Still Here

Still Here

by Langston Hughes

I been scarred and battered.
My hopes the wind done scattered.
   Snow has friz me,
   Sun has baked me,

Looks like between ’em they done
   Tried to make me

Stop laughin’, stop lovin’, stop livin’–
   But I don’t care!
   I’m still here!

__________________________

This nine line poem, broken up into three stanzas, is perhaps most notable initially due to its grammar. A Hughes reader would know form his other works that he is more than capable of utilizing grammar to create great eloquence. Therefore, we can read this poem knowing that the grammar choices here are intentional and that they are trying to tell us something.

Lines 1 and 2 illustrate *why* Hughes makes the choice to (mis)use grammar.

I been scarred and battered.
My hopes the wind done scattered.

Hughes’ speaker has had a rough go of things. As a Reader, then, we feel the truth of the Speaker’s statements in lines 1 and 2 through his rough usage of grammar. Eloquence would feel out of place given the picture Hughes is painting of his Speaker (i.e. the Speaker has been “battered” and thus his grammar has also.)

In lines 3 and 4, the Speaker tells us some of his struggles.

  Snow has friz me,
   Sun has baked me,

We are not given a lot of detail here. The details are not the theme of the poem. The important takeaway lies in the poem’s title. The Speaker is “Still Here.” This is a poem about fortitude and perseverance.

One interesting point from lines three and four, and throughout the poem overall, is the fact that words are missing. We do not have “the” snow or “the” sun. Just snow and sun. The Speaker does not even provide all of the word “frozen.” It is as though the Speaker has eroded in the trials of life. The grammar shows us that erosion.

Speaking of life, the Speaker names his antagonists as “snow” and “sun” – cold and hot. These two are elemental and opposite. The Speaker paints himself as a victim of nature itself. Returning to those lines, then, the Speaker’s failure to include “the” make it seem as though he is personifying both of these extremes from nature. Their antagonism therefore seems more personal when reading it. That personification continues in the next lines.

Looks like between ’em they done
   Tried to make me

Stop laughin’, stop lovin’, stop livin’–

We continue to see a seemingly eroded Speaker continue on in lines 5 through 7. Words are missing and others that remain are contracted. He tells us that his named antagonists are trying to take from him the more raw and basic needs a man might have – mirth, joy, and a drive to continue on.

In the last two lines, we see the Speaker’s response to the forces working against him.

But I don’t care!
   I’m still here!

These two lines contain no grammatical errors (unless you want to complain about starting a sentence with ‘But.’) Whatever wear and tear we see above on the Speaker, the core of him remains. We see the Speaker’s strength and perseverance in these two lines.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s