Poetry Sunday: As I Grew Older by Langston Hughes

As children, we all have dreams of how our lives will play out. Most of us probably imagine ourselves as heroes, accomplishing great deeds for which we will gain fame and fortune. Few of us actually see those dreams come true, at least in quite the way we had imagined. The most fortunate of us may see some form of the dreams come true for us. For others, the dreams are edited and changed through the years as imagination bumps up against reality.

This scenario may be true of all people but especially for those whose goals in life are hampered by society's expectations of them, and most especially when those expectations are overlaid by such things as racial prejudice. The acclaimed African-American poet Langston Hughes was well aware of how dreams can be stunted by a wall of prejudice that grows around one and inhibits the ability to act and achieve. As an older man, he wrote about it.   

As I Grew Older

by Langston Hughes

It was a long time ago.
I have almost forgotten my dream.
But it was there then,
In front of me,
Bright like a sun—
My dream.
And then the wall rose,
Rose slowly,
Between me and my dream.
Rose until it touched the sky—
The wall.
I am black.
I lie down in the shadow.
No longer the light of my dream before me,
Above me.
Only the thick wall.
Only the shadow.
My hands!
My dark hands!
Break through the wall!
Find my dream!
Help me to shatter this darkness,
To smash this night,
To break this shadow
Into a thousand lights of sun,
Into a thousand whirling dreams
Of sun!


  1. I have never read much of Hughes. I should do so. Looking back upon one’s lost or modified dreams and s a common human experience. It can also be very sad and moving.

    1. "Modified dreams" are a common experience for us all, regardless of our race or circumstances.

  2. Dorothy, not only do you choose poets that speak to the moment, you have a wonderful, deft way of introducing their work and I look forward to your words each Sunday morning as much as the poem itself. Today's choice, given the state of race relations at present, strikes me as being especially poignant and its sentiment should enter political consciousness during these final days of campaigning. Oh wait, silly me, I forgot that Donald Trump has already done more for black people than any other person in history. Funny howI completely failed to notice that.

    1. Yes, the great champion of equal treatment for all...

  3. I'm not black but I can really relate to this poem. Thanks for sharing.

    1. I think the feelings expressed in the poem are universal, even though they might be more intense for those who have had to fight some kind of prejudice in their lives.

  4. I recently read Not Without Laughter, his first novel. It was a reading group pick and I was so glad to be introduced to him.

    1. I've not read any of his novels, only the poetry and not as much of that as I should.

  5. Replies
    1. He does have a way of getting to the heart of the matter, doesn't he?


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