The Weary Blues

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 of The Weary Blues

  • Popularity of “The Weary Blues”: This poem was written by Langston Hughes, a great American writer and poet. The Weary Blues is a lyrical poem about pain. It was first published in 1962. The poem speaks about the melancholic song the African person sings or sang before the civil rights, all through the night. It also reflects the poet’s response toward pain and death.
  • “The Weary Blues” As Representative of Sorrow: The poem, having a brutal tone, presents the miserable plight of an African American who expresses his sorrow in his song. The poem begins when the speaker describes him playing a drowsy syncopated melody on Lenox Avenue a few nights ago. The poet, being a close examiner, explains how he was using his black hands to press the ivory keys of a worn piano. The poor piano produced a heart-warming melody despite its wear and tear. He played and sang in his deep melancholic voice as if he was alone in this world: he had got nobody to call his own. He swore that he would deal with his miseries by himself and would live freely by throwing all his anxieties away.
    As there seemed nobody who could care about his pain, therefore, he used blues as a mode to express his grief. Thus, he sang all night even the stars and the moon went out. At last, he stopped playing and went to his bed like a dead man. What, however, stays in the minds of the readers the way the speaker highlights the pain of that black man.
  • Major Themes in “The Weary Blues”: Miseries, pain, and death are the central themes underlined in the poem. The poem reflects upon two things: the sad but melodic song of the African American and the speaker’s close examination of his feelings. The negro chooses music as a channel to relieve himself from pain and anxiety. His sad melody clearly hints at the hardships he might have faced in the past. It seems that he sings not for the public but for himself. He plays that song till late at night and then goes to sleep. He sleeps so hard as if after outpouring his heart, his soul has departed his body.

Analysis of Literary Devices Used in “The Weary Blues”

Literary devices bring richness to the text and help the readers understand the story visually with hidden meanings. Langston Hughes has also made this poem superb by using figurative language. Here is the analysis of some literary devices used in this poem.

  1. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line such as the sound of /i/ and /ai/ in “I’s gwine to quit ma frownin” and the sound of /o/ in “Droning a drowsy syncopated tune.”
  2. Alliteration: Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line in quick succession such as the sound of /d/ and /l/ in “He played that sad raggy tune like a musical fool.”
  3. Anaphora: It refers to the repetition of a word or expression in the first part of some verses. Kate has repeated the words “He did a lazy sway” in the first stanza of the poem to emphasize the point. For example,

“He did a lazy sway. . . .
He did a lazy sway.”

  1. Enjambment: It is defined as a thought in verse that does not come to an end at a line break; rather, it rolls over to the next line. For example,

“The singer stopped playing and went to bed
While the Weary Blues echoed through his head.”

  1. Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. For example, “Thump, thump, thump, went his foot on the floor”, “The singer stopped playing and went to bed” and “While the Weary Blues echoed through his head.”
  2. Onomatopoeia: It refers to the words which imitate the natural sounds of things around us. The poet has used the word “thump” in the second stanza such as; “Thump, thump, thump, went his foot on the floor.”
  3. Symbolism: Symbolism is the use of symbols to signify ideas and qualities, by giving them symbolic meanings that are different from their literal meanings. Here, “song” symbolizes the pain and loneliness of the singer.

Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in “The Weary Blues”

Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is the analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem.

  1. End rhyme: End rhyme is used to make the stanza melodious. The poet has used end rhyme in this poem. For example, “floor”, “more”, “tune” and “moon.”
  2. Repetition: There is a repetition of the verse “He did a lazy sway,” which has created a musical quality in the poem.
  3. Refrain: The lines that are repeated at some distance in the poems are called refrain. The verse, “He did a lazy sway” appears again and again that it has become a refrain.
  4. Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. There are two stanzas in this poem and each varies in length.

Quotes to be Used

The lines stated below are useful in a speech delivered to express the trauma of loneliness and poverty.

“Ain’t got nobody in all this world,
Ain’t got nobody but ma self.”