Instead of simply imagining Hughes sitting in the room with the musician, now the reader can see himself in that room; he can hear the music for himself; he can almost feel the pulse of the pianist stomping his foot on the floor. In the poem “The Weary Blues,” Langston Hughes expertly uses musical allusions to bring the reader into his world.
The inclusion of musical allusions remained a theme in Langston Hughes work throughout his life and career. Later in his life, in Montage of a Dream Deferred (1951), he published a poem called “Dream Boogie.” This is a poem that also uses musical allusions. “The Weary Blues” uses the blues to drive it; “Dream Boogie” uses jazz.
The part of jazz that stands out is the aspect that is off-melody, the part that is off-rhythm. While most musical forms find value in the musicians ability to follow the melody that is set, jazz is valuable based on the degree to which the musician can improvise outside of the melody that is set. This is what Hughes uses to create musical allusions in “Dream Boogie.”
After opening the poem with a metaphorical announcement of the music of a dream deferred, Hughes pens these very jazz-influenced lines:
Youll hear their feet
Beating out and Beating out a You think
Its a happy beat? (Hughes, 1951).
These lines are jazz influenced in that they are off-rhythm.
Hughes begins the phrase by establishing a rhythm, but he quickly breaks the established rhythm with the line that cuts off in the middle. The message that can be taken from the fact that the poem is written in this style is that achieving ones dreams is not necessarily a smooth path. Hughes calls the song he hears “The boogie-woogie rumble / Of a dream deferred,” (Hughes, 1951) which indicates the correlation between the syncopated writing style he employs and the subject of the poem.
Langston Hughes masterfully uses musical allusions in his poetry to convey messages that are deeper than just the words he uses. One might say that the true value of Hughes poem is behind the words, similar to the way that jazz is off-melody. The title of “Harlem Renaissance Poet” may not be fitting for Langston Hughes; perhaps “Jazz Poet” is better.
Academy of American Poets. (2010a). Langston Hughes: The Songs on Seventh Street.
Retrieved from http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/5804
Academy of American Poets (2010b). Poetry Form: Blues Poem. Retrieved from http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/5768
Liukkonen, Petri. (2008). Langston Hughes (1902 — 1967). Retrieved from http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/lhughes.htm
Hughes, Langston. (1951). Dream Boogie. Retrieved from http://cai.ucdavis.edu/uccp/hughesdreamboogie.html
Hughes, Langston. (1923). The Weary Blues. Retrieved from http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15612.