Posted by: Dr. Y. | November 4, 2019

“Ils sont venus ce soir” / “They Came Tonight” by Leon Gontran Damas

Léon_Damas

Léon-Gontran Damas

They Came Tonight” is a poem by the celebrated French Guyanese author Léon-Gontran Damas. He is renowned as one of the founders of the Négritude movement, along Aimé Césaire and Leopold Senghor. In 1935, the three men published the first issue of the literary review L’Étudiant Noir (The Black Student), which provided the foundation for what is now known as the Négritude Movement, a literary and ideological movement of French-speaking black intellectuals, writers, and politicians of the African diaspora during the 1930s, aimed at raising and cultivating “Black consciousness” across Africa and its diaspora; this movement rejected the political, social and moral domination of the West.

Slavery_Ship1

Slaves on board a ship

They Came Tonight” is a poem similar to ‘Ils Sont Venus’ de François Sengat-Kuo / ‘They Came’ by François Sengat-Kuo. In this case, it talks about when the Europeans came during slavery time, one night as the drums were thundering, and after that many Africans were taken away from their homes, from their loved ones, many were captured, and the day was never the same, history was never the same, families were destroyed, kingdoms destroyed, and to this day, Africa has not recovered for 400 years of slavery. This poem was first published in Pigments 1937, and later in Présence africaine, 1962.

 

Ils sont venus ce soir (Pour Léopold-Sedar Senghor)

ils sont venus ce soir où le
tam
tam
roulait de
rythme en
rythme
la frénésie

des yeux
la frénésie des mains
la frénésie
des pieds de statues
DEPUIS
combien de MOI MOI MOI
sont morts
depuis qu’ils sont venus ce soir où le
tam
tam
roulait de
rythme en
rythme
la frénésie
des yeux
la frénésie
des mains
la frénésie
des pieds de statues

They Came Tonight
for Léopold-Sedar SenghorThey came the night the
drums
spun from
rhythm
to
rhythm
the frenzy

of eyes
the frenzy of hands
the frenzy
of the feet of statues
SINCE
how many of ME ME ME
are dead
since they came that night when the
drums
spun from
rhythm
to
rhythm
frenzy
of eyes
frenzy
of hands
frenzy
of the feet of statues


Responses

  1. I had ever heard of this poem or poet. Thank you so much for exposing me to him. That poem is so brutal in it’s imagery and it really portrays the horrors of slavery and colonization.

    Like


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