Sound and Sense in Langston Hughes' The Negro Speaks of Rivers

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Sound and Sense in Langston Hughes' The Negro Speaks of Rivers The text of the poem can be found at the bottom of this page. In Langston Hughes' poem "The Negro Speaks of Rivers," Hughes makes use of some interesting poetic techniques. This poem is written in free verse, and seems, at first glance, to be very unstructured. Hughes repeats words and lines, but does not make use of repeated sounds. Hughes' rivers are very rich in symbolism, and are not just simple bodies of water. Finally, some of his word choices near the end of the poem help to bring the message of the poem across more strongly. These poetic techniques contribute greatly to the quality of the poem. In this poem, Hughes chooses to use free verse. This is typical of Hughes, who was a pioneer of so-called "spoken-word poetry," as opposed to more structured forms. Hughes was inspired by black American traditions, and wanted to make his poems accessible to everyone, and accurately reflect American life. He wrote this poem in words that common people of his time could understand, even if they did not have a great education. Since much of Hughes' intended audience was black and not well educated, Hughes wrote a poem that does not require much formal poetic training to understand. However, it is also a very deep poem, one that still lends itself to these methods of study. Hughes makes use of repeated words and even repeats lines, but does not use alliteration, assonance, or consonance. The lack of sound repetition helps to stop the poem from having a "singsong" tone, which is not needed in a poem with a "serious" message such as this. The poem, though, takes on a structure that is reminiscent of many black spirituals, a form with whic... ... middle of paper ... ... Works Cited American Heritage Dictionary of The English Language, The. Third Edition. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1992. "It's A Hughes Thang." (18 May 1998). "Student Commentaries - Langston Hughes." (18 May 1998). The Negro Speaks of Rivers 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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