The poem Georgia Dusk describes dusk, on what I assume to be an average evening in Georgia.
“The sky, lazily disdaining to pursue
The setting sun, too indolent to hold
A lengthened tournament for flashing gold,
Passively darkens for night’s barbecue”
This passage is undeniably beautiful, imparting the feeling of nostalgia as well as the slow lethargy of a day ending. Yet with the final line, “night’s barbecue”, Toomer alludes to an idea that although the sun is set the day is not yet done. In the next stanza he gives me the feeling of some revelry, of feast and song: “…making folk-songs from soul sounds.” The third stanza again speaks of a work day coming to an end with “The sawmill blows its whistle, buzz-saws stop, And silence breaks the bud of knoll and hill.” In the next two lines, even the land comes to rest and relax after a hard day’s work.
With the fourth stanza Toomer transitions from beautiful imagery to a degree of sadness by speaking of “smoke from the pyramidal sawdust pile” and “blue ghosts”; by speaking of the “chips and stumps” as the only proof of the forest that once stood there. After reading the rest of the poem the meaning of this stanza becomes clear. The “chips and stumps” are the poor African-American people, who are now mere shadows of their once proud heritage: “Race memories of king and caravan, High-priests, an ostrich, and a juju-man.” The feeling of sadness continues through the rest of the poem with lines like “Their voices rise… the chorus of the cane Is caroling a vesper to the stars”.
At the end of the poem, I am left with an extraordinary sadness but at the same time hope.