Euphrates

Ancient Dusky Rivers

The river… sketching its way ahead…
[Source – Pixabay]
The Negro Speaks of Rivers

by 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.


Rivers – streams, creeks, brooks or rivulets – love to flow; flowing towards a sea, lake, an ocean or another river, and at times also drying out. Rivers love to flow just like life.

Most of the earlier civilisations prospered when they settled around rivers, channelizing the same love when drinking its fresh water.

And when mankind sat in a circle around the fire and created stories – of the sun, the moon, the thunder and the wind – they fostered their imaginations and decided to pass on the love running in their blood to a lovely supreme one.

Different supreme ones took the centre stage at different places and myriad dramas unfolded that the rivers watched quietly, flowing, gushing with joy every moment.

Resisting neither the rocks nor filth, accepting the dead and plastic bottles alike, it continues to flow… for now.


Still like a mirror, moving like a reflection…
[Source – Pixabay]

Langston Hughes in his poem The Negro Speaks of Rivers connects the human soul with the world’s ancient rivers; the hands that cupped to drink water, the feet that crossed the river, whatever race it belonged to, felt the same damp calmness every single time they drank water and crossed the river.

Written during the early twentieth century when African Americans struggled to achieve equality and justice, Hughes, presenting a powerful historical perspective in this poem, emphasises the link between his ancestors, the ancient rivers and the rest of the human civilisation.

The Euphrates, often believed to be the birthplace of human civilisation, the Congo, powerful and mysterious, that saw the rise of many great African kingdoms, the magical Nile that carries with poise the secrets of the great Egyptian pyramids, the folklorist Mississippi that shared here the tales of Abraham Lincoln and American slavery – shows how rivers carry the past in its depth, carrying it always with love.

And the one who sees with love can sense the connection between rivers and souls, between them and us; we all started this journey together, the rivers are a testimony.


“I’ve known rivers:

Ancient, dusky rivers.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.”

Experience and history, though often oppressive, have not extinguished but rather emboldened the development of a soul, the birth of an immortal self, the proud ‘I’ that now speaks to all who will listen.

Christopher C. De Santis

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