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VERSES: First Fight. Then Fiddle by Gwendolyn Brooks  

Last Updated: Sep 30, 2013 URL: http://libguides.huhs.org/content.php?pid=467345 Print Guide RSS UpdatesEmail Alerts
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Poem

First fight. Then fiddle. Ply the slipping string
With feathery sorcery; muzzle the note
With hurting love; the music that they wrote
Bewitch, bewilder. Qualify to sing
Threadwise. Devise no salt, no hempen thing
For the dear instrument to bear. Devote
The bow to silks and honey. Be remote
A while from malice and from murdering,
But first to arms, to armor. Carry hate
In front of you and harmony behind.
Be deaf to music and to beauty blind.
Win war. Rise bloody, maybe not too late
For having first to civilize a space
Wherein to play your violin with grace.

 

Rise Bloody Paper Hyperlink

These instructions all translate to the analogy of the Harlem Renaissance. The instructions of the first quatrain of the music style being contradictory to gain the attention of the crowd means that in order for the African Americans to gain support for their rights, they first must make their controversial fight known to the world. The instructions of the second quatrain of making the music have a fuller tone relates to the African Americans exposing all the wrongdoing that has been done to them. The instructions of the third quatrain of ignoring other sources of music relates to the other groups fighting for their rights during the Harlem Renaissance. Women were also calling attention to themselves and some groups were trying to combine forces with the African Americans.If this would have occurred, the focal point of African Americans rights would have been lost. In order to prevent this from happening, distractions from the fight of other groups must be ignored. Once this has all been completed, African Americans can fully fight for their own rights.  In order for this to happen properly, the entire poem emphasizes that the African Americans must be prepared to fight hard for what they believe is right because it will be difficult.

     

    First Fight. Then Fiddle.

     

    Civilize a Space Paper Hyperlink

    Overall, Brooks use of diction of civilizing a space helps describe a hectic situation, where the use of oxymorons in the three quatrains provide instructions on how to handle it and gain attention. The instructions focus on a musician performing for an unfocused crowd, however the influence of the Harlem Renaissance Brooks had causes it to become an analogy for African Americans fighting for their rights.

       

      Muzzle the Note Paper Connection

      Typically in music, all notes want to be heard, however, to muzzle means to restrain. The last example is “hurting love”. Love is joyous and creates fulfilling emotions of happiness, while hurting relates to emotions of pain and agony. These oxymorons suggest that in order to first gain the attention of the crowd, the music style should be contradictory, which causes it to be engaging. This then relates how the African Americans gained attention of the crowds to support them for their contradictory to society beliefs.

         
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