Cane (Jean Toomer)

“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.”

“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.”

U.S.A. / 1923

Cane is a series of vignettes revolving around the origins and experiences of Black Americans. The book contains poems, dialogue and short stories. The book is structured as a circle, starting in the South, moving to the North, then ending back in the South again. In his autobiography, Toomer explained why he wrote the book: “I realized with deep regret, that the spirituals, meeting ridicule, would be certain to die out. With Negroes also the trend was towards the small town and then towards the city—and industry and commerce and machines. The folk-spirit was walking in to die on the modern desert. That spirit was so beautiful. Its death was so tragic. Just this seemed to sum life for me. And this was the feeling I put into Cane. Cane was a swan-song. It was a song of an end.” This is probably my favorite book of poetry and Toomer is definitely my favorite poet!! Absolutely love his stuff!

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