In comparing Langston Hughes' two poems, "Song for a Dark Girl" and "Harlem Sweeties," are the similarities or differences more striking?
The surface similarity that the subject both poems is about women or a woman is initially more striking. However, by the third line of "Song for a Dark Girl" and the third through fifth lines of "Harlem Sweeties" the differences between them are radically more striking than any similarity.
"Harlem Sweeties" is a joyful and swinging celebration of the beauty of black women in Harlem who come in every sweet shade of skin tone imaginable:
To cinnamon toes.
Virginia Dare wine— ("Harlem Sweeties")
"Song for a Dark Girl" is a lament, a dirge spoken by one with a broken heart, for a dark beauty of the South who was hung. Not only this, but she was hung without a prayer because her chronicler, the poet persona, can't find a reason or a way to pray to the "white Lord Jesus." The end result of this mournful cry is that love, the dark girl, and the executioner's "gnarled tree" are all naked before a Lord Jesus whose mercy none of the three can hope to gain.
I asked the white Lord Jesus
What was the use of prayer.
Way Down South in Dixie
(Break the heart of me)
Love is a naked shadow
On a gnarled and naked tree.("Song for a Dark Girl")