Sound Patterns of Hughes' "The Weary Blues"

Topics: Rhyme, Onomatopoeia, Jazz Pages: 5 (1442 words) Published: November 17, 2001
Hughes' "Blues"

Jazz music is often associated with long, lazy melodies and ornate rhythmical patterns. The Blues, a type of jazz, also follows this similar style. Langston Hughes' poem, "The Weary Blues," is no exception. The sound qualities that make up Hughes' work are intricate, yet quite apparent. Hughes' use of consonance, assonance, onomatopoeia, and rhyme in "The Weary Blues" gives the poem a deep feeling of sorrow while, at the same time, allows the reader to feel as if he or she is actually listening to the blues sung by the poem's character.

The Blues musical move was prominent during the 1920s and '30s, a time known as the Harlem Renaissance. Blues music characteristically told the story of someone's anguish, the key factors, and the resolution of the situation. This is precisely what Hughes' poem, "The Weary Blues," describes. Hughes uses the rhythmic structure of blues music and the improvisational rhythms of jazz in his innovative development of "The Weary Blues." The poem opens by first setting the scene. "Down on Lenox Avenue" the speaker heard a "mellow croon" (lines 2 and 4). The tune was played on a piano and sung by a man with the emotions coming from the "black man's soul" (15). The piano man expresses his feelings of loneliness and dissatisfaction with his life in lines 19-22 and 25-30:

"Ain't got nobody in all this world,
Ain't got nobody but ma self.
I's gwine to quite ma frownin'
And put my troubles on the shelf."

"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."

The piano man, in a slightly backward order, tells how he wished that he had died because he feels so alone. But, instead of an ultimate end, the piano man decides to "put his troubles on the shelf," or rather, push them aside and continue living without the distraction of those pains.

The tone of "The Weary Blues" is quite dark and melancholy. This matches the sorrowful theme of the poem. Sound patterns play a key role in this poem. They enhance the already somber mood by way of consonance, assonance, onomatopoeia, and rhyme patterns. Consonance is found within the first line of the poem. "Droning a drowsy…" brings a hard 'd' sound to Line 1. This hard 'd' sound can be thought to set the beat to which the rest of the poem is read. If this poem were actually put to a blues' tune, the hard 'd' beat would serve as the base rhythm.

Another place that consonance is apparent is in line 5, "…pale, dull pallor of an old gas light." The sticky 'l' sounds are difficult to produce off of the tongue quickly; therefore, these words slow the poem down. This is typical of the blues. The slow sounds of blues music are incorporated in the words of this poem. It seems as if the words with the 'l' sounds get extra emphasis, as well, because they are so difficult to pronounce. Added strength through word sounds helps boost the poem's glumness.

Line 10 is another excellent example of consonance in "The Weary Blues." The 'm' and 'p' sounds of "He made that poor piano moan with melody" give the poem a juxtaposition of warm sounds from the 'm' to aggressive tones with the sharp 'p.' This is a nice element as it is characteristic of blues music, as well. Usually there are some elements of comfort and disdain within the blues. The contrast of the 'm' and 'p' sounds highlights this very well.

There is a great amount of assonance in "The Weary Blues." The first example of assonance comes right away in the poem. Line 1 opens with the long 'o' sound in "Droning a drowsy syncopated tune" and continues with "Rocking back and forth to a mellow croon" in line 2. This long 'o' sound is representative of the forlorn blues aforementioned. The long 'o' is repeated throughout the poem, for example in line 10 with "…poor piano moan with melody" and line 12, "Swaying to and fro on his rickety stool." I...
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