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/ Weakened by my soulful cries." (Angelou, 7)
Thus, the overall message of the poem is not very different from that of the first text, Phenomenal Woman. Again, the writer celebrates her own self as an emblematic image of the entire people. Pride and self-esteem are the major ingredients in the writer's cogent and powerful discourse. She declares her haughtiness and the pleasure she takes in her own self, suggesting that she is so proud that she might even attract the envy of the others: "Does my haughtiness offend you? / Don't you take it awful hard / 'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines / Diggin' in my own back yard." (Angelou, 7) the extreme optimism and mirth that animates the state of the spirit of the author could lead the audience to believe that she has very special reasons to feel this privileged. However, the comparison with the golden mines suggests that the true privilege and the most precious possession that one has is her or his own self. Even the rhythm of the poem borrows from the jocosity and optimism that the text inspires.
The central trope of the text is that of the self that 'rises'. The image has a double function: it does not only suggest that the spirit of the black people is able to rise up again in spite of all the attempts made throughout history to break it down, but it also intimates that it is able to rise with new glory. In this sense, the images of the rising "moons and suns" and of the "tides" accentuate the idea that the spirit can soar high and attain its glory: "Just like moons and like suns, / With the certainty of tides, / Just like hopes springing high, / Still I'll rise." (Angelou, 7) Also, the use of the verb "rise" may be seen as a direct hint to the sunrise and therefore to a beginning and a renaissance. The elemental force of nature that is associated with the self in Angelou's view indicates that the black spirit is undying and impossible to destroy. The implication is thus that the soul can rise above the past and the oppressions with the force of a sweeping tide that can erase the gloomy history and bring the hope of a new beginning:
Out of the huts of history's shame rise
Up from a past that's rooted in pain rise
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide." (Angelou, 8)
The verb "to rise" also suggests dignity and uprightness, in the attempt to correct the "history's shame." The almost obsessive repetition of the verb "I rise" suggests an incessant ascension towards a future that is blessed with the wondrous clarity of the daybreak:
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear rise
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
A rise. (Angelou, 8)
Thus, the poem Still I Rise is at the same time a personal account of the way the author feels about her self, her origin and her race, and also the voicing of a national aspiration.
From the historical and universal perspectives, Angelou shifts easily back into the quotidian life in her Weekend Glory. If the other two poems had approached the life of the black person and that of the black woman more especially from the perspective of the oppressive past and with the purpose of changing the black people's perception of themselves, the third poem of the collection emphasizes the details of the ordinary life. The title already suggests a reference to the habitual and the fugacious: the glory is this time experienced only for a limited period of time. Nevertheless, the phrase "weekend glory" has an additional meaning. Thus, the poem speaks roughly of the achievements of the writer as a black woman who manages to earn her leaving independently and the "weekend glory" refers to the pleasure the author derives from being able to support herself and work honestly during the week. Again, the author starts from personal details and extends her meaning to the specific context she belongs to, as a woman and as a person of color. This poem is thus about the relish that independence brings to the life of a black female. The main conclusion of the text is that the small achievements in life can be seen as the most glorious feats in the context of the endurance the black women needed to break away from the past and build a future for themselves: "My job at the plant / ain't the biggest bet, / but I pay my bills / and stay out of debt. / I get my hair done / for my own self's sake..." (Angelou, 9) Thus, the job, paying the bills on time and being able to go to the hairdresser's become important accomplishments for the black woman. According to Angelou, nothing and no one are too unimportant to note and to praise. The poet sets her self and her own life as an example once more, for the others to study and observe the way in which a common life can be glorious when lived in the right way: "If they want to learn how to live life right / they ought to study me on Saturday night." (Angelou, 9) Thus, the poem reasserts the glory of the ordinary people and the ordinary life, emphasizing that "to be black" is alone a blessing and a reason for joy:
My life ain't heaven but it sure ain't hell.
I'm not on top but I call it swell if I'm able to work and get paid right and have the luck to be Black on a Saturday night." (Angelou, 9)
In this third poem of the collection, Maya Angelou praises "the luck to be Black." She uses the context of an ordinary life with ordinary achievements so as to convey the message that self-respect is more precious than anything else.
Finally, in the last of the four poems entitled Our Grandmothers, Angelou departs for the first time from the personal account form that she had used in the other texts. Thus, she obviously talks about black women, but this time not about the modern ones that have already put the past behind, but about the grandmothers that had actually lived the experience of slavery. The poet is consistent with the two previous themes, the celebration of womanhood and the celebration of blackness, but this time she also gives a re-creation of the experience of oppression. The poem has a refrain that is as telling as were the others: while going through the story of the life of a certain black grandmother, Angelou points to the strength that the black women possessed to stand upright and not give up, in spite of the dreadful oppression. The poem's most cogent image is perhaps that of the grandmother speaking to her children and teaching them her strong spirit. Her determination to keep her position and hold on to her hopes is the most important message that the past can teach the black women. The refrain in this case is "I shall not be moved," implying that nothing can harm the women unless they give up their faith in themselves: "Unless you match my heart and words, / saying with me, / I shall not be moved." (Angelou, 10) the self can conquer all the attempts to have it destroyed: "You have tried to destroy me / and though I perish daily, / I shall not be moved." (Angelou, 10) to find the power in your own self is to be able to believe in your value and thus to destroy the perception that the others have of you. In the case of the Afro- American women, the offending names that the white people used to give them are symbolic of the aggressiveness against their quality of human beings:
She heard the names, swirling ribbons in the wind of history:
nigger, nigger *****, heifer, mammy, property, creature, ape, baboon, whore, hot tail, thing, it." (Angelou, 11)
Thus, as Priscilla Ramsey notes, denominations are essential for the Afro-Americans, as they have the importance of a definition for the black people: "From the ancient African rituals which gave a child a name harmonious with his or her chi to the derogatory epithets coming out of slavery's master-servant relationships -- naming has always held a reality redefining importance for black people. It has reached the level contemporarily with the recreation of one's destiny, an incantation signaling control over one's life."(Ramsey, 139) Angelou thus urges the black women to believe in themselves and to have thus their own definition of what they are, a definition that will thus help them break…[continue]
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