Poetry is a form of musical literature that is used to educate, inform, praise, and criticize something. In the essay below will get to analyse three poems that both praise and criticize American people and the nation itself. Analysis of the poem will include discussion of what the poem reflects and what it is talking about. Based on the background information of the poet will get to know the setting of the poem; an analysis of the various stylistic devices used by the poet too will be reviewed in the essay. The essay includes three poems; Walt Whitman, “I Hear America Singing”, Langston Hughes, “I, Too, Sing America” and “Let America Be America Again” and Elizabeth Alexander’s, “Praise Song for the Day”. Will also get to discuss, basing on the content of each poem, if each poem’s argument is persuasive.
All the three poems discuss the life and the identity of an American citizen. They define an American as a citizen who works to build their country, Whitman’s poem describes the various occupations, Elizabeth’s poem praises the day of an American at work while Hughes’s poem describes the historical context of an American citizen and how it was. However the poems also have several differences; two of the poems, “I Hear America Sing” and “Praise Song for the day”, describe the happy life of an American citizen who enjoys their life as a citizen; they sing their melodious songs and praise song for the struggle and praise song for the day respectively. Both Elizabeth and Langston speak of slavery and struggle in their poems. The main difference between the poems is that, the poem, “Let America Be America Again” criticizes the historical life of an American citizen who wants equity; the other two poems have their theme as praise while the last on is a criticizing poem.
Whitman was born in a family of nine, his father was a house-builder; at an early age he fell in love with writing and he loved the works of Shakespeare and the bible. He worked as printer, during the civil war he vowed to live a cleansed life and overwhelmed by the many wounded he decided to stay and volunteer in the hospitals. The poem is placed in a historical setting during the day as we see “the carpenter singing as he measure his plank of wood…the day what belongs to the day”. The tone in the poem is a happy one as the poet describes the young robust men party singing melodious songs. Reason for being declared to be in a historical setting is because it was made during the American civil war where people were struggling to be independent and build their nation through the various diverse occupations (Greenspan, 215). The theme of the poem is praise, the singing of the mother, the wife and the girl expresses joy. Through the repetition of the word ‘singing’ the poem is able to emphasize on the fact that American nation has based its development on labour and everyone is praising what belongs to them (occupation). The poem describes Whitman’s love for America, its vast achievements and variety of jobs.
Elizabeth Alexander born in Harlem studied at Yale University. Her poem “Praise Song for the Day” is a praise song that draws the everyday life of an American citizen as a beautiful portrait. The setting of the poem is based on the present and continuous daily life of an American citizen, the poem also possesses a historical setting where the poet describes the life of slavery and what people then did and how they died to achieve what is there presently. The tone in the poem is a joyful tone as the poet declares praise for the struggle, and praise song for the day. The poet is emphasizing on the argument that people should promote and sing of the struggles African Americans went through while in slavery (Roman, 11). At the beginning of the poem, the poet describes the everyday life of Americans each day we go about our business walking past each other. Finally the poet praises need for peace and that people should embrace peace and love one another, Love beyond marital, filial, national,love that casts a widening pool of light…praise song for walking forward towards the light . The repetition of various words such as love and praise song brings out or emphasize on the main idea of the poem, that is, praise for the day.
Langston Hughes was born Joplin Missouri, he held odd jobs such as an assistant cook and busboy before he moved to Washington where he started his career as a writer. As the title of the poem reads “Let America Be America” the tone of the poem is a disappointed tone. The poet saw that America was not as people dreamed it would be. There is no freedom or equity as was promised, i am the Negro bearing slavery scars, I am the red man driven from the land. The poem is put in a historical setting that talks and describes the lives of African American people the Indians and the immigrants what hardships they went through entangled in the greed of others (Hoffman, 104). The theme or main topic of discussion in the poem is slavery, the poet criticizes the current state of citizens in America that were promised freedom and equity but that is not what they got. “I am…” is a phrase used repeatedly in the poem, the persona in the poem is part of the suffering group and is emphasizing on the fact he also experienced what others did.
Through analyzing of the poems we get to understand the life of an American citizen and the values that have evolved over the years from history to present day. The poets are able to express themselves and bring out what America was and is and life as a citizen was and is today.
Greenspan, Ezra. Walt Whitman and the American reader. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990. Print.
Román, Ezekiel. Thinking comprehensively about education: spaces of educative possibility and their implications for public policy. New York, NY: Routledge, 2012. Print.
Hoffman, Tyler. American poetry in performance: from walt whitman to hip hop.. S.l.: Univ Of Michigan Press, 2013. Print.