Oh, silver tree! Oh, shining rivers of the soul!
In a Harlem cabaret Six long-headed jazzers play. A dancing girl whose eyes are bold Lifts high a dress of silken gold.
Oh, singing tree! Oh, shining rivers of the soul!
Were Eve's eyes In the first garden Just a bit too bold? Was Cleopatra gorgeous In a gown of gold?
Oh, shining tree! Oh, silver rivers of the soul!
In a whirling cabaret Six long-headed jazzers play.
Langston Hughes wrote “Jazzonia” in the 1920s as a declaration of his anger of the oppression of black people in Harlem whom were not allowed to visit the high-end jazz clubs in the city.
The title “Jazzonia” alludes to a specific passage in the Bible, describing the ancient society of Babylonia and how the Babylonians forced Jewish prisoners to entertain them by playing Jewish religious songs.
Just by the title then, Hughes draws a clear parallel between the blacks oppression in Harlem and the oppression on the Jews 3000 years ago.
Jazz being a creation of the black community, it is plausible that Hughes regarded jazz as his or the black community’s religious music, music that they now played to entertain the white community.
The poem shows several religious aspects like the repeated use of “oh” and “soul” and the reference to Eve, which could refer to her being banished from the Garden of Eden and the black people being banished from the high-end jazz clubs in Harlem.
But the slimily between Babylonia and “Jazzonia” might also refer to Jazzonia as an empire or a country.
The poem clearly describes the beautiful world of jazz. The shining, singing, silver tree being a quartet of silver trumpets playing music… Floating like a river right through your soul.
The dancing girl describing the new wave of more free-spirited people and music of the 1920s and long-headed-jazzers alluding the long history and deep soul of the jazz and its musicians.
Finally, by referring to Cleopatra who allegedly was one of the