Friday, February 04, 2022

Prayer, Hymn, and Barbecue in Zora Neale Hurston's "Their Eyes Were Watching God"

When Mayor Joe Starks has the first streetlamp installed in Eatonville in Zora Neale Hurston's "Their Eyes Were Watching God", he has Brother Davis chant "a traditional prayer-poem with his own variations", and then Mrs. Bogle sings "Jesus is the Light of This World" in her alto: "All of the people took it up and sung it over and over until it was wrung dry, and no further innovations of tone and tempo were conceivable. Then they hushed and ate barbecue." The preacher's variations in the prayer-poem become the community's "innovations" in the hymn – and then, as Lyle Lovett puts it in "Church", "it's time for dinner now, let's go eat." (Andrew Shields, #111words, 4 February 2022)

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