Literature and Composition
Langston Hughes and Bob Dylan
Langston Hughes and Bob Dylan are two poets from different eras in modern American poetry. Although Bob Dylan is more characterized as a songwriter, I see much of his work as poetry. In this essay, I will discuss Hughes’ poem “Harlem ” and Dylan’s “Times They Are A-Changin”’ as commentaries on are culture, but from different backgrounds.
Both poets use social protest to make their points. Langston is talking of times that were not particularly good in any way for African Americans. In the poem “Harlem ”, he speaks of a time when black people were considered lower than the average American citizen. He remembers how they were not accepted when he was younger; and for him and his race, he feels things haven’t changed; and even if they had, how could the past be forgotten or forgiven?
Sure, we remember.
Now when the man at the corner store
Say’s sugar’s gone up another two cents.
And bread one,
And there’s a new tax on cigarettes-
We remember the job we never had,
Never could get,
And can’t have now
Because we’re colored. (768)
In this verse of the poem he is talking about how African Americans have viewed the world from Harlem and live and unjust life, how can they forget that.
Bob Dylan speaks of social protest throughout his poem. He is proclaiming to the world that we shall all come together and forget the past for a united future. He is saying that everything that has been normal is about to change.
Come gather round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone.
If your time to you
Is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a chagin’. (711)
A difference in the two poets definitely comes into play when we look at of the speakers in these poems. Hughes’ persona is that of a black male looking back on how the black race was treated badly, but he is expressing the beauty in their struggle. Hughes talks about why black Americans should achieve their goals, “On the Cultural Achievements of African Americans”
There is so...