Translating Senghor

Here is my translation, from French to English, of The Hurricane, a poem by Léopold Sédar Senghor, the Senegalese poet who was also President of Senegal and is today remembered as the Father of the Country. In translating Senghor, I have tried to reproduce respectfully the voice and style of the original.

My translation of THE HURRICANE by Léopold Sédar Sénghor, from Chants d’Ombre, or Songs of the Shadows)


L. S. Senghor

The hurricane tears out everything all around me
And the hurricane uproots in me leaves and futile words.
Tornadoes of passion whisper in silence
But peace dries up the tornado, as the winter season leaves us.

You Wind that burns, pure Wind. Wind of the season of good weather, burn every flower and every vain thought
When the sand falls upon the dunes of the heart.
Servant, cease your statuesque gesture and you, children, your games and your laughter of ivory colored smiles.
You, shall your voice and your body be consumed, the dry perfume of your skin
The flame that lights up the night, like a column and like a palm tree.
Kiss my lips with blood, Spirit, and blow upon the strings of my kôra.
That it may uplift my song, as pure as the gold of Galam.

L’OURAGAN (the original, for reference)

L’ouragan arrache tout autour de moi
Et l’ouragan arrache en moi feuilles et paroles futiles.
Des tourbillons de passion sifflent en silence
Mais paix sur la tornade sèche, sur la fuite de l’hivernage!

Toi Vent ardent Vent pur, Vent-de-belle-saison, brûle toute fleur toute pensée vaine
Quand retombe le sable sur les dunes du coeur.
Servante, suspends ton geste de statue et vous, enfants, vos jeux et vos rires d’ivoire.
Toi, qu’elle consume ta voix avec ton corps, qu’elle sèche le parfum de ta chair
La flame qui illumine ma nuit, comme une colonne et comme une palme.
Embrase mes lèvres de sang, Esprit, soufflé sur les cordes de ma kôra
Que s’élève mon chant, aussi pur que l’or de Galam.