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The Negro Speaks of Rivers By: Langston Hughes

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Deborah Isola

on 22 April 2013

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Transcript of The Negro Speaks of Rivers By: Langston Hughes

By: Langston Hughes A Negro Speaks of Rivers The Negro Speaks Of Rivers "My soul has grown deep" "I bathed in the Euphrates" Summary "I've known rivers" "I’ve known rivers: Ancient, dusky rivers."
-The use of this line brings together the whole theme of the roots of knowing and understanding of the narrator to a full circle.

"My soul has grown deep like the rivers."
- To end the poem the speaker repeats this phrase in hope that now it has more understanding and more meaning than when originally used, because maybe now the reader can see its meaning after the narrator has spoken of the roots and African-American history tied together inside of this poem. "I've known rivers" "I’ve known rivers: I’ve known rivers ancient as the world and older than the flow of human blood in human veins."

- The poem begins using the simple declaration "I've known rivers" this is the narrator implying to the reader his experience and wisdom and how his soul has become as deep as a river. He continues by explaining how in depth the narrator's knowledge is and how far he has come "I've known rivers ancient as the world and older than the flow of human bloods in human veins." - rather than the actual flow of veins and rivers this line is really meant to describe roots, meaning beginnings, and paths, meaning journeys, that this person has gone through. The veins and rivers are symbols for how this persons life has run deep and been twisted in irregular ways. Langston Hughes:
Biographical Info My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

- This simple line contains deep meaning behind it. In this line the narrator begins to allow the reader to see the rivers in a different light.Previously the river stood for roots and beginnings where as now it symbolizes the depth of his soul. The narrator also uses this comparison to describe that rivers are similar to his soul as they both are truly never ending. When the speaker says that his soul is deep like the rivers, he is saying that because of this connection his soul has with the earth, he thrives and can understand it. "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."

- The poem switches gears as it begins speaking of roots and events in
African-American history that took place over long a period of time. The narrators use of 'I' presents the idea that this person is thousands of years old while really the narrator is using "I" to represent hundreds of thousands of voices from the past to the present. He starts off from when earth was a baby with the Euphrates River then journeys through the rivers of ancient time to present day rivers that had to do with African-American history. Along with this idea is the fact that the roots of African and African-American history are not only within the people, but that they are within the souls that “have grown deep like the rivers” they have thrived along for centuries. James Mercer Langston Hughes was born on February 1, 1902, in Joplin, Missouri.
He published his first poem, The Negro Speaks of Rivers, in 1921 in The Crisis magazine.
In 1925, he was working as a busboy in a Washington, D.C. hotel restaurant when he met American poet Vachel Lindsay.
Later on in that year, Hughes’s poem “The Weary Blues” won first prize in the Opportunity magazine literary competition, and Hughes received a scholarship to attend Lincoln University, in Pennsylvania.
Hughes published his first book in 1926.
He went on to write countless works of poetry, prose and plays, as well as a popular column for the Chicago Defender.
He died on May 22, 1967 at the age of 65. 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. The theme of roots and beginnings are projected in this poem. The meaning of roots, or rivers as used in this poem, is double as it represents roots as in those of a tree and roots as in that of a journey. This theme gives rise to the ultimate meaning of the poem. Themes "I’ve known rivers: I’ve known rivers ancient as the world and older than the flow of human blood in human veins." Repetition: The author uses the line "I've known rivers" at the beginning of the poem and at the end to magnify the significance of this phrase. He repeats it allowing the reader to understand the cycle effect that this poem carries.
Simile: A Simile is used to compare the narrators depth in wisdom and the ancient history of these rivers to the many many years the world has been around
Metaphor: This metaphor is used to continue to describe the depth of the narrators knowledge and his deep roots as well . My soul has grown deep like the rivers. This is a refrain used by the author to emphasize the second meaning of rivers in this poem which is the depth of the rivers being compared to the depth of the soul. "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."

Allusion: Allusions in this poem are used to take back the reader to different times in history, particularly those of African Americans. When he talks about bathing in the Euphrates he talks about the beginning of civilization. He continues talking about how he looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it which is taking the reader to the moment in history when the great pyramids were built. He finishes off the allusions by talking about the Mississippi River and takes the reader back to the moment in history when Abe Lincoln sailed down this river, witnessing the horrors of slavery.

Personification: The author personifies the Congo river saying how it "lulled' him to sleep as if the River is a human that actually sang him to sleep. He also does this with the Mississippi River saying he heard the signing of the River.

Imagery: Here our speaker creates the image of the sun setting on the great Mississippi River, turning it to gold.

Metaphor : The "muddy" color of the Mississippi is a metaphor for skin color in the context of slavery, and it becomes "golden" when slavery is abolished and when slaves are freed. "I’ve known rivers: Ancient, dusky rivers."
"My soul has grown deep like the rivers." Refrains: These lines are repeated once again at the end of the poem to express its significance and allow the poem to come to a circling end. Literary Devices Literary Devices Literary Devices Literary Devices The Negro speaks of Rivers is one of Langston Hughes best work . He is able to fill the inside of this simple piece of work with great meaning and history of African American culture. He uses brilliant literary devices such as allusions and imagery to past events in history to allow the reader to really understand the depth of this piece. Hughes uses this poem to showcase that people of color have rich cultures and history that should be respected and admired.
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