The diction of the poem is simple and unaffected either by dialect or rhetorical excess; its eloquence is like that of the best of the black spirituals.
TNSoR: Arnold Rampersand on the direction of the poem
As the rivers deepen with time, so does the black man’s soul; as their waters ceaselessly flow, so will the black soul endure.
TNSoR: Onquchekwa Jemie on the soul
His signature poem
TNSoR: Joyce A. Joyce on signatures
The identification of Hughes as a folk poet obscures the fact that he is a brilliant poet of ideas, and radical ideas at that.
TNSoR: Adrian Oktenberg on folk
The wisdom imparted by the poem, beyond the memory of the suffering of slavery, includes a more deeply embedded memory of freedom.
TNSoR: Adrian Oktenberg on wisdom
Hughes journey doubles Lincoln’s, and the concern with slavery, in the context of Hughes relationship with his father discloses a crisis of autonomy on a personal level
TNSoR: Rachel Blau Deplessis on Lincoln’s journey
Hughes presents the flip-side of the romantic vaudeville blues image of the wild and celebrated jazz player, good-timing his way through life.
TWB: Steven Tracey on vaudeville
the lack of an actual connection between the performer and the speaker.
They do not strike up a conversation, share a drink, or anything else.
TWB: Steven Tracey on performer and speaker relationship
The blues singer’s apparent self-exhaustion (for his state is a product of his will, his soul) is counterbalanced by the fact that he has played himself into the heart and mind of the speaker in “The Weary Blues.”
TWB: Michael Cooke on self-exhaustion
The poem works out Hughes’s apprehension, his feeling that his ability to understand the emotions that generated this form of artistic expression was not on a par with the expression itself
TWB: Herman Beavers on apprenhenson
He never enters that space whereby the piano player is speaking for him, giving utterance to his loneliness.
Finally, at no point in time does the speaker in the poem insert himself into the lyrics.
TWB: Herman Beavers on the players space in lyrics
That the speaker utters the possibility that the piano player has killed himself illustrates his failure to realize that the blues is performed reflection and not a preface to suicidal behavior.
TWB: Herman Beaver on suicide
I’ve known rivers ancient as the world and older than the flow of human blood in human veins.
TNSoR: ive known rivers
My soul has grown deep like the rivers.
TNSoR: deep soul
I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep.
I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it.
I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln went down to New Orleans, and I’ve seen its muddy bosom turn all golden in the sunset.
Ancient, dusky rivers.
But I laugh, / And eat well, /And grow strong.
IT: slowing of pace
Tomorrow/ I’ll be at the table /When company comes. /Nobody’ll dare / Say to me, /”Eat in the kitchen,” /Then.
IT: company comes
Besides, / They’ll see how beautiful I am /And be ashamed—
I, too, am America.
IT: I am
Droning a drowsy syncopated tune,/ Rocking back and forth to a mellow croon,/ I heard a Negro play.
TWB: Harlem rhythm
He did a lazy sway. . . ./ He did a lazy sway. .
. . / To the tune o’ those Weary Blues.
TWB: lazy sway
O Blues!/ Swaying to and fro on his rickety stool / He played that sad raggy tune like a musical fool./ Sweet Blues!
“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.”
And can’t be satisfied—
TWB: the song itself
I ain’t happy no mo’/ And I wish that I had died.
The stars went out and so did the moon.
TWB: Nature ending
The singer stopped playing and went to bed/ He slept like a rock or a man that’s dead.
Oh, silver tree! /Oh, shining rivers of the soul!
A dancing girl whose eyes are bold /Lifts high a dress of silken gold.
J: Dancing girl and gold
Were Eve’s eyes /In the first garden /Just a bit too bold?