Georgia Dusk

By Jean Toomer 1894–1967 Jean Toomer
The sky, lazily disdaining to pursue
   The setting sun, too indolent to hold
   A lengthened tournament for flashing gold,   
Passively darkens for night’s barbecue,

A feast of moon and men and barking hounds,   
   An orgy for some genius of the South
   With blood-hot eyes and cane-lipped scented mouth,   
Surprised in making folk-songs from soul sounds.

The sawmill blows its whistle, buzz-saws stop,
   And silence breaks the bud of knoll and hill,
   Soft settling pollen where plowed lands fulfill   
Their early promise of a bumper crop.

Smoke from the pyramidal sawdust pile
   Curls up, blue ghosts of trees, tarrying low   
   Where only chips and stumps are left to show   
The solid proof of former domicile.

Meanwhile, the men, with vestiges of pomp,   
   Race memories of king and caravan,
   High-priests, an ostrich, and a juju-man,
Go singing through the footpaths of the swamp.

Their voices rise . . the pine trees are guitars,   
   Strumming, pine-needles fall like sheets of rain . .   
   Their voices rise . . the chorus of the cane
Is caroling a vesper to the stars . .

O singers, resinous and soft your songs
   Above the sacred whisper of the pines,
   Give virgin lips to cornfield concubines,
Bring dreams of Christ to dusky cane-lipped throngs.


Source: Cane (1923)

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Poet Jean Toomer 1894–1967

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

SCHOOL / PERIOD Harlem Renaissance

Subjects Activities, Landscapes & Pastorals, Jobs & Working, Religion, Nature

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

 Jean  Toomer

Biography

An important figure in African-American literature, Jean Toomer (1894—1967) was born in Washington, DC, the grandson of the first governor of African-American descent in the United States. A poet, playwright, and novelist, Toomer’s most famous work, Cane, was published in 1923 and was hailed by critics for its literary experimentation and portrayal of African-American characters and culture.

As a child, Toomer attended both . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Activities, Landscapes & Pastorals, Jobs & Working, Religion, Nature

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

SCHOOL / PERIOD Harlem Renaissance

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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