Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Langston Hughes: Feb. 1, 1902--May 22, 1967

Some short early poems by Langston Hughes.


Does a jazz band ever sob?
They say a jazz band's gay.
Yet as the vulgar dancers whirled
And the wan night wore away,
One said she heard the jazz band sob
When the little dawn was grey.

The night is over, and the fantasy world created by music must retreat before the harsh reality of the coming day. What do the jazz players face during the day that elicits a sob before they gather again to enter that fantasy world?

"vulgar dancers"-- Does he mean "vulgar" in the modern sense of coarse, crude, or uncouth, or in the earlier sense of common or ordinary?

Winter Moon

How thin and sharp is the moon tonight!
How thin and sharp and ghostly white
Is the slim curved crook of the moon tonight!

A scythe? -- the implement frequently depicted as being carried by Death, the Grim Reaper.

Dream Variations

To fling my arms wide
In some place of the sun,
To whirl and to dance
Till the white day is done.
Then rest at cool evening
Beneath a tall tree
While night comes on gently,
Dark like me--
That is my dream!

To fling my arms wide
In the face of the sun,
Dance! Whirl! Whirl!
Till the quick day is done.
Rest at pale evening . . .
A tall slim tree . . .
Night coming tenderly
Black like me.

the white day of activity, furious and frenzied, and the dark night of rest and tenderness.
But--both are only dreams.

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