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The poem “Song For a Dark Girl” is written by American poet Langston Hughes. In the pine the speaker is a woman. She is describing the death of her lover. The poem is a poem of loss and grief that the woman feels. She can still not forget the image of her dead lover bruised, hanging on a tree. This image is a reference to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ in the Bible. Through the image of the dead lover, the poet underscores the extent of brutality faced by African Americans in the country. The woman as well as the poet feel broken and tortured by what is happening.
About the poet
Langston Hughes was born in 1902, in Missouri, USA. He was a prominent American poet, social activist, and leading figure of the Harlem Renaissance—a cultural and artistic movement that flourished in the 1920s in America. Hughes played a crucial role in depicting the African American experience through his poetry. Some of his notable achievements is the publication of his first poetry collection, “The Weary Blues,” in 1926 and the famous poem “The Negro Speaks of Rivers”.
The poem is written in the form of an elegy. It is written in 12 lines divided up into 3 quatrains.
Way Down South in Dixie (Break the heart of me) They hung my black young lover To a cross roads tree.
The poem begins by the speaker talking about a location. She says that in a place way down south in the town of Dixie something has happened. South here refers to the southern part of America. The speaker says that talking about the incident breaks her heart. She says that “they” hung her “black young lover”. The incident is the death of the speaker’s young lover who was black. She says that he was killed and hung to a tree at a crossroad.
Hughes starts the poem by talking about where the incident happened. The incident happened down South in Dixie. The southern part of America was against the abolishment of slavery and thus still remained thoroughly discriminatory against the African American race. The incident took place in the region which was racial discriminatory. The incident breaks the speaker’s heart. This refers to the loss and grief she feels. The poet talks about how “they” hung the woman’s love at the crossroads tree. Here, “They” refer to the White men of the region who murdered the woman’s lover. The hanging of the lover to a tree is also a reference to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
Way Down South in Dixie (Bruised body high in air) I asked the white Lord Jesus What was the use of prayer.
The speaker again talks about what happened in the south of Dixie. She says that her lover was tortured and beaten up. After he was killed his bruised and battered body was hung high up in the air. Witnessing this, the woman prays to the Lord. She prays to the “white Lord Jesus” for the death of her lover. She asks him why the young man was killed without any fault of his. But she realizes that there is no one coming to help her. She says that there is no use of prayers, as no one is going to answer her.
The poet in this stanza again repeats the fact that the incident took place in the Southern part of the country. The body of the young black man was bruised. This shows that the man was beaten and tortured before he was murdered. This highlights the violence and brutalities that the African Americans are subjected to on a daily basis. Witnessing this scene, the woman turns to God. She prays to the “white Lord Jesus” and asks him how he can let his children die at the hands of evil like this. But she soon realizes that he is not going to answer. She is alone and her prayers are of no use to her anymore.
Way Down South in Dixie (Break the heart of me) Love is a naked shadow On a gnarled and naked tree.
In the last stanza the speaker looks at the naked body of her lover. She looks at his shadow on the ground. She finds that her lover is crucified like Christ on a gnarled tree. The tree itself is disfigured and naked. The image casts a haunting image that reminds the woman of her loss and the absence of her love.
The poet in this last stanza repeats the first two lines of the poem to lay emphasis on the theme discussed earlier. Then he focuses on the description of the body of the man. He talks about how his shadow looks naked. Stripped of any dignity and identity, the young man hangs from the tree. The tree that the man hangs on is described as “gnarled and naked”. This description mirrors the feelings that the woman has. Her love too is now just a shadow. It hangs from a naked and gothic object.