What Ellen Watkins Harper is Saying in Her Poem "Bury me in a Free Land"

기사승인 2023.01.10  17:52:39


Harper wrote the poem with a strong rhythm to make the poem into a type of song to uplift the African American community. In the south, when slaves were required to work in cotton fields, the enslaved would often sing songs together to uplift their spirits and give them hope. Likewise, it seems that Harper created this poem to be a "song" that the enslaved could read and remind themselves that they are not alone in this experience.

The poem’s rhythm follows a sound device cut up into syllables.

For example, in "Make me/ a grave/ where’er/ you will" (line 1), every line of the poem is cut up into two or three syllables and creates a constant beat. In terms of imagery that Harper portrays in the poem, there is both sound and visual imagery in an attempt to give a clear reminder to her fellow slaves that this is the reality that they live in. In stanzas 2,3, and 5 Harper uses sounds to describe and help the audience visualize the cruelty of slavery. In those stanzas, Harper uses phrases like "I heard the steps of a trembling stone" (line 6) and "I could not rest if I heard the tread" (line 9). By using clear phrases to signal sound, we are encouraged to imagine the horrible sounds that she describes and never forget the atrocities that were committed against the slaves. The wound is so deep and bloody that with every whip, the lash drinks the oozing blood. Babies are turned out from the mother's breast while being fed. This provides readers with a vivid image of the explicit and brutal image of the scene. The overall attitude of the poem is sadness mixed with defiance. "Bury me" might sound like letting go of life and hope. Her defiant attitude reflects her will to disobey slavery and regain her rights. This attitude is particularly well portrayed in "The mournful flame in her eyes and death-paled cheek red with shame" (line 23).

The title, "Bury Me in a Free Land" is significant in that this is the ultimate objective that the author wants in her society. The title explores the theme of the entire poem. The true meaning is her yearning for something more and a goal that she hopes will be realized one day. The ultimate freedom of people.





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