It’s seven years since I first posted this poem in relation to a discussion on rhythm. Today I am reposting it as a thank you and a tribute to the African Americans for the wonderful heritage they have given us all. It feels like an appropriate time to do this.
So many names come to my mind ….from singers such as Paul Robeson (watch this live clip of Old Man River here) and Billy Holiday, to poets such as Maya Angelou and Langston Hughes. There are so many!
If you want to get with the feel of the blues try listening to this you tube clip first or as you read the poem below.
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.
Swaying to and fro on his rickety stool
He played that sad raggy tune like a musical fool.
Coming from a black man’s soul.
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.
James Mercer Langston Hughes (February 1, 1902 – May 22, 1967) was an African/American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, and columnist. He was one of the earliest innovators of the then-new literary art form jazz poetry. For a much extended biography see here. The Weary Blues is one of only a small number of Langston Hugh’s poems available in the public domain.To hear Langston himself reading The Weary Blues click here.