“The Weary Blues”, Longboats Hughes describes an evening of listening to a blues musician in Harlem. “The Wear Blues” By: Longboats 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 . 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 rag 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-? “Anti got nobody in all this world, Anti got nobody but ma self. Xi’s swine to quit ma frowning’ 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-? “l got the Weary Blues And I can’t be satisfied. Got the Weary Blues And can’t be satisfied-? I anti 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. With its notation, its reiteration of lines and its inclusion of blues lyric, the poem appreciation of the state of mind of the blues musician. Lines 1-3 Hughes uses the sentence structure to show the relationship between the singer and the audience. The singer is swaying as he performs, and so is the audience as they listen to him, causing them to become conflated grammatically in the sentence that describes their interaction.
It is then that Hughes implies that the blues offer a sort of shared knowledge and understand, that they not only suggest the feelings of the artist, but the entire community. “Down on Lenox Avenue” is a main street in Harlem, it interesting to note that he uses the phrase “down on Lenox Avenue” as opposed to “up on Lenox Avenue”. Harlem was primarily home to African American and the parts of New York City south of Harlem, referred to as “downtown”, were populated mainly by white people.
During the ass’s and ass’s writings by African Americans about black identity and culture proliferated. This exceptionally fruitful period of extensive and brilliant literary production is known as the “Renaissance”. During the Harlem Renaissance, African American artists and musicians also gained recognition and currency in the white community; many wealthy whites, who generally lived in the downtown area, took quite an interest in the cultural activity in there, the Harlem nightlife and its artistic productions.
They would flock northward to Harlem where most of the African Americans lived, for the entertainment and introduction to new forms of music and art produced by African Americans there, white patrons, of these artists helped them to become known beyond their own communities. Some of these porters, however, took advantage of these emerging black artists, current racial attitudes and the discriminatory laws and social codes to exploit black musicians and artists for their own financial gain.
So when Hughes speaker says he was “down on Lenox Avenue” we can assume that he is not white. Jazz and Blues music is considered to be original to African Americans born out of “the 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” (Norton Anthology of African American Literature 929). This can be seen in lines 9 and 16: “With his ebony hands on each ivory key” and “Coming from a black man’s soul. The image of black hands on white keys suggests the way in which black musicians have taken an instrument of white Western culture and through it produced their own creative manifestation. Steve C. Tracy wrote this on the idea: All the singer seems to have is his moaning blues, the revelation of “a black man’s soul,” and those blues are what helps keep him alive. Part of that ability to sustain is apparently the way the blues help him keep his identity. Even in singing the blues, he is singing about his life, about the way that he and other blacks have to deal with white society.
As his black hands touch the white keys, the accepted Western sound of the piano and the form of Western music are transformed. The piano itself comes to life as an extension of the singer, and sighs, transformed by the black tradition to a mirror of black sorrow that also reflects the transforming power and beauty of the black tradition. Finally, it is that tradition that helps keep the singer live and gives him his distinctiveness, when he is done and goes to bed he sleeps like an lifeless object, with the blues echoing beyond his playing, beyond the daily progressions, and through both conscious and unconscious states. Longboats Hughes This interpretation of blues music is an expression of black sorrow and struggle in the face of oppression and discriminatory forces of the larger society. The word “down” might also refer to the architecture of Harlem, with its multi-storied apartment buildings looking down on the avenues, where the ground floors of buildings housed businesses and people lived in apartments on the upper floors. Down” might also refer to the emotional content of the music the speaker will describe.
It is interesting to note the implicit opposition between the sorrows of the singer that bring him down and his desire to quit his “frowning” and “put [his] troubles [up] on the shelf. ” Hughes uses the word “rag’ in line 13. “Rag’ is not an actual word; it could in fact be interpreted as a combination of words “raggedy’ meaning tattered or worn out and the word “ragtime” which refers to a style of Jazz music characterized by elaborately syncopated rhythm in the melody and steadily accented accompaniment. When we think of something that is “raggedy’, we think of rags, poverty, and need.
Also, the idea of patch work comes to mind, a fabric constructed out of scraps of cloth, or rags, sown together to make a new whole out of disparate parts, such as a quilt. Music can be patchwork, too, and if you listen to Jazz, blues and folk music, you will hear different threads or trends patched together in the music. African American blues music itself is a patching together of different and disparate influences. The form of the poem uses irregular rhyming, repetition of lines, he uses interruptions of blues lyrics in the narrative of the poem.