The Weary Blues by Langston Hughes

Droning a drowsy syncopated tune,
Rocking back and forth to a mellow croon,
I heard a Negro play.
Down on Lenox Avenue the other night
By the pale dull pallor of an old gas light
He did a lazy sway. . . .
He did a lazy sway. . . .
To the tune o’ those Weary Blues.
With his ebony hands on each ivory key
He made that poor piano moan with melody.
O Blues!
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!
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.”

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.”
And far into the night he crooned that tune.
The stars went out and so did the moon.
The singer stopped playing and went to bed
While the Weary Blues echoed through his head.
He slept like a rock or a man that’s dead.

Summary

The Weary Blues” takes place at an old Harlem bar on Lenox Avenue. There is a piano player playing the blues. As he plays, the speaker observes his body movement and the tone of his voice. Throughout the poem, several literary devices are used to guide the reader through the mixture of emotions the blues player is feeling. The vivid imagery and use of language gives the reader a more personal glimpse into the life of the man playing the blues.

The imagery of the poem is also significant. Words like “drowsy,” “rocking,” “pale dull pallor,” “lazy sway,” “rickety stool,” and “raggy tune” suggest the feelings of melancholy. The mood is somber and depressing. Even the smallest elements of the poem and the setting are incompetent. The language is broken and improper. The piano is referred to as old and poor and the stool, which could be interpreted as the musician’s foundation, is “rickety,” unstable, and inadequate.

The repetition of several words and phrases emphasizes the mood and the seriousness of the musician’s lyrics, thoughts, and actions. His sway is repetitive. The “lazy sway” and “rocking back and forth” implies continual movement, as if the musician is uneasy, uncomfortable in his current position. The repeated phrases, “I ain’t got nobody” and “can’t be satisfied” reveal the true feelings of the musician. In this most humbled position, he shares his pain and relinquishes his deepest feelings. The piano is personified twice throughout the poem; “he made that poor piano moan.” The idea of a piano moaning implies that the music is so powerful that it has a direct influence on the instrument. The musician’s burdens and pain literally affect the piano.

The Weary Blues” is known as one of Hughes’ most famous poems. Critics have claimed that “The Weary Blues” is a combination of blues and jazz with personal experiences. It embodies blues as a metaphor and form. It has also been coined as one of the first works of blues performance in literature. Throughout the poem, music is not only seen as a form of art and entertainment, but also as a way of life; people living the blues. Hughes’ ability to incorporate poetry with music and history with art has given him the reputation as one of the leading black artists of the twentieth century. “The Weary Blues” allows the reader to seek to unlock the mystery of the blues, for both the musician and themselves.

The title of the poem Weary Blues gives an insight into the theme of the poem. The Blues is a kind of musical presentation done by the blacks, which carries the melancholic note of suffering and despondency of the Blacks caused by the Whites who consider themselves superior. The singer who is also black is trying to outpour his saga of sufferings in accompaniment with old piano. He feels that sorrows they suffer will find better expression though their own poetic form. If he tries other form he will fail to express the intensity of emotional feelings and thus purpose for which he is singing will be defeated.

The poem begins with a speaker telling someone about a piano player he heard a couple nights ago. This musician was playing a slow blues song with all his body and soul. The speaker starts to really get into the sad music. This musician is singing about how, even though he’s miserable, he’s going to put his worries aside. The second verse is more of a bummer: nothing can cure his blues, and he wishes he was dead. The musician plays on late into the night; and when he finally goes to bed, he sleeps like a dead person or something else that can’t think. His rendering of the music is termed as ‘droning’. The term ‘droning’ may refer to the fact how he labouredly delivered music for a living. Since drones thrive in communities, the music may signify the collective consciousness of the blacks. This is why probably the music is ‘syncopated’.’ Syncopated’ means stressing a normally weak beat. The aspect of the blacks-the Harlem Renaissance is for grounded with the stressing of this weak beat .The musician oscillated to the music that mellowed to a sentimental humming (croon).

The poet has penned the phrase ‘”down on Lenox Avenue” instead on “up on Lenox Avenue” as blacks inhabited the Northern part of Harlem. The word “down” may also signify the architecture of Harlem colonies, with the multi-storied apartments. The lower apartments were reserved for business purposes. The African Americans were responsible for the birth of the jazz and blues music that was born out of “irresistible impulse of blacks to create boldly expressive art of a high quality as a primary response to their social conditions, as an affirmation of their dignity and humanity in the face of poverty and racism.

The singer in the poem is rocking his body backward and forward to show his mental anxiety and is trying to create melody out of his old piano which gives melancholic and sad notes. However the melody is appealing as it is not superficial but coming spontaneously from the depth of soul. Some times in utter disappointment he feels that there no one in the world to support him he is alone in this wild world.

“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.”

With these feelings he pounds his feet strongly to express his anger and vibrancy to face any unfavorable situations in his life. The use of word Thump repeatedly creates an echo of sound which is an essential element in any performing art. Though the blacks are disgraced and disregarded by the whites, they (blacks) have tremendous sense of music and melody of their own and they need not borrow any art form from others as they themselves are blessed with their own way of expression. The poet tells that the blacks have internalized the Blues and assimilated them as part of their lives and after nicely performing the artist sleeps soundly as if he is enjoying sound sleep forever.

While the Weary Blues echoed through his head.
He slept like a rock or a man that’s dead.

The poem brings out the fact that the blacks are self sufficient people and try to prove that on their own music, melody and mental faculty, they can establish themselves on par with the whites. They have no grudge against the whites: they only disapprove their mental block which does not let them accept the blacks as their respectable brothers and true inhabitants of America.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *