The entire poem is a extended metaphor to describe Africa as this beautiful woman who is going through devastating changes to her homeland. In Maya Angelou’s poem “Africa”, the speaker portrays the country as this African American woman. The speaker uses metaphors and imagery of a woman’s body and Africa’s landscape throughout the poem starting in the first stanza. Thus she had lain,(1) sugar cane sweet (2) deserts her hair (3) golden her feet (4) mountains her breast (5) two Niles her tears (6)
Notice how the speaker uses mountains portraying a woman breast, probably because mountains are big and are eye catching, and a woman’s breast is one of her most valued and viewed body parts. The speaker uses the Nile River as her tears of pain that she is enduring. There is a lot of pain and anguish brought out through the poem. The speaker says “her screams loud and vain, her history slain” (lines 21,23).
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In this stanza, notice the structure and meter. The poet uses eight lines with four syllables in each. The stanza also has a rhyme scheme of a,b,c,b,d,e,a,e.
Each second and fourth lines have end rhyme. In the second stanza the poet brings out “over the white seas, rime white and cold, brigands ungentle, icicle bold” (lines 9-12). This portrays when white men came over to Africa not in peace but to conquer. Later in the stanza it tells us why, “took her young daughters, sold her strong sons” (lines 13-14). Right here the speaker portrays Africa as a mother. The white men came to enslave the black children. It’s stressed that these young lives are being destroyed.
The woman gets upset because she remembers her pain and she takes a moment and screams loud and vain, but she continues to rise. In this stanza the structure is the most different, where the lines run five to six syllables. There is no sort of pattern and every other line is still rhyming, which helps you to read the stanzas without pausing or hesitation. Maybe this stanza is different because this is where the country remembers all the pain it went through. The poem tone changes throughout from beginning to end. It goes from being cheerful to displeasing. thus she had lain, sugar cane sweet/ to “now she is rising, remember her pain, remember the losses, her screams loud and vain” (1-2, 18-21). Her screams loud and vain suggest that Africa was devastated when her young daughter’s and sons were taken from their homeland. After reading the poem, it makes you wonder, why did the speaker chose to compare Africa to a woman? Why not a man? Is it because a woman physically goes through more pain than a man like giving child birth? Or is it because the speaker could reach the audience to be more sympathetically?
Slowly throughout the poem africa is regaining her strength from the devastation she has faced: thus she had lain (8) now she is rising (18) now she is striding (24) Africa is remembering the losses it had, so its bringing back pain, burt the speaker always reassures the audience with one line, “thus she had lain” (1,7,17,). The speaker uses this line four times throughout the piece, but the last time its used it changes to “although she had lain” (25). It reminds the audience even though she has had tribulations, she slowly becomes stronger regaining her strength.