When Hughes published this poem he was only 19years old.
In Hughes’s poem, river symbolizes the history of black people. Hewants to express that black people have their own history, they’ve contributingto the human society as mush as races have doing. This poem does not directlycall for a fight, but it is an inspiration and encouragement to awaken blackpeople.
He was others to increase their self-confidence and dignity, and thatis exactly what is needed for the fight. “I’veknown rivers: /I’ve known rivers ancient as the world and older than the/ flowof human blood in human veins.” “I” doesn’t stand for poet himself but standfor the whole race of black people. In this stanza, Hughes repeatedlyemphasizes black people’s testimony of “the river”, the history, andfiguratively states that this “river” is “ancient as the world” and even olderthan human blood. “My soul has growndeep like the rivers.” It is a transition stanza, which lead us to feel the “rivers”more deeply. In another word, how black people’s “souls grown deep like rivers.” “Ibathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young.
” The Euphrates River is one ofthe cradles of ancient civilization where brilliant civilizations were born. “Ibuilt my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep. / I built my hut nearthe Congo and it lulled me to sleep.” The Congo River is the largest river in Africa andthe Nile is the longest river in the world. The Nile Valley was also cultivatedan ancient civilization. “I heard the singing of the Mississippi when AbeLincoln /went down to New Orleans, and I’ve seen its muddy /bosom turn allgolden in the sunset.” The Mississippi is the largest river in North America.When Lincoln served as president of the United States, he abolished slavery andfreed the black slaves in the United States.
Hughes used exaggeration to reviewhistory. There is always an unforgettable river to me across the threecontinents of Asia, Africa and the United States, from ancient times to thepresent. The fourth stanza “I’ve known rivers: /Ancient, duskyrivers” is similar to the first stanza, but shore and more concise. “duskyriver” can be considered metaphor of black history. The last stanza “Mysoul has grown deep like the rivers.
” is a repetition of the second stanza.Poet intended to emphasized the theme. Black race witnessed the history ofhuman development. Black people’s “souls” hold the human civilization.It is the accumulation of history and it appears “deep.” Thispoem is a solemn declaration that despite such discrimination and persecution,we have a deep soul like a river, because we are not conquered and can not beconquered.