Essay on To New York Written by Leopold Sedar Senghor

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University of Richmond
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New York is a city that represents financial stability and stable growth in America. The City has numerous activities on a daily basis making it money oriented and frightening as well as enjoying adventure for a visitor. The essay is an analysis of some of the symbols and imagery aspects utilized by Leopold Sedar Senghor in his poem To New York.

At the beginning of the poem, the author narrates his experience during his first day in New York. He describes that At first I was bewildered by your beauty, those huge, long-legged, golden girls. Such an illustration is an indication that the skyscrapers, the busy streets, and the high influx of people engaging in their different activities might probably baffle a first time visitor. The climate in New York is cold, and a visitor will have a difficult time surviving in the City. Senghor further describes, At the end of the third week, the fever overtakes you with a jaguars leap. Senghor further describes that the streets of Harlem flock of sounds and ritual colors. The night has more activities than the day, and Senghor witnessed the ritual of the night. The various events in Harlem might be a new adventure and new experience for a visitor who reigns from a location that has a different culture and economic activity. The flurry of activities is so attractive, and the visitor might lose track of the purpose for visiting the City.

Senghor utilizes various aspects of symbolism and imagery to reach the voice of the people. The symbols and images portrayed in the poem contain hidden messages and realities about the City of New York; thus, making the poem a suitable piece to read. The phrase, Raising my owl eyes at the eclipse of the sun is an illustration of how the people living in the City are denied the warmth of life (Rukhaya, par.2). It is evident that the tall skyscrapers hinder enough light and warmth to penetrate the city thereby creating a cold environment in the streets. Senghor finds it disappointing that the residents of the City fail to enjoy natures gift such as light and warmth. Senghor criticizes the environmental conditions of New York. He claims, Your light is sulphurous against the pale towers. Two weeks without well water and pasture all birds fall suddenly dead under the high sooty terraces. The two phrases symbolize the pollution of the City and its adverse effects to life.

The poem illustrates life in the City as pretentious and lacks authenticity due to its capitalistic nature. For instance, Senghor argues that the people in the City have no tender word, and no lips, only artificial hearts paid for in cold cash. In this phrase, the poet symbolizes how the consumer aspect of the City has transformed people to become materialistic. Money is of crucial importance to the lives of the people living in New York. The lack of it means people cannot provide you with genuine information and vice versa. He further narrates that there is, not one book offering wisdom. According to Rukhaya, the lack of books that impart wisdom symbolizes the reluctance of the people to provide knowledge to the public (par.4). The sleepless nights O nights of Manhattan! accompanied by the car horns is a representation of Citys busy schedule, which makes it an unconducive environment to live in. The poet uses the phrase, the murky streams carrying away hygienic loving like rivers overflowing with corpses of babies to signify insomnia characterized by the nights of Manhattan. People give in to their impulsive needs, and contraceptives are evident floating everywhere especially in the dark waters (Rukhaya par. 4).

The end part of the poem, Songher calls upon the people of New York especially the blacks to unite and come back to their ancestral origins and beliefs. The poet says, Listen to the beating of your nocturnal heart and let the black blood flow into your blood. The imagery of the night symbolized by the phrase nocturnal is a cry to the black community to remember that their African heritage is inescapable and natural (Anthony 524). The poet tries to enlighten the blacks that they should not be attracted to the lifestyles of the white people since it is impossible to escape their African origins. Not only does Senghor address the black community but also the white people by urging them to focus their eyes and ears to God who created heaven and earth in six days, and slept on the seventh day. Senghor utilizes biblical allusion by mentioning manna and hyssop, which are biblical representations of happiness in heaven (KJV Foundation Study Bible, Lev. 14: 4-7, 49-51).

Senghors poem reaches out to the people by utilizing various literary devices, which represent the life and reality of the people living in the City. Examples such as sulphurous light, car horns and sleepless nights, lack of books imparting wisdom, and the murky streams with contraceptives floating in the dark water are all illustrations of the terrible life events that are happening in the lives of the people living in New York. The author points out directly the problem affecting the blacks living in the City by portraying how they are emulating the culture of the white people yet forgetting that their African origins are inescapable. Such use of descriptive words from the poem directly reaches out to the voice of the people.

Works cited

Anthony, Kanu. Negritude and the Quest for an African Identity. Indian Journal of Applied Research, vol. 4, no.8, 2014, pp. 523-525.Rukhaya. Poetry Analysis: Leopold Sedar Senghors New York. Rukhaya, 7 Sep. 2014, Accessed 18 Oct. 2017.

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