How does the message of the blues singer's first verse contrast with the second verse in "The Weary Blues"?

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Written by Langston Hughes, poet of the Harlem Renaissance, “The Weary Blues ” is set in a nightclub on Lenox Avenue where a world-weary black singer croons a mellow tune. He is laid-back, does “a lazy swing,” plays piano while “swaying to and fro,” and sings in a...

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Written by Langston Hughes, poet of the Harlem Renaissance, “The Weary Blues” is set in a nightclub on Lenox Avenue where a world-weary black singer croons a mellow tune. He is laid-back, does “a lazy swing,” plays piano while “swaying to and fro,” and sings in a deep, melancholy voice. He serenades the crowd with two verses of a blues tune:

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.

I got the Weary Blues / And I can’t be satisfied. / Got the Weary Blues / And can’t be satisfied— / I ain’t happy no mo’ / And I wish that I had died.

The first and second verses contrast each other in their messages. In the first verse, the singer seems resigned to his fate and willing to cope with life; in the second verse, the singer suggests a bit of hope with ultimate disappointment with life and capitulation to death.

In the first verse, the singer declares that he has no one else to depend on but himself; self-reliance and independence are key to survival. In fact, he realizes that he must stop lamenting his misfortunes (“quit ma frownin’”) and put them aside in order to move forward. Although he is not pleased with how things are in his life, he begrudgingly accepts them and will “put ma troubles on the shelf” in order to continue living.

In the second verse, at first he seems to offer a glimmer of hope; although he is worn down by life (the singer’s repetitive of “got the Weary Blues” uses music as a metaphor for downtrodden lives, especially of blacks in America), his two declarations of “can’t be satisfied” do present a tiny bit of room for improvement. In other words, there must be something–although not encountered in his reality–that can satisfy him. Is it racial equality or social justice? Nonetheless, the listener realizes that nothing in his world is successful in bringing him satisfaction. He “ain’t happy no mo’,” which suggests that perhaps he did experience past happiness that is now gone. The singer has given up–he now wishes that he “had died.”

The poem’s ending seems to continue the second verse’s mood, with the singer going home to sleep "like a rock or a man that's dead."

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The singer's first verse goes as follows:

"Ain't got nobody in all this world,
Aint got nobody but ma self
I's gwine quit ma frownin'
And put ma troubles on the shelf."

The mood and tone here clearly depicts the singer's depression. He feels sorry for himself because he has no one to rely on. He can depend only on himself. The tone changes to a positive one, though, because he decides in the end that he is not going to let his unfortunate situation trouble him any longer and that he is going to put all his troubles away. He will ignore his adversity and probably adopt a more positive attitude.

The second verse is quite dramatic and the tone becomes much more serious and somber:

"I got the weary Blues,
And I can't be satisfied.
Got the Weary Blues
And can't be satisfied -
I ain't happy no mo'
And I wish that I had died."

There is an obvious shift from the confident end indicated in the previous verse. The singer has become exasperated and is completely disillusioned. The repetition of 'can't be satisfied' indicates that he has tried to achieve some kind of happiness or closure, but that he has been unsuccessful. This has driven him to the depths of despair and he cannot tolerate living such an unhappy life any longer. It is this deep displeasure that makes him wish that he had died—being dead would be better than living in such despair.

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Tone is the author’s attitude toward the subject.  In the first verse, the speaker’s attitude is weary but persistent.  In the second verse, the speaker becomes more dreary and the poem ends on a reflective  note.

In the first verse, the poem is moody but persistent because the musician is playing late into the night.  The interjections of “O Blues!” and “Sweet Blues!” are celebratory, but not in an overly optimistic way, because the musician “ played that sad raggy tune like a musical fool” (line 13).  The “lazy sway” in lines 6 and 7 mimics the meandering of the poem itself.  The main difference between the two stanzas is the lines in the second stanza.

"I got the Weary Blues 
And I can't be satisfied. 
Got the Weary Blues 
And can't be satisfied-- 
I ain't happy no mo' 
And I wish that I had died.” (lines 25-30)

The tone actually shifts in the end of the first verse.  In the first stanza, there is singing too, and it is also demonstrating depression.  By the end of the first verse or stanza, the signing reveals how the musician really feels.  Before he sings, we have only the interpretation of his sweet music, weary though it is.  He says he has “got nobody in all this world” and we begin to see him differently.

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