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Comparison: When Black People Are by A. B. Spellman and The Negro Speaks of Rivers by Langston Hughes

By jacksontallon Nov 02, 2014 1332 Words

Compare and Contrast Essay-
“When Black People Are” by A.B. Spellman & “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” Black people. Cast upon as the inferiority of the human race and ruled against in all forms of life as to be given without free will and deprived of human rights. The chosen poems to be present in this essay can be connected simply from the titles, and the tormentous days some spent in fear of the ‘white men’. In most works of writing you can find similarities. In the poems “When Black People Are” by A. B. Spellman; and “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” by Langston Hughes, there are similarities that can be drawn: These similarities include:, a free-verse structure, lack of rhyme/ rhyme scheme and the common topic of African- Americans. Within this essay, the role of these three points- why no rhyme scene was used, about African Americans and why both poems were written in free verse- will all be analysed in this essay. Similarly both poems are free verse, straight from their heart onto the paper. The reason why they can be classified as free verse poems is due to their being no rhyme scene as cited in “When Black People Are”; I sometimes would walk from wall to wall fighting visions…” which may seem random or off the top of A.B. Spellman’s head- hence being free verse. None of the lines interrelated between the poems at all. As in Langston’s poem in which he consistently speaks of ‘rivers’, there are no words rhyming or assonating. This clearly shows that both poets perhaps wanted to express their initial feelings without the worry of constructing a standardized poem in which they would have to focus more on language techniques and proper structuring in stanzas. This free verse arrangement was used to enable the reader to fully understand how both poets really felt- a somewhat pathway into their mind. Without the rhyme scenes being used in the two poems, the free verse structure makes it easier to enable the poets to release their feelings and thoughts be expressed in text. Furthermore, with the use of free verse to express their thoughts, both poets speak strongly of African-American hardship. With given evidence such as; “Times like this are times when black people are with each other & the strength flows back and forth between us like borrowed breath…” This extraction from ‘When Black People Are’ clearly presents that Spellman has strong emotions regarding that although they may be black, argue and fight all the time. When the time came that a community was in need of one another, they rose and fought together as one. From as early as African slavery taking its place as one of the most infamous motions to hit American history book. From just being classed as ‘black people’ to African Americans, many experienced hardships, miniscule or monstrous; it really didn’t matter because if even though you’re distant from a person, it doesn’t always mean you are far away. This was evident in both poems, and what both poets were trying to articulate came across very clear for the reader to capture the concept. Spellman and Hughes had a strong link on the matter of African- Americans sticking by one another despite past disputes when the time of reconciliation was needed. Both poets showed that each member within a community can lean on another in hard times- this directs to the fact of in which both may have experienced a form of hardship in their life and have had others to support. There should always be a rhyme scene within a poem. However, in these two poems, both don’t have any strong signs of rhyme scenes at all. Perhaps what they wanted to say could not be put into words that rhyme together with the rest of the poem. Langston could have used many variations or synonyms of words like ‘muddy’ and ‘dusty’ more than once, but h tended to constantly refer to ‘rivers’. To such an extent that he had written rivers 3 times in a different line- this may be classed as rhyme scene although it hasn’t been written in that form. The rivers symbolize more of the ancient blood of fellow African- Americans as opposed to the rivers in which they crossed into the new land. Langston goes back to the roots of African- American history, of which the repetition of rivers is used to accentuate the heart and soul of their kind; “ancient and wise like the dusty rivers…” Hughes lack of rhyme scene indicates that he himself found the use of rhyme scene unnecessary due to his course in which he tells his tale. With the topics being discussed of the use of free verse, origins of black people expressed from the poets points of view and the lack of rhyme scene and how it was manipulated in such a way that the reader could understand both poet’s motives. Both these poems were tremendously compelling and held an poetic grasp upon the viewer and pulled them inside to venture through the poet’s contemplations. With the lack of certain poetic techniques involved, it allowed people to just read the poem, not go in-depth with how it is formed. What was displayed in the poems was pure heart to paper material. What makes both poems so special is who different but yet similar the two poets are, both written in their own words but held together by the same concept. In most works of writing you can find similarities. In the poems “When Black People Are” by A. B. Spellman; and “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” by Langston Hughes, there are similarities that can be drawn: These similarities include: lack of rhyme/ rhyme scheme, a free-verse structure, and the common topic of black people. POEMS

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, 1902 - 1967
When black people are
When black people are with each other we sometimes fear ourselves whisper over our shoulders about unmentionable acts & sometimes we fight & lie. these are something's we sometimes do. & when alone I sometimes walk from wall to wall fighting visions of white men fighting me & black men fighting white men & fighting me & I lose my self between walls & ricocheting shots & can't say for certain who I have killed or been killed by. It is the fear of winter passing & summer coming to my door saying hit it a.b., you're in it too. & the white army moves like thieves in the night mass producing beautiful black copies & then stealing them away while my frequent death watches me from orangeburg on cronkite & I'm oiling my gun & cooking my food & saying "when the time comes" to myself, over & over, hopefully. But I remember driving from Atlanta to the city with stone & Featherstone & cleve & on the way feather talked about ambushing a pair of Klansmen & cleve told how they hunted chaney's body in the white night of the haunted house in the Mississippi swamp while a runaway survivor from orangeburg slep between wars on the back seat. Times like this are time when black people are with each other & the strength flows back & forth between us like borrowed breath... Reprinted by permission of A. B. Spellman.

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