Sunday, August 18, 2013

Review of "Mother Night" by James Weldon Johnson

"Mother Night" by James Weldon Johnson (1871 - 1938) was offered by Poets.org's Poem-A-Day on August 18, 2013.  This melancholy sonnet begins with eight lines that muse upon how the universe began in darkness, and that even the brightest stars will eventually return to that darkness.  In the final six lines, the poet contemplates his own mortality, acknowledging that his "feeble sun of life" will eventually be extinguished.

The poet is not disturbed by the darkness that inevitably awaits him, referring to it comfortingly as "Mother Night."  One wonders if he was expressing a racial sentiment here--that all men, regardless of color, will one day be as dark as he, the first Negro professor at New York University (pictured), was.  There is also perhaps an even deeper cultural reference to a common theme in Negro spirituals, such as "Soon Ah Will Be Done Wid De Troubles of De World."

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