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The Negro Speaks of Rivers

Page history last edited by PBworks 17 years, 11 months ago

__The Negro Speaks of Rivers__





|I've known rivers:

I've known rivers ancient as the world and older than the flow

of human blood in human veins.


My soul has grown deep like the rivers.


I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young.

I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep.


I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it.

I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln went

down to New Orleans, and I've seen its muddy bosom turn

all golden in the sunset.


I've known rivers:

Ancient, dusky rivers.


My soul has grown deep like the rivers.|




You can hear a reading of this poem on the following website: http://www.poetryarchive.org/poetryarchive/singlePoem.do?poemId=1553



Langston Hughes wrote this poem when he was 17 years old, and he dedicated it to W.E.B. Dubois. On the website http://www.english.uiuc.edu/maps/poets/g_l/hughes/rivers.htm it is stated that this poem is a sonorous evocation of transcendent essences so ancient as to appear timeless, predating human existence, longer than human memory. The rivers are part of God's body, and participate in his immortality. They are the earthly analogues of eternity: deep, continuous, mysterious.


Until further research I did not know that the rivers that are spoken of are named in the order of their association with black history. The black man has drunk for the essence of the rivers and borrowed their immortality. The rivers and he have become one.


As the rivers deepen with time, so does the black man's soul; as their waters ceaselessly flow, so will the black soul endure. The black man has seen the rise and fall of civilizations from the earliest times, seen the beauty and death-changes of the world over the thousands of years, and will survive even this America.

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