Langston Hughes- One of the major literary figures emerging during the Harlem Renaissance, Langston Hughes was an American poet born on February 1, 1902. Almost all of Hughes’s works are reflective of the true culture of black people, their sufferings, achievements, their fondness for all aspects of life including music, food, language etc.
The Weary Blues- “The Weary Blues” by Langston Hughes was published in 1926 within the collection of poems named “Blues”. The poem portrays a ‘Negro’ (probably an African-American) who is a singer. This poem is representative of the history of black people and their love of music.
Setting of The Weary Blues-
The setting of the poem changes from the speaker being in a bar listening to the protagonist sing to the poem ending with the image of the singer sleeping, the setting being his bedroom. Both the settings though are viewed by the readers through the eyes of the speaker himself, throughout the course of the poem.
Poetic Devices in The Weary Blues-
Repetition: “He did a lazy sway . . . He did a lazy sway . . .”
Alliteration: “Droning a drowsy syncopated tune”/”To the tune o’ those Weary Blues”
The poem has been composed in free verse or irregular verse. The rhyme scheme differs for every stanza and thus, no specific musical pattern is followed. The poem, thus follows the rhythm of natural speech.
Summary of The Weary Blues-
This poem is a representation of the black culture and their fondness for music. The title of the poem “The Weary Blues” and the context itself provides a direct reference to “blues”, a form of music developed by African Americans to promote the notions of freedom, independence and individuality, against slavery. The speaker starts by describing the tune being played as a “drowsy syncopated tune” and then mentions “I heard a Negro play”, where the singer is described as rocking back and forth while playing a mellow tune. This description itself is indicative of a bar like setting. The speaker mentions the location of where the bar is located at, Laxon Avenue. The Negro singer plays a mellow tune, rocking back and forth accompanying it by a lazy sway. The speaker tells the readers that the singer was playing the tune of “Weary Blues” on the piano, his fingers pushing on the ivory keys making the piano moan with melody. The poet mentioned “O Blues!” two times emphasising on the thematic concerns of the poem — the life of black people filled with sufferings and self-created happiness. The speaker says that the singer sways to and fro on the old stool and plays the sad tune which is described as “coming from a black man’s soul””. The song being played is also mentioned by the poet, with the lyrics fitting with the theme on which the black singer was singing. He does not have anyone in the world, nobody but himself, yet he decides to do away with his frowning and puts all his worries aside to enjoy life. The singer thumps his foot on the floor along with the beats of his music and then sings about being unsatisfied by the weary blues, wishing to die. The speaker says that the singer played all night long, till the sunrise. And then he went to bed to sleep like a rock or like a dead man with the weary blues still playing in his head.
Critical Analysis of The Weary Blues-
The poem with its title, protagonist and the context portrays the life struggles of black people and their history of turning towards smaller things in life to create happiness for themselves. The music “Blues”, like Jazz was created and promoted by the Blacks forced into slavery, as a means to entertain themselves and escape from the harsh reality of discrimination and injustice. At first, the singer in the poem sings about putting his problems aside to enjoy life but his second song indicates that the worries lay so heavily on his shoulders that even his beloved music doesn’t seem enough anymore and he expresses his wish to escape the reality and the world permanently.
Tone of The Weary Blues-
The tone of the poem is calm, the irregular verse following the rhythm of natural speech. The song is being described as melancholy and mellow again and again in the poem to highlight the influence of the situation the singer is in, yet the tone seems to be quiet, musical and strong.
Conclusion- The poem “The Weary Blues” is a beautifully composed verse and the poet is successful in putting forward the thematic concerns of the poem brilliantly. The poem represents the struggles of black people, their sufferings and their love and appreciation of the small blessings in life.