Analyzing the Text
The rhythm rushes readers along, with words one after another and line breaks not in traditional places. Additionally, the abundance of stressed syllables contributions to the feeling of fright as the narrator hurries along.
Religious references include “O star-shaped yonder Bible city,” “tell me, Ezekiel, oh tell me do you see mailed Jehovah coming to deliver me,” and “first stop Mercy and the last Hallelujah.” Religious imagery is appropriate here because these are cultural references that would have been familiar to slaves and would likely have provided them some hope, however small.
“Oh! Susanna” is a minstrel song, which means it would have been performed by white people who wore blackface and mocked African-Americans. Perhaps the author made this allusion in order to symbolize African-Americans reclaiming that song and repurposing it for their own, better uses.
The two speakers are the narrator and Harriet Tubman. The narrator sounds more dramatic and afraid, while Ms. Tubman sounds more pragmatic or matter-of-fact about the whole situation.
The first set of names (lines 53-54) are names given to Harriet Tubman either by others or by the woman herself. The second set of names (55-56) refer to abolitionists both white and black.
Unlike most other lines in this poem, these lines (three couplets) rhyme! Together they read like more traditional poetry that students are probably used to. They are sing-song and a little bit eerie in terms of the theme.
These words and phrases include “they’ll dart underground when you try to catch them” and lines 65 through 71.
“I’m bound for the freedom” means that the slave is in bondage, perhaps literally in chains, because society at this time conceived of black people as suited only for slavery and white people only for freedom. This was considered the natural order of things. “Freedom-bound” means that the narrator is headed toward their freedom, finally. Line 33 is just one example of the multiple meanings of this poem and the way it reveals more and more to the reader they longer they spend analyzing it.