Dream Poems by Langston Hughes

by LANGSTON HUGHES (1902-1967)


Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.

Dream Deferred

What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
Like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?

Dream Variations

To fling my arms wide
In some place of the sun,
To whirl and to dance
Till the white day is done.
Then rest at cool evening
Beneath a tall tree
While night comes on gently,
Dark like me–
That is my dream!

To fling my arms wide
In the face of the sun,
Dance! Whirl! Whirl!
Till the quick day is done.
Rest at pale evening…
A tall, slim tree…
Night coming tenderly
Black like me.

One of the foremost interpreters of racial relationships in the United States, Langston Hughes was influenced by the Bible, W. E. B. Du Bois, and Walt Whitman. His works gave a voice to the joys and pain of the black experience in America.
From Harlem’s Bitter Laughter (1948): “Harlem laughing … many white people do not understand how Negroes can laugh at the stupid indignities so often heaped upon them, from low to high, in this American country of ours. The indignities themselves are not funny. But there is something so pitifully absurd about the racial stupidities of some of our white folks, something in such awkward bad taste indicative of such provincial bad manners, that it is hard to keep from laughing … ‘Acute embarrassment’ over the ejection of the Ethiopian Minister from his box. Ha! Ha! says Harlem. …”

Langston Hughes Contemporaries
Robert Hillyer
Ogden Nash
Sara Teasdale
Pablo Neruda