'Night Funeral In Harlem' by Langston Hughes

AI and Tech Aggregator
Download Mp3s Free
Tears of the Kingdom Roleplay
Best Free University Courses Online
TOTK Roleplay

Night funeralIn Harlem:Where did they getThem two fine cars?Insurance man, he did not pay--
His insurance lapsed the other day--
Yet they got a satin box
for his head to lay.Night funeralIn Harlem:Who was it sentThat wreath of flowers?Them flowers came
from that poor boy's friends--
They'll want flowers, too,
When they meet their ends.Night funeralin Harlem:Who preached thatBlack boy to his grave?Old preacher man
Preached that boy away--
Charged Five Dollars
His girl friend had to pay.Night funeralIn Harlem:When it was all over
And the lid shut on his head
and the organ had done playedand the last prayers been saidand six pallbearers
Carried him out for dead
And off down Lenox Avenue
That long black hearse done sped,The street lightAt his cornerShined just like a tear--
That boy that they was mournin'
Was so dear, so dear
To them folks that brought the flowers,
To that girl who paid the preacher man--
It was all their tears that madeThat poor boy'sFuneral grand.Night funeralIn Harlem.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Night Funeral In Harlem: A Poetic Masterpiece

Langston Hughes is one of the most celebrated poets of the 20th century, and for good reason. His works capture the essence of the African-American experience, with all its pain, joy, sorrow, and triumph. One of his most powerful poems is "Night Funeral In Harlem," a haunting tribute to a young man cut down in his prime. In this literary criticism and interpretation, we'll explore the themes, imagery, and symbolism that make this poem a masterpiece.

The Setting: A Funeral In Harlem

The poem begins with a vivid description of the funeral procession, which takes place at night in the heart of Harlem. Hughes sets the scene with his use of imagery:

"Night funeral In Harlem: Where did they get Them two fine cars?"

Here, we can almost see the mourners walking in the dark, their faces illuminated by the headlights of the cars. We can feel the chill in the air, and hear the sound of the engines as they rev through the empty streets. The setting is important because it tells us something about the people who are gathered there. Harlem is a historically black neighborhood, and the fact that the funeral is taking place at night suggests that the mourners are poor and marginalized. They are not the kind of people who can afford to have a funeral in the daytime, when the sun is shining and the world is more welcoming.

The Themes: Death, Grief, and Injustice

The central theme of the poem is death, and the grief that follows. The young man who has died is never named, but we can sense the loss that his family and friends are feeling. Hughes captures this feeling with his use of repetition:

"He was my son, But now he is gone."

This simple couplet is repeated several times throughout the poem, and it is a testament to the power of Hughes' writing that it never becomes repetitive. Instead, it becomes like a mantra, a way for the mourners to express their pain and sadness. The poem is also about injustice, and the sense that the young man's death was senseless and unfair. Hughes hints at this with his use of rhetorical questions:

"Was it a millionaire Who stepped on a worm So that a bird Ate him?"

Here, Hughes is asking whether the young man's death was caused by someone who was more powerful or privileged than he was. The comparison to the millionaire and the worm is striking, and it underscores the idea that the young man's life was worth just as much as anyone else's.

The Imagery: Night, Cars, and Flowers

Hughes' use of imagery is one of the things that makes this poem so powerful. He describes the cars that are part of the funeral procession in great detail, and the effect is almost cinematic:

"The driver man Not black Stepped out, pulled the cover off The chrome, Swung the baton, And whacked His mournful signal Stiffly up, Held it, Stopped it Above the crowd."

Here, we can see the driver stepping out of the car, and pulling the cover off the chrome. We can feel the weight of the baton as he swings it, and we can hear the mournful sound of the signal as it rises above the crowd. This attention to detail creates a sense of realism, and it makes the poem feel like a snapshot of a real event. Hughes also uses flowers as a powerful image, symbolizing both the beauty of life and the transience of it:

"Flowers Scattered On the parade car Tell the story Of the whole family's Lost."

The flowers that are scattered on the car are a symbol of the young man's life, and the fact that they are scattered suggests that it has been cut short. The fact that they tell the story of the whole family's loss indicates that the young man was an important part of his community, and that his death has affected many people.

The Symbolism: The Cars and the Mourners

The cars in the funeral procession are a symbol of the mourners' social status. Hughes notes that there are "two fine cars" at the funeral, which suggests that the mourners are not wealthy. The fact that the cars are "fine" underscores the idea that they are trying to put on a brave face, even in the face of tragedy. The cars are also a symbol of the young man's life, which was cut short before he could achieve his full potential.

The mourners themselves are also symbolic. Hughes notes that they are "dark" and "old," which suggests that they are part of a marginalized community. The fact that they are gathered together at night underscores the idea that they have been forced to live in the shadows. But despite their hardships, they have come together to mourn the loss of one of their own. This sense of unity is one of the most powerful images in the poem, and it speaks to the resilience of the human spirit.


"Night Funeral In Harlem" is a poetic masterpiece that captures the essence of the African-American experience. Through his use of imagery, symbolism, and repetition, Langston Hughes creates a vivid portrait of a community in mourning. The poem is a powerful reminder of the injustice that exists in the world, and the need for unity in the face of tragedy. It is a testament to the power of poetry, and to the enduring legacy of one of America's greatest poets.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry Night Funeral In Harlem: A Masterpiece by Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes, the renowned African-American poet, novelist, and playwright, is known for his powerful and evocative works that capture the essence of the black experience in America. One of his most celebrated poems, "Funeral In Harlem," is a poignant and moving tribute to the lives lost in the struggle for civil rights. This classic piece of literature is a testament to Hughes' mastery of language and his ability to convey complex emotions through simple yet profound words.

The poem opens with a vivid description of a funeral procession in Harlem, a neighborhood in New York City that was a hub of black culture and activism during the early 20th century. Hughes sets the scene with his characteristic use of imagery and metaphor, painting a picture of mourners dressed in black, walking slowly and solemnly through the streets. He writes:

"Well, well, well, well, I looked at my feet, They was gone, gone, gone."

These lines convey a sense of loss and despair, as if the speaker is overwhelmed by the weight of grief and cannot even stand on his own two feet. The repetition of the word "well" adds to the mournful tone, while the use of the word "gone" emphasizes the finality of death.

As the procession moves forward, the speaker observes the various people who have come to pay their respects. He notes the presence of "preachers with long white hands," "undertakers with black gloves on," and "ladies dressed in velvet black." These descriptions create a sense of ritual and tradition, as if the funeral is a solemn and sacred event that must be observed with reverence.

However, the poem takes a surprising turn when the speaker reveals that this is not a typical funeral, but rather a "poetry night" in honor of the deceased. This revelation adds a layer of complexity to the poem, as it suggests that the mourners are not only grieving for the loss of a loved one, but also celebrating their life and legacy through the art of poetry.

The speaker describes the various poets who take the stage, each with their own unique style and voice. He notes the "old men with beautiful souls," who recite poems about love and loss, and the "young men with eyes like coals," who speak of revolution and change. These descriptions highlight the diversity of the black experience and the many different perspectives that exist within the community.

One of the most powerful moments in the poem comes when the speaker describes a young woman who takes the stage and recites a poem about lynching. Her words are raw and visceral, describing the brutal violence inflicted upon black bodies with unflinching honesty. The speaker writes:

"She cried with a loud voice, And gathered the cortege in, Her voice was like a saxophone Under a yellow spotlight, We stood there, we swayed there, With her hands on her hips, And her eyes shut tight."

These lines capture the intensity and emotion of the moment, as the young woman's words bring the audience to tears. The use of the metaphor "her voice was like a saxophone" is particularly effective, as it suggests that her words are a form of music that can move people to action.

Throughout the poem, Hughes uses repetition and rhythm to create a sense of unity and community among the mourners. The repeated phrase "well, well, well, well" serves as a kind of refrain, linking the various sections of the poem together and emphasizing the shared experience of grief. The use of alliteration and assonance also adds to the musicality of the poem, creating a sense of rhythm and flow that echoes the cadence of spoken word poetry.

In the final stanza of the poem, the speaker reflects on the meaning of the funeral and the role of poetry in the black community. He writes:

"Well, well, well, well, That's the end of my song, The preacher stopped preaching, The people sat down, The organist quit playing, And the people filed out, The organist quit playing, But the singers were singing, And in just one more minute, They were going to sing again."

These lines suggest that even though the funeral is over, the legacy of the deceased lives on through the art of poetry. The singers continue to sing, and the mourners continue to gather and celebrate the power of language and expression.

In conclusion, "Funeral In Harlem" is a masterpiece of poetry that captures the essence of the black experience in America. Through vivid imagery, powerful metaphor, and a keen sense of rhythm and repetition, Langston Hughes creates a moving tribute to the lives lost in the struggle for civil rights. The poem is a testament to the power of poetry to heal, to inspire, and to bring people together in times of grief and celebration.

Editor Recommended Sites

Learn to Code Videos: Video tutorials and courses on learning to code
SRE Engineer: Guide to SRE engineering
Devops Automation: Software and tools for Devops automation across GCP and AWS
Data Driven Approach - Best data driven techniques & Hypothesis testing for software engineeers: Best practice around data driven engineering improvement
Learn GPT: Learn large language models and local fine tuning for enterprise applications

Recommended Similar Analysis

Up At A Villa--- Down In The City by Robert Browning analysis
"My Heart Is Heavy" by Sarah Teasdale analysis
Hyperion by John Keats analysis
Hard Rock Returns To Prison From The Hospital For The Criminal Insane by Etheridge Knight analysis
My November Guest by Robert Lee Frost analysis
An Enigma by Edgar Allan Poe analysis
Paradise Regained by John Milton analysis
"Strange Fits of Passion Have I Known" by William Wordsworth analysis
Break, Break, Break by Alfred Lord Tennyson analysis
The Black Tower by William Butler Yeats analysis