online texts for Craig White's Literature courses

Two "Dream" poems


Langston Hughes


Langston Hughes (1902-1967)



What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?








Dream Variation

To fling my arms wide
In some place of the sun,
To whirl and to dance
Till the white day is done.
Then rest at cool evening
Beneath a tall tree
While night comes on gently,
    Dark like me—
That is my dream!
To fling my arms wide
In the face of the sun,
Dance!  Whirl!  Whirl!
Till the quick day is done.
Rest at pale evening . . .
A tall, slim tree . . .
Night coming tenderly
    Black like me.



Discussion Question(s) for "Harlem":

1. How does "the Dream" of African America resemble or differ from "the American Dream?" (MLK's "I Have a Dream")


Discussion question(s) for "Dream Variation":

1. What's Romantic (or not) about the poem?

           1a. As the poem is written by an African American poet, what pressures to read the poem either separately from Romanticism or as part of it?

2. What gothic or sublime elements are identifiable? What mood or tone do they build?


2a. If the gothic light-dark color code appears, how do the standard Western values of light / white = good and dark / black = evil change from an African American perspective or voice?


Symbols & color codes in Langston Hughes, "Dream Variations" & Countee Cullen, "From the Dark Tower"