Analysis of Long, long have you held by Leopold Sedar Senghor

Leopold Sedar Senghor is a poet, philosopher and scholar. He is one of the eldest and most prominent living persons associated with African poetry and culture. Born in 1906, Senghor was educated in Dakar, Senegal and Paris, France where he made history as first West African to graduate from the Sorbornne and teach in French University. Senghor became involved in French colonial politics, which prepared him for the leadership role he was to play among his people. In 1960, Senghor became the President of the Federal Assembly of Mali and later in the same year President of the Federal Republic of Senegal. Senghor retired in 1980.

Analysis/summary of Long, long have you held by Leopold Sedar Senghor

In the poem, “Long, long have you held,” Leopold Sedar Senghor expresses his endless and unquenchable love for his country. Senghor’s emotional fondness for Africa and specifically his country is outrightly equated with the strong and burning feeling a man has for a woman. Senghor places himself in the poem typically in situation of a man whose thought is deeply on a woman he loves and admires.

Senghor’s “Long, long have you held” poem is consisted of eleven lines. The use of caesura in the poem heightens and buttresses Senghor’s love for his country. Leopold Sedar Senghor, at the time of writing this poem, was not in Africa. But his feeling and admiration for Africa and his country is equally irresistible. In the first line of the poem, Senghor sees himself as a warrior well trained by his country to withstand challenges, and this has made him to defend the integrity of his fatherland. In spite of the distance of where he is, the image of his country landscape keeps coming to him. He described this in line 3: “From the hill I have seen the sun set in bays of your eyes.”

Having Stayed for a while in a country that is not his, Senghor feels alienated and thus his longing to return to his fatherland, his place of birth, arises extremely and emotionally strong. His little stay in another country seems like decades to him. He cannot bear it anymore; consequently, his desperate longing and desire to return immediately to his country comes forcefully in a rhetorical questions:

When shall I see again, my country, the pure horizon of your face? – line 4

When shall I sit down once more at the dark table of your breast? -line 5

In line six of the poem, Senghor compares his country to a bird’s nest. A nest is where eggs are laid and hatched. To Senghor, his country has bred him and gave him a protected shelter. The poem line reads: “Hidden in half – darkness, the nest of gentle words.”

Like one who is exiled, Senghor avers that he cannot see the skies of his own country. All he is seeing is “other skies and other eyes,” and sleeping in a country that is not his.

“But every year,” he is like a man who has drunk rum and therefore unable to reflect on anything except his country. He describes the indelible thought about his country like a springtime – it comes and go but bluntly refuses to go eventually. As Senghor reminisces frequently about his country, he laments in the last line of the poem:

I shall be full of regret for my homeland and the rain from my eyes on the the thirsty Savannah

Literary Device


Patriotism is the main theme in Senghor’s “Long, long have you held.” Throughout the poem, Senghor showcases his patriotism for his country. He expresses this by describing his love for his country as one the exists between two lovers. To Senghor, his country has raised him as a warrior, that is, a man.

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