Hello. Come on in. The daddy writes about current events, literature, music and, once in a while, drops something on you from back in the day to make you pause and ponder, stop and stare, and begin to wonder. Who knows? You may start to pace the floor, shake your head from side to side, then fall down on bended knees in a praying position and cry, "Lawd, have mercy! What is this world coming to?" Check yourself! But this blog is NOT about the daddy. It's about you: your boos, your fam, your hood, your country...our hopes and dreams of a better tomorrow. So let's make a pact: the daddy will put it on the track if you'll chase it down and hit him back. Together, we can definitely take it to another level. Shall we?"

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Langston Hughes' Weary Blues

"The poem is a fitting opening not only to this volume, but to all of Hughes's volumes. It combines traditional blues stanzas that emphasize the roots of African-American experience, touches of vaudeville blues as the roots were being "refined," pride in African-American creativity and forms of expression, and a sense of the weariness that ties together generations of African-Americans. With the words "Sweet Blues," Hughes strikes upon the central paradox with which the poem attempts to come to terms. It is one of his central themes."
--Trace Stevens

"The younger Negro artists who create now intend to express our individual dark-skinned selves without fear or shame. If white people are pleased we are glad. If they are not, it doesn't matter. We know we are beautiful. And ugly, too. The tom-tom cries, and the tom-tom laughs. If colored people are pleased we are glad. If they are not, their displeasure doesn't matter either. We build our temples for tomorrow,strong as we know how, and we stand
on top of the mountain free within ourselves."

--Langston Hughes

Listen up. The daddy knows that Langston Hughes is a poet you already know and appreciate. But you know what? The daddy just couldn't celebrate National Poetry Month without saying something about one of America's greatest poets.

Langston was a baad brotha; and today he is celebrated not only for his great poetry but for the courageous stands he took on controversial issues in his time : from the 1920's all the way up to the 1960's. The brotha wrote on revolution, communism, poverty, racism, anti-semitism, the war in Spain, the black militancy of the 1960's, Hitler-- all of the issues. And he wrote with clarity and style. This is why Langston Hughes continues to be read and celebrated by people all over the world-- because many of the issues of his time are still issues of our time today.

In his essay, "The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain," first printed in The Nation magazine in 1926, Hughes drew the line, saying literature should be used as a tool to better understand and improve the conditions of African Americans.

Hughes took his stance at a time when some black writers, usually those who came from middle or upper-income families, took the position that they didn't want to become black writers but writers or artists. The black press, also from the upper-crust and light-skinned, sided with these writers and that viewpoint. These were the "Black Republicans" of their day, the shoe shining Michael Steeles and handkerchief headed Aunt Jemimas of the "Negro Elite." But Langston was different.

True, other writers such as novelist Charles W. Chestnutt and Laurence Dunb
ar had developed this principle and written with this principle in mind. But Hughes was the first to clearly state this principle and declare it as a kind of manifesto for black writers and black artists of his time.

Hughes made this declaration at a time (the 1920's and the 1930's) when many Americans, black and white, saw poetry as lyrical, speaking of romance, love and beauty in nature. However, Hughes saw poetry as social as well, speaking to the individual in relation to the society in which he or she lived. He focused specifically on the state of black Americans within the so-called American democracy.
The book "The Weary Blues" was divided between lyrical and social poetry. However, his next book of poety, "Fine Clothes to the Jew," was all social poetry, much of it written in black dialect. But as Stevens suggests, "The Weary Blues" signaled where a young Langston Hughes was going with his writing. "Fine Clothes to the Jew" cemented the deal. It said in so many words what "The Weary Blues" had already concluded:

that this young artist was going to speak to the conditions of black people as an oppressed people in white nation-state that, ironically, prided itself on being a democratic republic.

And there would be no turning back.


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.
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.


XO said...

Beautiful. Reads like a song. You can feel the slow ragtime rhythms of a Scott Joplin rag.

Anonymous said...

Now this is a real good one.

Vertis said...

Great poem, Great artist.

j said...

I love lines like this: Thump, thump, thump, went his foot on the floor...

Music, image, emotion, lyricism. So simple and yet so much... Wow.

Mac Daddy Tribute Blog said...

Nodiss: Thanks for coming back. Yes, you can make up your own music to the words as you read it. I did it Chicago-blues style, with the thumping backbeat.

Truth: Thanks. I'll be checking you out at The Enclave.

Judy: I love the repetition of thump, thump, thump. It's very appropriate for the blues. Another that gets me the honesty he uses when he says he has the blues/can't be satisfied/I ain't happy no mo/wish that I had died."
That is honest and a part of the catharsis: owning up to the truth so you can get some sleep.

XO said...
This comment has been removed by the author.