The Weary Blues

The Weary Blues

by Langston Hughes


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Nearly ninety years after its first publication, this celebratory edition of The Weary Blues reminds us of the stunning achievement of Langston Hughes, who was just twenty-four at its first appearance. Beginning with the opening “Proem” (prologue poem)—“I am a Negro: / Black as the night is black, / Black like the depths of my Africa”—Hughes spoke directly, intimately, and powerfully of the experiences of African Americans at a time when their voices were newly being heard in our literature. As the legendary Carl Van Vechten wrote in a brief introduction to the original 1926 edition, “His cabaret songs throb with the true jazz rhythm; his sea-pieces ache with a calm, melancholy lyricism; he cries bitterly from the heart of his race . . . Always, however, his stanzas are subjective, personal,” and, he concludes, they are the expression of “an essentially sensitive and subtly illusive nature.” That illusive nature darts among these early lines and begins to reveal itself, with precocious confidence and clarity.
In a new introduction to the work, the poet and editor Kevin Young suggests that Hughes from this very first moment is “celebrating, critiquing, and completing the American dream,” and that he manages to take Walt Whitman’s American “I” and write himself into it. We find here not only such classics as “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” and the great twentieth-century anthem that begins “I, too, sing America,” but also the poet’s shorter lyrics and fancies, which dream just as deeply. “Bring me all of your / Heart melodies,” the young Hughes offers, “That I may wrap them / In a blue cloud-cloth / Away from the too-rough fingers / Of the world.”

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780385352970
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 02/10/2015
Pages: 128
Sales rank: 212,643
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 7.60(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

LANGSTON HUGHES was born in Joplin, Missouri, in 1902. After graduation from high school, he spent a year in Mexico with his father, then a year studying at Columbia University. His first poem published in a nationally known magazine was “The Negro Speaks of Rivers,” which appeared in Crisis in 1921. In 1925, he was awarded the First Prize for Poetry from the magazine Opportunity for “The Weary Blues,” which gave its title to this, his first book of poems. Hughes received his B.A. from Lincoln University in Pennsylvania in 1929. In 1943, he was awarded an honorary Litt.D. by his alma mater; during his lifetime, he was also awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship (1935), a Rosenwald Fellowship (1940), and an American Academy of Arts and Letters Grant (1947). From 1926 until his death in 1967, Hughes devoted his time to writing and lecturing. He wrote poetry, short stories, autobiography, song lyrics, essays, humor, and plays. A cross section of his work was published in 1958 as The Langston Hughes Reader; a Selected Poems first appeared in 1959 and a Collected Poems in 1994. Today, his many works and his contribution to American letters continue to be cherished and celebrated around the world.

Read an Excerpt

Dream Variation
To fling my arms wide
In some place of the sun,
To whirl and to dance
Till the white day is done.
Then rest at cool evening
Beneath a tall tree
While night comes on gently,
Dark like me,—
That is my dream!
To fling my arms wide
In the face of the sun,
Dance! whirl! whirl!
Till the quick day is done.
Rest at pale evening….
A tall, slim tree….
Night coming tenderly
Black like me.

Table of Contents

Foreword Kevin Young xiii

Introducing Langston Hughes to the Reader Carl Van Vechten xxi

Proem 1

The Weary Blues

The Weary Blues 5

Jazzonia 7

Negro Dancers 8

The Cat and the Saxophone 9

Young Singer 10

Cabaret 11

To Midnight Nan at Leroy's 12

To a Little Lover-Lass, Dead 13

Harlem Night Club 14

Nude Young Dancer 15

Young Prostitute 16

To a Black Dancer 17

Song for a Banjo Dance 18

Blues Fantasy 19

Lenox Avenue: Midnight 21

Dream Variations

Dream Variation 25

Winter Moon 26

Poeme d'Automne 27

Fantasy in Purple 28

March Moon 29

Joy 30

The Negro Speaks of Rivers

The Negro Speaks of Rivers 33

Cross 34

The Jester 35

The South 36

As I Grew Older 37

Aunt Sue's Stories 39

Poem 40

Black Pierrot

A Black Pierrot 43

Harlem Night Song 44

Songs to the Dark Virgin 45

Ardella 46

Poem-To the Black Beloved 47

When Sue Wears Red 48

Pierrot 49

Water-Front Streets

Water-Front Streets 53

A Farewell 54

Long Trip 55

Port Town 56

Sea Calm 57

Caribbean Sunset 58

Young Sailor 59

Seascape 60

Natcha 61

Sea Charm 62

Death of an Old Seaman 63

Shadows in the Sun

Beggar Boy 67

Troubled Woman 68

Suicides Note 69

Sick Room 70

Soledad 71

To the Dark Mercedes 72

Mexican Market Woman 73

After Many Springs 74

Young Bride 75

The Dream Keeper 76

Poem (To F. S.) 77

Our Land

Our Land 81

Lament for Dark Peoples 82

Afraid 83

Poem-For the portrait of an African Boy 84

Summer Night 85

Disillusion 86

Danse Africaine 87

The White Ones 88

Mother to Son 89

Poem 90

Epilogue 91

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