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Analysis of Listen Comrades by David Diop


The Overview

Since the birth of civilization, inequality and the struggle for freedom have lasted beyond the expectations of humans.

So many literature have penned the varying happenings of people's fight for freedom which in most cases are never without lose of lives and belongings.

In the poem "Listen Comrades" by David Diop, the voice of the poem expressed his freedom-fighter spirit by calling attention of other comrades to the death of their mentor-fighter "Mamba".

The poem revealed that the victim (Mamba) was imprisoned yet not aggressive nor holding grudges against none. The victim, in his state of confinement, was aged yet hopeful in his course for freedom.

The Line-by-Line Summary

Between line 13-20, the voice of the poem poured out his pains and sorrows for the death of the aged dead comrade who went by the name Mamba and other imprisoned comrades who might likely share the same fate:
"For there rings out higher than my sorrows
Purer than the morning where the wild beast wakes
The cry of a hundred people smashing their cells".

Though the voice of the poem had escaped imprisonment by going on exile, he still followed up on the events noting in line 23-24 that those who killed Mamba wanted the murder to be kept secret but unfortunately such figure could go unnoticed: "The blood they hoped to snare in a circle of words/ Rediscovers the fervour that scatters the mists".

The last two lines of the poem, after refrain, urged the comrades the time has come to rise to the challenge at hand.

The Poetic And The Themes

I did state that the poem is about comrades waking other comrade to the fight for freedom ahead. Common themes in a poem of this nature are death, mourning, struggle, imprisonment, freedom, unity, hope, aging, etc. The 27 line free verse poem is translated from its original French version. Nonetheless, it has refrain of  line 1-2 in line 24-25 (Listen comrades of the struggling centuries/ To the keen clamour of the Negro from Africa to the Americas). The poem also made so allusions in line 4-5 (As they killed the seven of Martinsville/ Or the Madagascan down there in the pale light of the prisons). Many imageries in the poem for instance in line 14 "And the peaceful tremor of his breast". "Like a plant torn from the maternal bosom" has a simile while "The blood they hoped to snare in a circle of words" contained metaphor.

Other Salient Points

Other things to be noted in the poem are: "to snare" which means to catch in a trap. "the bright colours of a bouquet of hope" which is a metaphor comparing the bright colours of bunch of flowers with the vivid inspiration of hope. "poured forth for us milk and light" which means it sustained and encouraged with his speeches. "the Madagascan" in the poem refers to the revolt of 1947 which was cruelly suppressed. "the seven of Martinsville" There was no prove of any event in the African struggle for freedom to which the reference might allude. "Mamba" can not be traced to any human right activist in particular. David Diop was born in France in 1927. His father as a Senegalese and his mother a Cameroonian. He died in a plane crash near Dakar in 1960.
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Samuel C Enunwa aka samueldpoetry
(the Leo with wings flying)

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