The Poem ‘Limbo’ is based upon slave trade. Men and women from Africa were captured and taken to America to become slaves. The term Limbo has three different meanings: a state of uncertainty, being on the borders of hell, and a traditional west Indies dance where the dancer has to bend over backwards to dance under a stick. All of these meaning are explored within the poem. 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 psychologically by humiliation and subjugation.Order now
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. 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 slaves were also socially isolated due to being unable to speak English (line 7) ‘the silence in front of me’.
In line 16 alliteration is used to emphasise the slaves’ anger and frustration of subjugation and oppression and the loss of their identity. Images of violence appear in line 26 and 27 due to the beating monosyllables that give force to the words ‘stick’ and ‘knock’ as the victims of slavery are now forced to the ground and beaten inhumanely. Lines 31 and 32 give insight to the denomination which also included slaves being physically raped individually and the rape of the whole nation through their oppression, and mentally stripped of their dignity self worth and identity (lines 34, 35 and 36).
In line 43 the phrase “Dumb gods” is used to express the silence of the churches that played ignorant to the inhumane practices of the slave traders and the small ‘g’ in the word god shows the slaves bitterness towards them. The poem is concluded with optimism, which is shared as a nation in line 41 as the single drummer has now become plural; therefore the people are coming together in their shared hopes. ‘The burning ground’ (line 51) gives connotations of cleansing, revival and rebirth: implicating future hope of apartheid and freedom.