The Weary Blues by Langston Hughes: Summary and Analysis
The Weary Blues is one of the Blues poems written by Langston Hughes, one of the most imminent poets of Harlem Renaissance. Writing blues poetry can be inherently difficult and Hughes was among one of the first to have toyed with this form. While he was not always successful still he was able to bring the quality of blues in the poems often. Blues poems utilize the imagery, themes and motifs that are common to Blues literature. The Blues follow a stanzaic form generally where each of the stanzas has three lines – AAB. Hughes was often exposed to Blues music as he grew up.
In his autobiography he notes that he wanted to write poems like the ones he had heard on 7th Street in Washington DC. The reason that Hughes was attracted to Blues was because they represented the plight of the lower middle class of the African Americans, a class that Hughes could most connect with. Blues are for the people that keep going. They render the pain and difficulties of the African Americans and their determination to keep going. Hughes referred to these people as plain folks which were filled with inexhaustible energy that masked their pain and relieved them from their suffering.
Droning a drowsy syncopated tune,
Rocking back and forth to a mellow croon,
I heard a Negro play.
The poet has some African American singer in his memory. He had heard African American singers sing such tunes in Harlem and on the 7th street. A singer is humming an offbeat tune. He is rocking back and forth and singing in a sentimental tone. The singer is a Negro.
Down on Lenox Avenue the other nightBy the pale dull pallor of an old gas light He did a lazy sway . . . He did a lazy sway . .
There used to be clubs on Lenox Avenue in Harlem, NewYork where these Negroes would use to sing their pain away. The poet remembers one such incident and notes it in his poetry. Sitting by the side of an old gas light a Negroe sings in its pale light. He is lazily swaying while he hums the tune.
To the tune o’ those Weary Blues.With his ebony hands on each ivory keyHe made that poor piano moan with melody. O Blues !
He is playing a weary old piano and singing a weary old tune. His song is worn out as his soul is by pain. His black hands press the ivory keys of a worn out piano. The poor piano moans and despite its weariness makes melodious music.
Swaying to and fro on his rickety stool
He played that sad raggy tune like a musical fool. Sweet Blues!Coming from a black man’s soul. O Blues!
The Negro is sitting on an old, half broken stool. The Negro does not seem well versed with playing a piano but still he is skilled enough to play a sad tune or what at least resembles tune. The song seems to be coming direct from a poor black man’s soul. The poet recounts the sad and yet melodious tune of the piano and the bitter sweetness of the song.
In a deep song voice with a melancholy tone I heard that Negro sing, that old piano moan— “Ain’t got nobody in all this world, Ain’t got nobody but ma self. I’s gwine to quit ma frownin’ And put ma troubles on the shelf.”
The Negro plays the old piano and sings in a deep melancholic voice. He has got nobody in this world to call his own. He has got nobody but himself. He swears he is going to quit his frowning and put all his worries away. He will live free of worries and throw all his troubles away. This poem is about the strong will of the lower class African Americans. The poet cannot help expressing his sympathy for them. These people despite have been through endless suffering cannot surrender.
Thump, thump, thump, went his foot on the floor.He played a few chords then he sang some more— “I got the Weary Blues And I can’t be satisfied. Got the Weary Blues And can’t be satisfied— I ain’t happy no mo’ And I wish that I had died.”