Dreams (4): DREAM VARIATIONS

DREAM VARIATIONS   (by Langston Hughes)

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!

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.

Dream Variations” (originally “Dream Variation”) is connected to one of Langston Hughes’s major themes: dreams, especially the dreams of African Americans.
The “variations” are those introduced in the second stanza, which, in my opinion, does not represent a variation of the dream illustrated in the previous lines, but the description of reality.

In each stanza the first four lines allude to daylight hours, the fifth and sixth to the transitional phase of evening, and the seventh and eighth to the coming of night: therefore the contrast between light and dark is central to the poem
The first half of this poem offers a sense of warmth and dreamlike atmosphere, whereas the second gives a sense of harshness and realism

The language is simple and makes us think that the speaker is child-like, happy, and enthusiastic However, the poem is not so naïve because it has a deeper level of meaning, so the contrast light/darkness also refers to white and black cultures,

During the daytime, the speaker engages in energetic tiring activities ( it seems an archetype of the black man, who has to work hard but yet succeeds in finding joy in what he is doing) . The repetition of the word “whirl”, and the use of the exclamation mark after every word, in the third line of the second stanza introduces a crescendo, suggesting that the speaker has reached the climax of his energy, and can no longer sustain his daytime activities. Or, on a deeper level, the black man can no longer bear to be exploited.
Only with the coming of night he is allowed to rest. Therefore while “the white day” represents the work day in which white people are in charge, the black speaker explicitly associates night with himself and perhaps with the coming of an age when people will not be classified according to the colour of their skin.

800px-Whirling_Southern_Star_Trails_over_ALMA

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