I am listening to “Every Tone a Testimony”. It’s a 2CD set by Smithsonian Folkways Recordings. I got it in a KPFK(radio) fund drive a few years back. Langston Hughes says….


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.



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3 Comments on Langston Hughes

  1. A fantastic poem.

    While reading the critical analysis, I’m struck by the various meanings, author’s thoughts, and other “opinions” the reviewers state as fact. I’ve always wanted a section entitled, “The author responds,” where he/she can tell them all the bits they got wrong. A bit late for that here of course, but…

    Thanks for posting this. I read it several years back, but had forgotten how beautiful it is.


    • B.E.M. says:

      You are welcome…I was moved to by Spirit

      Hey Dan,

      I agree with you that it would be great to hear what L.H. has to say about his poem and about the crtical analysis.

      Here is what he said about his poem:


      according to Langston Hughes himself on POETS.ORG, the background of the poem is The poem was written in 1920, just after Hughes came out of high school. He was going to Mexico to visit his father who lived in Mexico City and in the train on the way there, he looked out the window and saw the Mississippi River, just outside of St. Louis. He saw a big muddy river flowing down to the south and thought about its importance to the African American people and how their history was linked to the river. During slavery times, being sold down the Mississippi River was one of the worst things that could happen to you as a slave. Also, Abraham Lincoln once sailed down the Mississippi and was so horrified when he saw the buying and selling of slaves that he never forgot it. He later went on to be the one that signed the Emancipation Proclamation. As the train slowly passed the river, Langston Hughes wrote this poem.

  2. That poem was always one of my favorites by Hughes. 🙂

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