The poem Evenin’ Air Blues written by Langston Hughes was published in 1951. The poem consists of four six line stanzas or sestets. In the poem, a poor black man, who is probably an escaped slave, in a sad tone, speaks about the mismatch between the picture of Northern American states that existed among the Southern slaves and the reality in which although there is no slavery, living conditions are hard, and people can hardly makes their ends meet.
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The first stanza of Evenin’ Air Blues is a sestet, and the rhyme scheme is “ababcb”. The rhyming words are “North”, “fine”, “months” and “mind”. The first two words are repeated two times each. He chose those particular words to emphasize the basic introductory information which is the location – North, its alleged description – fine, the amount of time he spent there – months, and the effect it had on him – that he almost lost his mind.
Some critics have pointed out that rhyming “fine” and “minds” is technically a really bad move, and that it takes away much of the poems quality (Tracy, 158). Repetition as a tool is used here to show how rumors about the life in the North are repeated almost like a mantra among the Southern slaves.
The second stanza of the poem also consists of six lines with the rhyme scheme is “efefgf”. The words that carry the rhyme are “breakfast”, “air”, “supper” and “spare”, the first two of which are used twice. The most prominent words that carry the rhyme are related to food – “breakfast” and “supper”, and they are used alongside the word “air” which is associated with emptiness and void.
By doing this, the poet achieves his goal of vividly describing the day-by-day struggle that all of the black people faced. The main tool here is literal image. Hughes uses it very effectively so the reader can almost feel his long days without food and shelter. The physical repetition of words parallels the sameness of days in his life. That way, we get the picture of the lack of basic existential necessities that the speaker faces.
In the third stanza, we get somewhat different but simple rhyme scheme – “hjhjhj”, but the number of lines is the same as in the first two. The rhyming words in this stanza are “dancin’”, “away”, “stay”, and the first two are, again, repeated two times. The word “dancin’” is chosen and repeated to transfer the atmosphere of dance nights; “away” is used in order to show the effect dance has on his sadness, and “stay” is used to emphasize the permanence of his melancholy only occasionally interrupted by dances.
In this stanza, the reader is introduced to the idea of dance as an antidote to poverty and suffering in a big city. The main tool in this stanza is personification, which is apparent in the last line, when the poet says how “blues forgets to stay”. In my view, by using this tool, the poet wants to emphasize how the speaker feels the blues as a conscious force or a spirit because of its power over him. This stanza shows us that artistic expression is what keeps people sane and gives them power to endure the hardships they face.
The final stanza is quite distinct from the rest of the poem since it is written in the rhyme scheme “kkkkkk”, which is a very unusual rhyme. In this stanza, the words that carry the rhyme are “me”, which is repeated three times, “be” repeated two times and “see”. “Me” and “be” are used in an altering way to indicate how the speaker’s person is the permanent dwelling of the blues.
The word “see” is used almost as a call for the reader to notice how apparent the cause of his sadness is. As for the number of lines, this stanza conforms to the rest of the poem, which means that it has six lines. The main tool which is used here very effectively is internal rhyme, and it can be found in the last line where the poet rhymes “me” and “see” line internally.
The poet uses the opportunity to repeat the word “me” for the fourth time in this stanza almost as a way of physically pointing at himself to draw the attention of the society at his conditions. This effect is made even stronger since the word is rhymed with the verb “see”, which calls for people’s attention almost like an imperative.
In conclusion, one might say that although criticized for its technical issues like problematic rhyme in “fine – mind” and dialectal inconsistencies, this poem is very valuable because it provides a vivid picture of disappointment in the life in the North. It is also worth adding that the poet has succeeded in transferring the lives of ordinary, poor, black people into artistic expression, and at the same time, he preserved the tone and atmosphere of everyday life by using the colloquial Southern dialect.
Tracy, Steven C.. Langston Hughes & the blues. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1988. Print.