The Weary Blues

Langston Hughes was a novelist, poet, columnist and a social activist with strong political views. His contribution to literature is huge. He was one of those rare blacks who was accepted at a very young age. Today Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University has kept his papers,letters, personal items, manuscripts, artworks, clippings and other objects that document his life. Moorland-Spingarn Research Center at Howard University holds materials got from his travels. James Mercer Langston Hughes (February 1, 1902 – May 22, 1967) was the voice of the African Americans. He was optimistic about the future of his people; he knew that his people would see better days. ‘The Weary Blues’ won the esteemed literary contest held by the Opportunity magazine.

‘The Weary Blues’ was written in 1925 describing a Negro playing a ‘drowsy’ song. He was playing the slow song rocking on his chair to the slow rhythm of the song.  It might have been a bar on the Lenox Avenue. He could see the artist in the dull light of a gas light. He was swaying lazily to the tune of a ‘weary blues’. His ebony hands were on those ivory keys of the piano and the piano ‘moaned’ the melody. It was a true blue song and soon he breaks into singing in the same melancholy tone. He sang that he did not have anyone for himself in the world but he was not going to frown; he was going to put all his troubles on the shelf.

The singer kept rhythm with his foot on the floor. It was time for some chords and then the song which said that he was feeling blue and looks like it was not going to stop. He was not happy anymore and he wished he had died. The singer sang long into the night; the stars and moon went out. It was at this time that he stopped singing and went to bed. In the bed the song ‘echoed’ in his head and then he ‘slept like a rock’ and it looked as if he was dead.

‘The Weary Blues’ has thirty three lines, is a free verse with no rhyme scheme. The song in the poem has a rhyme but outside it follows a natural rhythm of the spoken language. The language used in the song is also native to his people.The closure of the poem has a rhyme with ‘head, bed and dead’.  The words ‘the old piano moan’ is personification of the piano. Music of different genres can be played on the piano but a piano does not moan like humans. The simile used in the poem are in the lines ‘like a musical fool’, ‘He slept like a rock…’. ‘Thump, thump, thump’ is an example of onomatopoeia. The poem starts with alliteration, ‘Droning a drowsy… ‘The tone of the poem is that of despondency through the singer in the poem. Yet true to Hughes style there is a ray of hope and positivity in the lines

I’s gwine to quit ma frownin’

And put ma troubles on the shelf.

‘The Weary Blues’ won the esteemed literary contest held by the Opportunity magazine. The book with a collection of Hughes poems is titled ‘The Weary Blues’.