Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Toomer's "Georgia Dusk"

"A feast of moon and men and barking hounds,
An orgy for some genius of the South
With blood-hot eyes and cane-lipped scented mouth,
Surprised in making folk-songs from soul sounds." (Cane 15)

This is the second stanza of the poem "Georgia Dusk." This stanza particularly stuck out to me as it laments the meaning of looking for good in everything, even evil. Following the first stanza of Toomer's poem we know that this is dusk settling on another day of hard work performed in the fields, most likely harvesting sugar cane. The first line of this stanza indicates a sort of gathering as dusk settles in, as Toomer uses the word feast which brings together a mass around one cause. That is exactly what is happening, everyone both men and dogs come together with the darkness as another day comes to a close. This feast of moon, is in a way a celebration that they have made it through another day, and most likely that night is upon them. They finally get a break. As I moved into the second line it is obvious that this feast becomes even more indulgent as Toomer uses the word "orgy" which represent the indulgence of passions which is often characterized by dancing, singing and sometimes drinking. He goes on to describe this feast as being an orgy for "some genius of the South / With blood-hot eyes and cane-lipped scented mouth" (Cane 15). Toomer is referring to whoever it was that was enslaved, angry and overworked , and still capable to take this dismal situation and turn it into a feast. He who can do that is a genius. The last line is the reason for him being a genius, because as Toomer notes this genius is able to take these aches of the soul and turn them into folk-songs for all of those who come together night after night under the "Georgia Dusk." This stanza is stood out to me over all other in this piece, and added immensely to the overall lamenting of the originator of the Soul Music that gave so many slaves the hope to make it through the day.

The way in which Toomer constructs this stanza adds immensely to the message as well. It follows an abba rhyme scheme, which pairs together the first and last lines of the quatrain as well as the middle two. Doing this adds to the meaning that those who are gathered (moon, men, and barking hounds) are all surprised at the sounds that can come from the soul. Then when you look at the rhyming couplet sandwiched in the middle of the quatrain it shows that it only takes the focus of one genius to turn all of this negative into a positive energy. This is highlighted even more as the couplet in the middle is indented, almost as a way to put emphasis on that one genius. I also believe it was no mistake that these lines are in the middle, as the songs that this genius was able to create was the glue that held all the others together. Just as he is here in the quatrain, between everything else holding them together and getting them through the rigors of slavery.


  1. I think this is a good stanza to pick from this poem because it relates to the rest of the poem. I say this particularly because you see throughout the whole poem that there are examples of looking for good in everything. I would even go as far as to say that there are images of seeking of understanding of things good and bad, to become knowledgeable about things. In this stanza it particularly mentions men who indulge in this feast, and Toomer goes as far as to use the word orgy, which for me evoked the image of men getting together in the ancient Greek culture, having these types of feast and orgies after seeking knowledge and a better understanding of things. Not only are these ideas carried throughout the whole poem, but so is the form seeing that the rhyme scheme remains to have the two couplets in the middle of the quatrain.

  2. Sam,

    I really enjoyed your perspective on Georgia Dust. I think as of now we are the only two who choose this poem for our commentary. I think we share a similar opinion that Georgia Dusk has a strong connection to slavery and the post-slavery lives of the African Americans. However, I am sort of curious about the first idea that you mentioned in your commentary, the one about "lamenting the meaning of looking for good in everything, even evil." When i first read that line, i was very curious to know what you meant by that, but you seemed to move on with the rest of your analysis.

  3. Sam,
    I must agree wholeheartedly with you that this stanza demonstrates a peoples' ability to find happiness even when they live a dreary existence.

  4. This was a very satisfying commentary for me to read because, having analyzed this poem myself, the second stanza was that which gave me the most trouble. Specifically, I was troubled by the line "an orgy for some genius of the South". For some reason I assumed that the last line referred to the feast as being "surprised," but the genius makes much more sense. That paints the genius then as the introspective thinker and artist who simply dares to search his soul earnestly, and is rewarded by the pleasant surprise of finding something to celebrate despite possibly dismal circumstances. Thanks for the enlightening observations!

  5. I also agree with you here. The fifth stanza also emphasizes the need and want to find good in everything and to be happy. "Meanwhile, the men/Race memories of king and caravan,/High-priests, an ostrich, and a juju-man." Also, I like how you said it was a celebration. In the sixth stanza, Toomer describes the trees as being guitars and the men as a chorus, which leads me to picture some type of party or celebration.