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Langston Hughes 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.
–Langston Hughes
I was just reading this poem the other day and thinking how amazing it is that the poet wrote it when he was 17 years-old and had just graduated high school.  I know about his connection with the Harlem Renaissance, but I had not read much of his work.  I am looking forward to reading more about him and thought I would share this incredible poem.

27 thoughts on “Langston Hughes Speaks of Rivers

  1. Evocative. Like Hughes, I’ve known many waters, but they were always salt waters. I really only known one River, one life long companion to all my dreams, my visions, my “encounters” with watchers and beings from very distant realms, and that’s the Fraser river that runs about two miles back of here. Two other rivers come into the picture, the little Hope river at the back of my house which connects me to the Fraser via kayak, and the very short Harrison river which branches off the Fraser at Harrison Mills and takes me to Harrison Lake. Though not having the wild and ever-changing character of the mighty Fraser, the Harrison is a picturesque channel of steep and sheer rock cliffs, green waters at at floor times (June) the majestic and broad flooded expanse of the Chehalis river delta. Just brought back many memories, this talk of rivers. Thank you

    • Sha’Tara, that’s a beautiful, emotive description of your own relationship with rivers. I’ve never lived near any real rivers, only shallow beds that could become rivers in a flood. I love this poem, and am happy to remind those who haven’t read it in awhile, or perhaps those who are not familiar with the extraordinary verse of an extraordinary man.

  2. I hadn’t read that one before, and it’s lovely. So poised and literally oozing talent, even at that tender age. We don’t all get the same talents in equal measures, do we? Yet each of us can develop the gifts we’ve received, to the best of our ability.

  3. I “met” Langston Hughes a few months ago when a friend introduced me to his poem “Freedom Train.” Didn’t know he was so young when he started writing, maybe the gift is just in the genes? Amazing that one could feel the depth of his own soul at 17. A great poem, thanks for sharing. 🙂

    • You are welcome, Joan. I had read this poem before, but somehow missed the fact that he was so young. This poem would have been a marvelous accomplishment for an author of any age, but one so young, I think was very telling of what he would become.

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