The Negro Speaks of Rivers

Langston Hughes wrote this poem on a train to visit his father in Mexico. He was 17 and inspired while crossing the Mississippi to write this verse which later was published in 1921 in The Crisis, the NAACP's literary magazine. He was most influenced by the work of Carl Sandburg and Walt Whitman as he attempts to reflect on the legacy of his ancestors and triumphantly places them in important historical, religious, and cultural sites around the world.

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.