Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Negro Speaks of Rivers, Analysis and Re-analysis

Poems are funny things. They change what they say the more you read them.
Poems also change what they say the more you read what others say about them.

The Negro Speaks of Rivers  
by Langston Hughes

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.

Re-read it for yourself. Follow the format below and write about the poem in your English Journal.
  1. Title- When you first read the title what did you think the poem would be about?
  2. Paraphrase- Quickly summarize the poem in your own words.
  3. Connotation- What meaning does the poem have beyond what it says? What larger meaning is there?
  4. Attitude- What is the tone of the speaker? What emotions is he or she feeling? How can you tell?
  5. Shifts- Does the speaker change? Does the speaker's attitude / tone change? What other changes take place in the poem?
  6. Title- Look at the title again. Does it now mean something more that what you first thought?
  7. Theme- What do you think is the theme or themes of this poem? What is the poet saying? How does the tone, imagery and symbolism of the poem contribute to this theme?
Now see what others have said about this poem. This page has excerpts from the work of eight different scholars who wrote about this poem. They will tell you more about it. Read what they say and then go back to your journal. Write again about what the poem means to you when you read it now. What do you know about it now that you didn't know before? Include quotations from the scholars if appropriate.

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