Stolen Rivers

Langston Hughes: The Negro Speaks of Rivers

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.

Langston Hughes said it was one of his earliest poems, written by the eighteen-year old in 1920. On a journey to Mexico, he passed along the Mississippi river, and contemplated on the significance of that river for black Americans. Here’s Langston Hughes reading the poem.

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