Poetry Analysis (Harlem Renaissance)

“Africa”
The sun sought thy dim bed and brought forth light,
The sciences were sucklings at thy breast;
When all the world was young in pregnant night
Thy slaves toiled at thy monumental best.
Thou ancient treasure-land, thou modern prize,
New peoples marvel at thy pyramids!
The years roll on, thy sphinx of riddle eyes
Watches the mad world with immobile lids.
The Hebrews humbled them at Pharaoh’s name.
Cradle of Power! Yet all things were in vain!
Honor and Glory, Arrogance and Fame!
They went. The darkness swallowed thee again.
Thou art the harlot, now thy time is done,
Of all the mighty nations of the sun.
Analysis:
Scientific and historical
discussion about humanity and the African origins
These lines suggests to Genesis
which God brings forth light with one command
power
creation
Also, connotations of the dark complexions of Africa’s descendants
Unspoken figures whose plight is a recurrent subject in McKay’s work
difficult or an unfortunate situation
Uses Mythical creatures
Establishes the poem’s female personification of Africa
Lends further into support to the cradle of civilization metaphor introduced
Mothers in Africa are nurturing, raises and encourages others

“Africa” – Literary devices
personification: Africa is a woman
The sciences were sucklings at thy breast;
When all the world was young in pregnant night
couplet:
Thou art the harlot, now thy time is done,
Of all the mighty nations of the sun.
rhyme:
The sun sought thy dim bed and brought forth light,
The sciences were sucklings at thy breast;
When all the world was young in pregnant night
Thy slaves toiled at thy monumental best.
metaphor:
The sun sought thy dim bed and brought forth light

“Africa” – relating to the renaissance
This poem represents writing of the Harlem Renaissance because in that era they used sonnets to express themselves. The poem also uses a rhyme scheme just like some poets in the Harlem Renaissance. This poem was also written by Claude McKay who played a big part in the Harlem Renaissance. Slavery was also linked to this renaissance and this poem has a line pointed to slavery. I think this poem is also about racism.

“Dinner Guest”
I know I am
The Negro Problem
Being wined and dined,
Answering the usual questions
That come to white mind
Which seeks demurely
To Probe in polite way
The why and wherewithal
Of darkness U.S.A.–
Wondering how things got this way
In current democratic night,
Murmuring gently
Over fraises du bois,
“I’m so ashamed of being white.”

The lobster is delicious,
The wine divine,
And center of attention
At the damask table, mine.
To be a Problem on
Park Avenue at eight
Is not so bad.
Solutions to the Problem,
Of course, wait.

Analysis:
Hughes takes as his subject the awkward relationship between champions of the black community and their white sympathizers. The white people murmur that they are ashamed of being white even as they eat lobster and drink fine wine on Park Avenue. They may feel some remorse, but they lack the passion, insight, and commitment to live a life other than the one they live. Blacks represent a problem to be solved rather than a people to be engaged and loved. They are ignorant about black culture and see only the sad elements…

“Dinner Guest” – Literary Devices
Free Verse: There isn’t any exact rhyme pattern.
Narrative Poem: The narrator talks about how he is in this fancy restaurant, but he thinks about how there is a racism problem going on. However he tries to distract himself from all his worries by eating even though in the back of his mind he still thinks about all the situations.
Tone: The narrator’s tone is as if he was uncomfortable in this situation, especially when he is being questioned in the usual way by black people.
Rhymes: There is a couple of rhymes in this poem, but there isn’t a specific pattern that goes to it.

“Dinner Guest” – relating to the renaissance
This poem represents to the Harlem Renaissance and the concept of new negroes because the author of this poem showed the difference perspectives between the blacks and whites. I also think that for the whites, it showed the disadvantages and advantages of what whites can or can’t do or have. Also with the blacks, it proves that they can also have some jealousy towards them. Because I think they wish to have what they want to have or to be able to do and go places.

“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.

Analysis:
The author is describing the lifetime of struggle the black people have had throughout history
The rivers are a metaphor for the history of where the black community came from, where they went, and how it is getting better for them
The poet is saying that the entire reason they are the way they are is because of their history- as much as they’ve shaped it, it has shaped them in turn.

“The Negro Speaks of Rivers” – Literary Devices
Narrator: first person perspective (the author)
Narrative poem
Metaphor: “I’ve known rivers”
Simile: “ancient as the world”
Free verse
Personification: he singing of the rivers
Connotation: the rivers mentioned are well known

“The Negro Speaks of Rivers” – relating to the renaissance
The Harlem Renaissance was a movement during the 1920s and 1930s in America in which black artists, activists, writers, musicians, and performers found new ways to explore and celebrate the black experience.
The Negro Speaks of Rivers” connects the soul of the African-American community to four great rivers in the Middle East, Africa, and America.

“As I Grow Older”
It was a long time ago.
I have almost forgotten my dream.
But it was there then,
In front of me,
Bright like a sun—
My dream.
And then the wall rose,
Rose slowly,
Slowly,
Between me and my dream.
Rose until it touched the sky—
The wall.
Shadow.
I am black.
I lie down in the shadow.
No longer the light of my dream before me,
Above me.
Only the thick wall.
Only the shadow.
My hands!
My dark hands!
Break through the wall!
Find my dream!
Help me to shatter this darkness,
To smash this night,
To break this shadow
Into a thousand lights of sun,
Into a thousand whirling dreams
Of sun!
Analysis:
Through his work, Langston Hughes uses personifications and other similes that block him from achieving his goals due to his skin color
that he had a dream (so did Martin Luther King Jr.! hint hint) and that it was “in front of me, bright like a sun” (Hughes).
he also mentions that him being black had also impaired him to reach his dreams and that a “wall rose, rose slowly, slowly between me [him] and my [his] dream” (Hughes).
the wall’s shadow symbolizing his skin color

“As I Grow Older” – Literary devices
Bright like a sun – simile (comparing two things using the words like or as)

In front of me,
Bright like a sun—
My dream. – metaphor

I lie down in the shadow.
No longer the light of my dream before me,
Above me. – imagery (paints an image in the reader’s mind)

And then the wall rose,
Rose slowly,
Slowly,
Between me and my dream.
Rose until it touched the sky – personification (giving the wall a human characteristic)

To smash this night,
To break this shadow – alliteration (the repetition of consonant sounds, to emphasize the harshness of the speaker’s conditions through the words “shatter,” and “smash”.

“As I Grow Older” – relating to the renaissance
This poem is a wonderful representation of the Harlem Renaissance simply because it was the work of a black person and how they felt discriminated during the times of segregation.
The Harlem Renaissance was a time for black writers to express themselves through poems, and Langston Hughes powerfully expresses how frustrated he is with both himself and society at the time
It also is a great representation of the New Negro because of how criticizing it is (or in a subtle way) of the racism present at this time.
Langston Hughes voiced his opinion in a way that made readers all over the world think, and as well as see the perspective of someone who was discriminated for their skin color during this time in America

“Enslaved”
Oh when I think of my long-suffering race,
For weary centuries despised, oppressed,
Enslaved and lynched, denied a human place
In the great life line of the Christian West;
And in the Black Land disinherited,
Robbed in the ancient country of its birth,
My heart grows sick with hate, becomes as lead,
For this my race that has no home on earth.
Then from the dark depths of my soul I cry
To the avenging angel to consume
The white man’s world of wonders utterly:
Let it be swallowed up in earth’s vast womb,
Or upward roll as sacrificial smoke
To liberate my people from its yoke!
Analysis:
Slavery
Nothing good comes from trying to oppress a race
People will fight back
To show how blacks were treated
how it was okay to enslave them
Everyone needs to be treated as equals

“Enslaved” – Literary devices
Sonnet
Simile: “My heart grows sick with hate, becomes as lead”
Lyric(al) Poem: He expresses his feelings about white superiority and how his people been treated in the past
Alliteration: “The white man’s world of wonders utterly”
Couplet: “Or upward roll as sacrificial smoke, To liberate my people from its yoke!”

“Enslaved” – relating to the renaissance
This poem represents the Harlem Renaissance well because it talks of being freed from slavery and reflecting on how black people have been treated. The Harlem Renaissance drew black writers, poets, scholars, musicians, photographers, etc together. A black person wrote this poem about how people like him have suffered. This type of writing helps New Negro implies a more outspoken advocacy and refusal to submit quietly to the practices and laws of Jim Crow racial segregation. The concept of New Negro was to make racism no longer exist so this poem would be