THE AFRICAN BOY by E. N. Sargent


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Three long poems and five lyrics turn in essence to the wellspring of African life for their glowing strength. ""Akbala's Song or the Joining-of-Ways"" is an impassioned love poem that rises and falls in fevered, explicit lyricism akin to the ""Song of Songs"" as the speaker takes on the ritual cuts that proclaim her beauty and bravery. The poem turns from the fiercely personal to the suffering of Africa herself, her scars that are to be celebrated for and by the lover-savior. From ""We bring sweet honey"", of a traditional fisherman's song, grows ""In the Boat, Chants from the Yoruba"" sung to the gods, the hunters and boatmen who keep safe from leopard and crocodile (""As the gods arrive, unexpectedly, let me sing ""). From Ghana comes the haunting refrain of ""Awakening of a Drum""-- ""I am learning, Let me succeed"" or alternatively ""I am listening, Let me understand""--to which the gods reply, ""No need to fear/ You will only be as others are"". Thus the question and response in a poem that spans Africa and America, that questions the suffering of famine and war, the remove to and slavery in America--""Why did you send him (the African Boy) naked across the water?""--and closes with the assurance, and threat, ""He comes bia: to strengthen/to freshen/to redden...they redden all, if all be free"". The lyrics retain the same green-gold vocabulary, the same sense of easy access to the creative source. A fresh, clear voice.

Pub Date: Sept. 16th, 1963
Publisher: Macmillan