Tuesday, February 1, 2011


Black reapers with the sound of steel on stones
Are sharpening scythes. I see them place the hones
In their hip-pockets as a thing that's done,
And start their silent swinging, one by one.
Black horses drive a mower through the weeds,
And there, a field rat, startled, squealing bleeds.
His belly close to ground. I see the blade,
Blood-stained, continue cutting weeds and shade.

The title by itself is the first sign of how the poem feels and how it reflects the emotions that Toomer wants to arise in the reader. Reaper is a grim word; it is associated with death. There is a lifeless aura to Toomer's poem. It describes destructive times in America with slavery. The black reapers that the poem describes are slaves working in the fields. "I see them place the hones/ In their hip-pockets as a thing that's done," means to me that the fieldwork and blade sharpening is a adapted, well-known task that these "black reapers" do several times a day. That just emphnasizes the fact that the poem is about slaves, a lifeless being, and going through the motions. The poem says they begin their "silent swinging" which also depicts a lifeless, emotionless outlook.
When the horses pull the mower through the fields to cut the grass and weeds, it hits a rat. The mowers destruction goes unnoticed, as the mower keeps moving forward. The poem says that the rat bleeds and that the blade was blood-stained, which emphasizes the deathly feeling of the poem. I also mentioned going through the motions earlier. This is apparent here as well, because only the narrator notices the mower hit the rat, but nothing is done about it and the mower " continue(s) cutting weeds and shade."
I like how Toomer put this poem after "Karintha" because the lifelessness in this poem is related to Karintha's adult state of mind.

1 comment:

  1. I have to agree with you Logan. I too felt that this poem gives off a dark feeling. Also, I saw the reapers as slaves as well. The reapers that are sharpening their scythes gave me the impression that slaves were getting ready to go work in the fields. To me the rat was also a representation of slaves at the time. Toomer portrays the rat as scared and squealing, yet the mower still kills it. This shows how they were mistreated and nobody really cared about them, even though they noticed that this was an injustice.