This poem summary focuses on the poem ‘April Rain Song’ by the African-American poet Langston Hughes. Hughes was one of the main figures behind the Harlem Renaissance. As the name suggests (‘Harlem’ being a predominantly African-American neighbourhood of New York City), this was a movement for self-assertion of the African-Americans so that mainstream American society would sit up and take notice of the unfair, and sometimes even inhuman, manner in which African-Americans would be treated by their white counterparts. A large part of this movement was propelled by the work of artists, writers and cultural critics belonging to the African-American community. Langston Hughes was at the forefront of the group of writers who contributed to the evolution of the Harlem Renaissance.
As a result of his involvement with the Harlem Renaissance, most of the poems of Langston Hughes are political in nature, and they deal with various aspects of African-American experience. In the early phase of his poetic career, Hughes was in favour of bridging the gap between whites and African-Americans, and the creation of a society in which both of them actively took part in equal capacity, and were thus treated at par with each other. His early poems were an embodiment of this philosophical point of view that he had adopted then. However, with the passage of time, and especially during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 1960s, his style of writing changed as a result of a change in his political persuasion. He became sceptical and came to believe that the whites would never treat the African-Americans well. Hence, a tone of irony and satire crept into his poetry.
Most of the poetry by Langston Hughes deals with African-American life in a very direct manner. However, some of his poems do not seem to do so. ‘April rain Song’ appears to be such a poem. This is a very short and simple poem. It is made up of only seven lines. In ‘April Rain Song’, the speaker speaks in first person, and we can therefore equate the speaker with Hughes himself. Hughes can be considered to be speaking to an absent audience. This absent audience can easily be equated with the African-American community.
Hughes tells his fellow African-Americans to let the rain fall softly over their bodies, as if it is kissing them. They must treat the rain like a tender lover, and accept its embrace with open arms. Imagining the rain drops to be silver in colour, Hughes then tells his community to let that silver liquid “beat upon” their heads. These words may seem incongruent here, since beating is usually associated with violence, and that interpretation is certainly not in tune with the content of the rest of the poem. However, Hughes may simply be implying that even if the rain falls with a force upon them, his African-American friends should let it come down on their naked heads for it might cool them down and bring them a sense of serenity as a result. Then Hughes says that the pitter-patter of rain drops has an inherent rhythm, as if it were a song that the rain was singing. This song of the rain (that he has referred to in the title of this poem itself) is so soothing that it can act as a lullaby to his community and help them sleep an undisturbed sleep.
Hughes goes on to describe the other effects of the rain as well. He says that the rain can be messy at times, forming pools on the side of the road, and running their water down into the gutters that flow through the city. However, this does not dampen the beautiful song of the rain. When the rain falls on the rooftops of African-American houses, it still creates a lovely melody and helps the inhabitants sleep peacefully. For all these reasons, Hughes loves the rain.