Thread: Poetry HELP!!
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Unread Jan 7th, 2009, 12:22 am
Ster Ster is offline
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Default Poetry HELP!!

Can someone explain the imagery in this excerpt of the poem by Melvin B. Tolson. My student has to explain it for a final exam (along with the movie The Great Debaters, which I've never seen). She is a Korean, 7th grade, and has no American/Christian background so I'm finding it very hard. Thank you so much!!


Lento Grave2

The centuries-old pathos in our voices
Saddens the great white world
And the wizardry of our dusky rhythms
Conjures up shadow-shapes of ante-bellum years:

Black slaves singing One More River to Cross
In the torture tombs of slave-ships,
Black slaves singing Steal Away to Jesus
In jungle swamps
Black slaves singing The Crucifixion
In slave-pens at midnight,
Black slaves singing Swing Low, Sweet Chariot
In cabins of death,
Black slaves singing Go Down, Moses
In the canebrakes of the Southern Pharaohs.


Andante Sostenuto3

They tell us to forget
The Golgotha we tread…
We who are scourged with hate,
A price upon our head.
They who have shackled us
Require of us a song,
They who have wasted us
Bid us condone the wrong.

They tell us to forget
Democracy is spurned.
They tell us to forget
The Bill of Rights is burned.
Three hundred years we slaved,
We slave and suffer yet:
Though flesh and bone rebel,
They tell us to forget!

Oh, how can we forget
Our human rights denied?
Oh, how can we forget
Our manhood crucified?
When Justice is profaned
And plea with curse is met,
When Freedom’s gates are barred,
Oh, how can we forget?
Nobody is perfect, I am nobody, therefore, I am perfect.
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