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Limbo Poem analysis

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by

Anam Ahmed

on 14 July 2013

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Transcript of Limbo Poem analysis

Limbo By Edward Brathwaite
The Poem 'Limbo' is based upon slave trade. Men and women from Africa were captured and taken to America to be sold as slaves and work on unpleasant plantation farms .

The term Limbo has three different meanings: a state of uncertainty, being on the borders of hell, and a traditional west Indies dance . All of these meaning are explored within the poem.



In line 7 the term 'long dark night' represents the loneliness and despair of the slaves; they felt isolated and alone, in a state of darkness or uncertainty which is another meaning for the term 'limbo'.
The poem is written in free verse and structured to a drum beat, like a traditional limbo dance as well as representing the drum beat in which the slaves had to work to and beaten to.

The chorus 'limbo, limbo like me' is repeated throughout the poem representing the constant beatings and oppression which the slaves endured.

The limbo stick in line 1 represents the sticks used to beat and whip the slaves in punishment, pushing them down both physically and metaphorically by breaking the slaves down by humiliation.



''Long dark night is the silence infront of me'' shows us that the slave trade ship was full of silence . It shows us a sense of fear as the slaves would have been afraid to speak in the fear of getting beaten up of getting whipped by the master .
The poet wants the readers to realise the torture and hardships slaves had to go through during the slave trade .
About 15 million Africans were transported to America between 1540 - 1850 to be sold as slaves . The poem focuses on the terrible conditions on the ship creatively by exploring the meanings of the word 'limbo'.
'
''And limbo stick is the silence in front of me''
the stick is a symbol of oppression it is the masters weapon to intimidate the people taken into slavery . ''Silence'' suggests the clash of two different cultures , each with a different language .
stick
hit
sound
and the
ship
like it ready

stick
hit
sound
and the dark
still steady

The alliteration adds to the impact of the beating of the slaves
''long dark deck and the water surrounding me''
long dark deck and the silence is over me''

This line describes the horror on the journey of the ship , they slaves feels there is no escape , physically and mentally .

''down
down
down
and the drummer is calling me''
the word 'down' suggests going down the limbo stick , and going down to into hell .

''And the drummer is calling me' shows us the person is not alone . there is hope in the line . It also relates to the sound of the drum in the limbo dance.
''Sun coming up'' shows a new symbol of life and hope , this line is the turning point in the poem , the dark is replaced by light .


''Out of the dark and the dumb gods are raising me''

This represents new life and the slaves on the ship feel as if they have been lifted out of the dark
''up
up
up''

The word Up shows us the slaves finally think they are ascending out of the misery of slavery




'Hot , slow , step'
this line shows that the slave thinks his hope will be short lived as he knows his suffering will continue after he reaches his destination which is America.

And limbo stick is the silence in front of me
limbo

limbo
limbo like me
limbo
limbo like me

long dark night is the silence in front of me
limbo
limbo like me

stick hit sound
and the ship like it ready

stick hit sound
and the dark still steady

limbo
limbo like me

long dark deck and the water surrounding me
long dark deck and the silence is over me


limbo
limbo like me

stick is the whip
and the dark deck is slavery

stick is the whip
and the dark deck is slavery

limbo
limbo like me
drum stick knock
and the darkness is over me

knees spread wide

and the water is hiding

limbo
limbo like me

knees spread wide
and the dark ground is under me


down
down
down
and the drummer is calling me

limbo
limbo like me

sun coming up
and the drummers are praising me

out of the dark
and the dumb god are raising me
up
up
up

and the music is saving me

hot
slow
step


on the burning ground.
Edward Brathwaite was born in Barbados in 1930 . He studied History at Cambridge University. . He has won many awards for his poetry and has written 38 poems
the beginning of the poem starts with ''And'' which adds to the continuous movement and the repetition of the poem , you can tell what ever going to happen is already happening and continuing , in this case it is the slave trade .
Ameena , Shabana , & Anam
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