T.S. Eliot, Langston Hughes and Modern Poetry

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In the early 20th century, many writers such as T.S. Eliot (Thomas Stearns Eliot) and Langston Hughes wrote what scholars of today consider, modern poetry. Writers in that time period had their own ideas of what modern poetry should be and many of them claimed that they wrote modern work. According to T.S. Eliot’s essay, “From Tradition”, modern poetry must consist of a “tradition[al] matter of much wider significance . . . if [one] want[s] it [he] must obtain it by great labour . . . no poet, no artist of any art, has his complete meaning alone. His significance, his appreciation is the appreciation of his relation to the dead poets and artists’ (550). In another term, tradition only comes within the artist or the art itself; therefore, it should be universally monumental to the past. And, Langston Hughes argues that African-Americans should embrace and appreciate their own artistic virtues; he wishes to break away from the Euro-centric tradition and in hopes of creating a new blueprint for the African-American-Negro.
To analyze Hughes’s poem thoroughly, by using Eliot’s argumentative essay, we must first identify the poem’s speaker and what is symbolic about the speaker? The title (“The Negro Speaks Of Rivers”) of the poem would hint off the speaker’s racial identity, as the word Negro represents the African-American race not only in a universal manner, but in it’s own individual sphere. T.S. Eliot’s essay, mentions that “every nation, every race, has not its own creative, but its own critical turn of mind”(549). In another sense, different societies have their own characteristics, however, with a racial mixture, shadowed elements can be formed. If one were to analyze in between the lines of Eliot’s essay and Hughes’s poem, he...

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... once ferried African-American slaves; the presidential figure is a time mark for the reader. Another analytical reference from Eliot’s essay would be “the poem must be very conscious of the main current, which does not at all flow invariably through the most distinguished reputations”; the speaker refers back to the Slave Tradition and makes a clear statement about the south, using Abe Lincoln as a time period.
Lastly, Langston Hughes’s poem, “The Negro Speaks Of Rivers”, ends with “I’ve known rivers: / Ancient, dusky rivers. / My soul has grown deep like the rivers (8-10). The speaker voices out his last breath to which from an analytical standpoint, the theme of death arises. Langston Hughes follows T.S. Eliot’s suggestion as he cries out for the African-American race to alienate themselves by embracing their own artistic form, claiming that black is beautiful.

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