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Analysis

Free Verse

Langston Hughes said that Walt Whitman was one of his influences. Whitman was one of the first American poets to break out of strict rhythm and rhyme patterns. Hughes uses more consistent rhythm in the song lyrics; but, outside of that, the language follows a natural rhythm of speech. The "music" of the poem comes from how that rhythm can fall in and out of patterns. For example, the first two lines are somewhat irregular, but the next five lines develop a pattern:

I heard a Negro play.
Down on Len-ox Av-en-ue the oth-er night
By the pale dull pal-lor of an old gas light
He did a laz-y sway….
He did a laz-y sway….

Notice how the indented lines start off with a heavy accent. The "blank" space of the indent is like a rest note in music. In other parts of the poem, the longer lines seem to have pauses in the middle: "I heard that Ne-gro sing,* that old piano moan—" and "He slept like a rock* or a man that's dead." The rhyme doesn't follow a strict pattern either, but most of the lines that aren't song lyrics are rhyming couplets. Notice that the end of "The Weary Blues" has three rhyming lines that build up to a conclusion. This poem has a sense of closure. "The Weary Blues" is one to read out loud to yourself so you pick up on the rhythms, pauses, and sounds.

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