Thursday, April 16, 2009

Langston Hughes - The Weary Blues

There are very few Langston Hughes poems in the public domain, as the poet only passed away in 1967. This is one of the few - written during the Harlem Renaissance. Try listening to some jazz music in the background while you read - After all, it's also Jazz Appreciation Month!

The Weary Blues

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.

More Langston Hughes poetry is available:
An African Treasury: articles, essays, stories, poems

The dream keeper and other poems
Juv 811.52 H WDB

The poems, 1921-1940
811 H WMB

And on CD audio, try "Rhapsodies in Black: music and words from the Harlem Renaissance"
CD Voc-Pop: Rhapsodies (4-disc set) WCV


Anonymous said...

If "My People" was written in the 1920s, is it also in the public domain?

Warren Public Library said...

According to the University of North Carolina, it would have passed into the public domain, as detailed here:

However, it's always best to check with the original publisher, or the person in charge of the poet's estate.