
force steaming gates,
words, ah yes, words!
but words of fresh blood,
words that are tidal
waves and erysipelas
and malarias and lava
and brush fires, and
blazes of flesh, and
blazes of cities . . .”

It might be odd for me to say that I enjoyed this poem. It definitely wasn’t cheery and it dealt with tough subject matter. However, there was so much power and imagery in Cesaire’s words it was kind of hard not to be impressed by his use of metaphor and rhythm, especially in a subject that is close to my heart: colonialism.

The poem is many things; for one, it’s an angry attack on colonialism and slavery after Cesaire returned to Martinique after living in France. It also issues a wake-up call to people affected by colonialism not to accept their lot in life. Elements of the negritude movement are very evident as well. Black identity and racism are also explored.Very emotional and heartfelt.

In a way, I understand how Cesaire felt. Returning to one’s native land after spending years abroad, it is only natural to wonder about the apathy of the locals, especially with the new knowledge and experiences one has gained abroad. This can lead to frustration, as this poem shows.

“And if all I know how to do is speak, it is for you that I shall speak.My lips shall speak for miseries that have no mouth, my voice shall be the liberty of those who languish in the dungeon of despair… And above all my body as well as my soul, beware of folding your arms in the sterile attitude of spectator, for life is not a spectacle, for a sea of pain is not a proscenium.”

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