Saturday, July 4, 2009


It’s time for the Weekly Poem again, & this time around we have a really haunting piece by Langston Hughes. This particular poem first came to my attention in an odd way: the great bluesman Taj Mahal does a version of it, complete with National guitar, on his album An Evening of Acoustic Music. I was hoping to find it on YouTube, but no luck; however, the whole album is worth checking out.

Langston Hughes’ poetry is direct & unmediated; it often has the feeling of a song lyric, except it’s a lyric with its own music built in—which is one basic definition of lyric poetry; & although Mr Hughes is well-known, I think his reputation among general readers is built on just a handful of poems such as “I, Too, Sing America” & “The Negro Speaks of Rivers.” I’ve been reading more widely thru his work of late (his Selected Poems published by Vintage), & I can tell you it’s rewarding. Hughes was not only an important voice, but a very gifted poet.

Have a happy July 4th all, whether you’re celebrating it as a holiday or as a Saturday! & hope you enjoy the poem.


It was that lonely day, folks,
When I walked all by myself.
My friends was all around me
But it was as if they’d left.
I went up on a mountain
In a high cold wind
And the coat that I was wearing
Was mosquito-netting thin.
I went down in the valley
And I crossed an icy stream
And the water I was crossing
Was no water in a dream
And the shoes I was wearing
No protection for that stream.
Then I stood out on a prairie
And as far as I could see
Wasn’t nobody on that prairie
Looked like me.
It was that lonely day, folks,
I walked all by myself:
My friends was right there with me
But was just as if they’d left.

Langston Hughes


  1. Langston Hughes is one of my very favorite poets. He was so brave, the way he wrote, I mean. He is so revealed in every poem. Wow!

    Happy fourth to you both!

  2. Hi Reya:

    Yes, "revealed" is a good word for L Hughes-- sort of what I meant by "unmediated," but "revealed" may be more to the point.

    Happy 4th!

  3. I dropped in from Reya's, having seen you around, and followed Langston's walk. Interesting that you used this poem on such a day. It made me stop to say, good job.

  4. Hi Lakeviewer, & thanks for stopping by RFBanjo-- I know we both stop by Reya's, & maybe some other blogs as well(?) It wasn't a coincidence that I posted "Crossing" today-- thanks for noticing!

  5. Thank you for Langston Hughes, John. His poems always feel like gifts.

  6. Yes, indeed the lament - the lonely crowd, when not content with the company of SELF. A calling poem for sure.

    Do visit- The Spirit of '76 awaits...
    Happy 4th...

  7. Hi Sandra & Rose Marie:

    Sandra: Thanks-- I thought you'd like this one-- I recall you had Langston Hughes on your sidebar at least once.

    Rose Marie: Thanks for stopping by. "Lament" does fit "Crossing." I did drop by Apogee Poet & really enjoyed your July 4 entry!

  8. I haven't met Langston Hughes before. That poem is also quite unique in my experience. I shall have to look him up. Thanks for posting it.

  9. Hi Dave:

    Glad to introduce you to Langston Hughes. Hope you enjoy exploring his work.

  10. For me, there was life before Langston Hughes's A Dream Deferred and life after. I read a lot of blogs and when I finally get here I'm always glad for the moments I can take to indulge in a little bit of culture and lit. Thank you. Long before there was Jackson's Billie Jean (heaven help us), there was Hughes.

  11. Jen:

    You're very welcome, & your generous support means a lot to us! Thanks.

  12. Langston Hughes has always been one of my favorites. Thanks for posting this. Wish I could hear the musical version.

  13. Hi Karen:

    Yes, Hughes is very good. I was a bit sad no one had uploaded that version to YouTube, but it would of course be major copyright infringement. The Taj Mahal album is worth getting if you're into the blues, & I'm sure the version of "Crossing" can be purchased separately as an MP3.


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