The Negro Speaks of Rivers

by


The Negro Speaks of Rivers became Hughes's signature poem, published in his first book of poetry in 1926, The Weary Blues. He was inspired to write it when he was 17, crossing the Mississippi River on a train to Mexico to visit his father in 1920.
An illustration for the story The Negro Speaks of Rivers by the author Langston Hughes
Ferdinand Richardt, View on the Mississippi, 1858
An illustration for the story The Negro Speaks of Rivers by the author Langston Hughes
Ferdinand Richardt, View on the Mississippi, 1858
An illustration for the story The Negro Speaks of Rivers by the author Langston Hughes
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.

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