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Analysis of ‘Po’ Boy blues’ by Langston Hughes

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Po' Boy blues

James Mercer Langston Hughes, an American poet, was born on February 1, 1902 in Missouri. He was a social activist, poet, playwright and a columnist. He started writing quite early in life. He was a drop out from the Columbia University but by then he caught the attention of The Crisis Magazine and a publishing house. He later completed his graduation from the Lincoln University. As a young man he moved to New York and became one of the pioneers of Jazz poetry. Hughes was well known as a leader of the Harlem Renaissance which was a movement which stood for the Afro-Americans. It was a period when ‘the negro was in vogue’ and later it was known as ‘when Harlem was in vogue’.  His death was on May 22nd 1967 from prostate cancer.

‘Po’ Boy Blues’ was a poem written around 1926-1927 and it is a blue poem which formed the base of Jazz poetry. In this poem he remembers the time when he was back home. Back home there was so much of sunshine which was like gold. Then he had to move north, all the sunshine was lost and it was too cold for him. In the second stanza he recalls that he was a good boy who had done nothing wrong but his life had been weary, hard and long. When nothing works for a person who is good, it is natural that he feels that life is giving a tough time. To add woes to his misery he fell in love with a girl who he thought was a kind girl. But his experience was bad. He lost his money on her and he also lost his mind on her. With nothing to celebrate in life he feels weary very early in the morning. Man gets refreshed after a night’s sleep. But here he was tired even after a night’s sleep. There is no purpose to live so he wonders why he was born at all.

‘Po’ Boy Blues’ has four stanzas with six lines in each stanza. In the first and last stanza the rhyme scheme is ABABAB. In the second and the third stanza the rhyme can be said to be a little different. ABABCB. The word ending in the third line has the same letter but the sound is different so we can say that it is ABABCB.  The first two lines are repeated in all the stanzas; ready to be tuned. Sunshine is compared to gold and the comparison is a simile. Metaphor of road is used to state that life is hard and keeps on going. The alliteration used, gives the poem its lyrical form, ‘world is weary’, ‘ma money’, ‘ma mind’. Enjambment is seen in the first stanza; the idea ends in the second line. It was believed that Hughes was a gay and the rejection would have compounded his woes. In the head notes of The Norton Anthology it is written that he was confused and worried about what he was. He could not change his inclinations and he was suffering from the tug inside and he wished that he were not born at all. Like most of Hughes poems, this one is simple and straightforward, conveying the heaviness of his heart.