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Hughes uses rhyme frequently throughout “The Weary Blues,” but not always in an easily predictable way. The most common type of rhyme in the poem is the couplet. The speaker uses couplets throughout, but he also commonly inserts non-rhyming lines between couplets, disrupting the reader’s expectation for a rigid rhyme scheme. Consider the poem’s opening lines (lines 1–7):
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. . . .
These lines exhibit a rhyme scheme that mostly consists of couplets, but which also introduces irregularities. We could formalize the rhyme scheme of the quoted passage as follows: AABCCBB. The first thing worth noting is the way the third line interrupts the couplet scheme. This line initially appears suspended, alone and lacking a rhymed pair. It isn’t until after the couplet rhyme of “night”/“light” that the speaker provides a rhyme for that suspended third line. The speaker then makes another couplet based on the “play”/“sway” rhyme. Interestingly, though, this couplet is an example of identical rhyme, which refers to instances where a word rhymes with itself: “sway”/“sway.” Identical rhyme is more common in song lyrics than in poetry, which seems appropriate for a poem with such a strong relation to music.
Speaking of song lyrics, it’s worth noting that the quoted lyrics within the poem use a rhyme scheme that differs from the rest of the poem. At two points in “The Weary Blues,” the speaker reproduces lyrics from songs the musician sang during his set the previous night. The first set of lyrics comes in the first stanza (lines 19–22):
“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.”
Note that, instead of rhyming couplets, these lyrics use an ABCB rhyme scheme. This shift in rhyme scheme clearly distinguishes the musician’s words from those of the speaker. The shift also brings the language closer to ballad verse, which appears frequently in song lyrics and commonly uses the ABCB rhyme scheme. When the speaker reproduces a second set of lyrics in the second stanza, the quotation is two lines longer and has a slightly different rhyme scheme: ABABCB. However, despite the slight variation at the beginning, this quote concludes with the same ballad-like rhyme scheme.