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"Negro Speaks of Rivers" analysis notes

Explicate "The Negro Speaks of Rivers" by Langston Hughes. You are analyzing each line of the poem, noting the specific words the author uses. Why did he use those particular words? What special meaning might they have as opposed to the common meaning, or is he using them as commonly understood? What is the overall theme of the poem? What is the author trying to relate?

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.

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While analyzing each line of the poem, noting the specific words the author uses, Hughes suggests, "I've known rivers." "Known" seems to summon past tense, so he might be seeking a Biblical or spiritual connotation here with the waters of Babylon or a historical allusion to slavery of the Nile river to suggest a connection with his African heritage.

When he repeats, "I've known rivers," he wants to emphasize the past link and then he add, "ancient as the world and older than the flow of human blood in human veins." The ancient references as well as the "blood in human veins" also suggests not only his link to heritage but also Biblical ...

Solution Summary

"Negro Speaks of Rivers" analysis notes are offered to guide users toward understanding the poem's theme better.

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