The Weary Blues Langston Hughes (1923) Lines 1-3 create a relationship between speaker and subject.Droning a drowsy syncopated tune, Hughes suggests that the bluesRocking back and forth to a mellow croon, offer an experience for not onlyI heard a Negro play. the artist but also the community.Down on Lenox Avenue the other nightBy 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 keyHe made that poor piano moan with melody. O Blues!Lenox Avenue is a main street in Harlem, which in terms of the geography of NewYork, is North, or uptown. Because Harlem was home mainly to African Americansand the parts of New York City south of Harlem (referred to as "downtown") werepopulated mainly by whites, if the speaker were to perceive Lenox Avenue as "up"from his place of origin, we might assume that he is white.
Swaying to and fro on his rickety stoolHe played that sad raggy tune like a musical fool. Sweet Blues!Coming from a black mans soul. O Blues!In a deep song voice with a melancholy toneI heard that Negro sing, that old piano moan--"Aint got nobody in all this world,Aint got nobody but ma self.Is gwine to quit ma frowninAnd put ma troubles on the shelf." Hughes uses the word "raggy" in line 13. "Raggy" is not an actual word; perhaps we might interpret it as a combination of word "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 a steadily accented accompaniment. When we think of “raggedy” we think of patchwork, and the blues is a type of patchwork of various types of music.
Thump, thump, thump, went his foot on the floor.He played a few chords then he sang some more--"I got the Weary BluesAnd I cant be satisfied.Got the Weary BluesAnd cant be satisfied--I aint happy no moAnd 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 bedWhile the Weary Blues echoed through his head.He slept like a rock or a man thats dead. The speaker of Langston Hughess "The Weary Blues" describes an evening of listening to a blues musician in Harlem. With its diction, its repetition of lines and its inclusion of blues lyrics, the poem evokes the mournful tone and tempo of blues music and gives readers an appreciation of the state of mind of the blues musician in the poem.
Harlem Renaissance Poetry: Langston Hughes The first poem to really draw attention to Langston Hughes was “The Negro Speaks of Rivers,” which helped define his style as a Negro poet. He wrote it when he was only 17, riding on a train which crossed the Mississippi River going from Illinois to Missouri. The Negro Speaks of RiversI’ve known rivers:I’ve known rivers ancient as the world and older than the flow of human blood in human veins.My soul has grown deep like the rivers
I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young. I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep.
I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it.
I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln went down to NewOrleans, and I’ve seen its muddy bosom burn all golden in the sunset.
I’ve known rivers:Ancient, dusky rivers.My soul has grown deep like the rivers.
Interpretation of “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” A powerful poem may convey its message with simple language andjust one strong central image. An example of such a poem is “The NegroSpeaks of Rivers” by Langston Hughes, one of major poets of the HarlemRenaissance of the 1920’s. In simple yet eloquent language, Hughes uses thecentral image of a river as a symbol to represent the soul of AfricanAmericans. In the title of his poem, Hughes indicates that he is speaking for allAfrican Americans. In the line “My soul has grown deep like the rivers,”Hughes directly compares his soul to a river. He then presents images of thoserivers that have been important in African American history. He conjures upimages of the dawn of civilization along the Euphrates in southwest Asia, ofearly peaceful African societies along the Congo, of the great Egyptiancivilization along the Nile in Africa, and of slave life along the Mississippi inthe New World. These images convey the proud, noble, and yet troubledheritage of African Americans.
Hughes uses such words as “deep,” “golden,” “ancient,” and “dusky”to describe rivers, adjectives that are also meant to describe AfricanAmericans. Like the rivers Hughes names, African Americans have an ancienthistory, but one filled with many difficulties in modern times. Hughes suggeststhat this history, with its more recent troubles, has brought a profound depth tothe African American experience. He is saying that the collective soul ofAfrican Americans is ancient and deep, like a river. Thus, with one central image – that of ariver – and a few carefully chosen adjectives,Hughes conveys the proud and noble heritage ofAfrican Americans and celebrates the depth of theircollective experience, the depth of their soul.
I, Too by Langston Hughes 1924 (he was 22 years old)I, too, sing America [An allusion to Walt Whitman’s “I Hear America Singing,” published in 1867 in Leaves of Grass. Here Hughes means that blacks are Americans too, not just whites.]I am the darker brother. [This poem is about segregation and how eventually it will come to an end.]They send me to eat in the kitchenWhen company comes. [The implied meaning here is that they are waiting now but will grow stronger as timeBut I laugh, passes.]And grow strong.Tomorrow, [The use of "I" helps showing the AfricanI’ll sit at the table American community will soon rise and be one with the rest of America.]When company comes.
Nobody’ll dare [This shows what the future will be like, or as Hughes usesSay to me, the metaphorical "tomorrow." The use of "I" helps show that the African American community will soon rise and be“Eat in the kitchen,” one with the rest of America.]Then.Besides,They’ll see how [Here Hughes says that once African Americans arebeautiful I am recognized as equal, everyone will see they are not bad and that they are beautiful as well as part of America.]And be ashamed –I, too, am America.
America by Claude McKayAlthough she feeds me bread of bitterness,And sinks into my throat her tigers tooth,Stealing my breath of life, I will confessI love this cultured hell that tests my youth!Her vigor flows like tides into my blood,Giving me strength erect against her hate.Her bigness sweeps my being like a flood.Yet as a rebel fronts a king in state, In this poem written as a sonnet, McKay shows both positive and negative feelingsI stand within her walls with not a shred about America.Of terror, malice, not a word of jeer. The first stanza accuses, yet he lovesDarkly I gaze into the days ahead, his country.And see her might and granite wonders there, McKay goes on to talk of his love / hate relationship with America. The motherBeneath the touch of Times unerring hand, image deepens the reader’s sympathyLike priceless treasures sinking in the sand. for his character. The last couplet infers that wonderful possibilities are in. America (equality for all) but are still hidden.
Go Down, Death by James Weldon Johnson Johnson wrote this as a funeral sermon in 1927.Weep not, weep not,She is not dead;Shes resting in the bosom of Jesus.Heart-broken husband--weep no more;Grief-stricken son--weep no more;Left-lonesome daughter --weep no more;She only just gone home.Day before yesterday morning,God was looking down from his great, high heaven,Looking down on all his children,And his eye fell on Sister Caroline,Tossing on her bed of pain.And Gods big heart was touched with pity,With the everlasting pity.
And God sat back on his throne,And he commanded that tall, bright angel standing at his right hand:Call me Death!And that tall, bright angel cried in a voiceThat broke like a clap of thunder:Call Death!--Call Death!And the echo sounded down the streets of heavenTill it reached away back to that shadowy place,Where Death waits with his pale, white horses.And Death heard the summons,And he leaped on his fastest horse,Pale as a sheet in the moonlight.Up the golden street Death galloped,And the hooves of his horses struck fire from the gold,But they didnt make no sound.Up Death rode to the Great White Throne,And waited for Gods command.
And God said: Go down, Death, go down,Go down to Savannah, Georgia,Down in Yamacraw,And find Sister Caroline.Shes borne the burden and heat of the day,Shes labored long in my vineyard,And shes tired--Shes weary--Go down, Death, and bring her to me.And Death didnt say a word,But he loosed the reins on his pale, white horse,And he clamped the spurs to his bloodless sides,And out and down he rode,Through heavens pearly gates,Past suns and moons and stars;on Death rode,Leaving the lightnings flash behind;Straight down he came.
While we were watching round her bed,She turned her eyes and looked away,She saw what we couldnt see;She saw Old Death. She saw Old DeathComing like a falling star.But Death didnt frighten Sister Caroline;He looked to her like a welcome friend.And she whispered to us: Im going home,And she smiled and closed her eyes.And Death took her up like a baby,And she lay in his icy arms,But she didnt feel no chill.And death began to ride again--Up beyond the evening star,Into the glittering light of glory,On to the Great White Throne.And there he laid Sister CarolineOn the loving breast of Jesus.
And Jesus took his own hand and wiped away her tears,And he smoothed the furrows from her face,And the angels sang a little song,And Jesus rocked her in his arms,And kept a-saying: Take your rest,Take your rest.Weep not--weep not,She is not dead;Shes resting in the bosom of Jesus.
Tableau by Countee CullenLocked arm in arm they cross the wayThe black boy and the white,The golden splendor of the dayThe sable pride of night.From lowered blinds the dark folk stareAnd here the fair folk talk,Indignant that these two should dareIn unison to walk.Oblivious to look and wordThey pass, and see no wonderThat lightning brilliant as a swordShould blaze the path of thunder.
African American Poet, Claude McKay memorialized the bloody summer of 1919 with the poem, “If We Must Die,” which was published in the magazine Liberator.If We Must DieIf we must die--let it not be like hogsHunted and penned in an inglorious spot, What is the imageryWhile round us bark the mad and hungry dogs, used in the poem?Making their mock at our accursed lot.If we must die--oh, let us nobly die, What message isSo that our precious blood may not be shed the author sendingIn vain; then even the monsters we defyShall be constrained to honor us though dead! to AfricanOh, Kinsmen! We must meet the common foe; Americans?Though far outnumbered, let us show us brave,And for their thousand blows deal one deathblow! Do you agree orWhat though before us lies the open grave?Like men well face the murderous, cowardly pack, disagree with thePressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back! author? Why?