Dream Variations Poem by Langston Hughes Summary, Notes and Line by Line Explanation in English


“Dream variations” by Langston Hughes is a poem that voices the struggles of black people for acceptance. The poem describes a dream that Hughes had, like many other African American people, that is being treated with equity regardless of the person’s race. In this poem, Hughes sketches this dream for the black community to find and provide support to those who are oppressed. 

About the poet 

Langston Hughes is often considered as one of the most instrumental writers of the Harlem Renaissance. His best known work is the collection of poems released in 1926 named “The Weary Blues”. Langston’s poetry mostly explored the struggles and experiences of African American people which he often wrote in free verse. 


Stanza One 

To fling my arms wide

In some place of the sun,

To whirl and to dance

Till the white day is done.

Then rest at cool evening

Beneath a tall tree

While night comes on gently,

Dark like me—

That is my dream!

In the first stanza of Dream Variations, Langston Hughes expresses his anticipated dream of being accepted by the society. He fantasises flinging his arms wide open in sunlight which shows his readiness of being accepted by the society. 

In the next line,“To dance till the white day is done”, implies the white supremacy and the oppression faced by people of colour who aren’t able to express themselves openly. The poet seems to be waiting for the “white day”, which refers to the racial discrimination practised in society, to be over soon.  

Towards the end of the stanza he adds, “then rest at cool evening beneath a tall tree”, this also shows his desire to enjoy mundane activities without any fear of being judged or ridiculed.

At the end of this stanza he says, “While night comes on gently, dark like me-”, Hughes talks about his race as an African American and the racism they face due to their darker skin tone, which Hughes describes to be as dark as the night. The night also symbolises the Black Community, who accept the poet for who he is and offers comfort. That he exclaims, is his dream. 

Stanza Two

To fling my arms wide

In the face of the sun,

Dance! Whirl! Whirl!

Till the quick day is done.

Rest at pale evening . . .

A tall, slim tree . . .

Night coming tenderly

    Black like me.

The second stanza starts with a repeating verse of the first stanza. The poet desires to fling his arms wide open in the face of the sun ie. Embracing the sun while dancing, rejoicing every moment till the day is done. He uses words like “Dance “ and “Whirl” to put greater emphasis on his emotions of being free. 

The second stanza is similar to the first one, except the tense of the stanza. The second stanza appears to be in the present continuous tense, which indicates that the dream the poet mentioned in the first stanza is now what the poet is experiencing in real time. 

“Rest at pale evening”, depicts that he is currently resting at a pale evening. “A tall, slim tree”, he’s resting under a tall slim tree. “Night coming tenderly”, the night is coming, “Black like me”. This implies that the poet is capable of resting whenever he wants, with no concern towards his safety and no judgement towards his race. The end of this stanza shows the acceptance of the poet by himself which is greater than being concerned about the acceptance by society. 

The poet’s journey of self acceptance is subtly portrayed by Hughes in this poem. In the first stanza the poet refers to the night to be “dark like me” and in the last line of the second stanza, although the whole stanza seems to be entirely similar to the first one, the poet uses the words, “Black like me” This subtle change of words give a greater insight into his acceptance of self and also depicts the harshness of society.