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Perhaps unsurprisingly, “The Weary Blues” is structured like a blues song. A typical blues song places more emphasis on music than lyrics. That’s not to say the lyrics aren’t important in blues. Indeed, the lyrics are significant insofar as they give content to the music’s melancholy sound. That said, blues lyrics tend to be somewhat spare and repetitive. The real innovation of blues music lies in the instrumentals—particularly in the chord progressions and the use of syncopated rhythm. Hughes modeled “The Weary Blues” on these key aspects of blues music. The poem is broken into two stanzas, each of which is organized around a set of quoted lyrics. These lyrics represent verses from the blues song performed by the musician. In typical blues style, these lyrics convey little more than a general sense of melancholy: “Ain’t got nobody in all this world, / Ain’t got nobody by myself” (lines 19–20). These lyrics serve as basic anchors for the poem.
If the quoted lyrics represent individual “verses” of a blues song, then the rest of the poem could be said to represent the instrumental portions. Consider the musicality of the speaker’s language. Most of the lines in the poem have an underlying four-beat rhythm. The varied lengths of the speaker’s lines play against this four-beat rhythm in shifting ways that create syncopation. As an example, consider the opening lines of the second stanza (lines 23–24):
Thump, thump, thump, went his foot on the floor.
He played a few chords then he sang some more.
The bold text indicates where the four main beats fall in each line. Try thumping your own foot on the floor as you read these lines aloud. You’ll notice how, even when your foot thumps in a perfectly regular way, you need to speed up and slow down as you read the words. The constant change in the pace of the language creates a dynamic rhythm that plays against the main beat, causing syncopation. The musicality of this language creates a sense that the speaker’s words form the instrumental interludes between the verses of quoted lyrics.