Friday, May 30, 2008

Countee Cullen

On this day in 1903, Countee Cullen was born. A romantic poet in the fashion of Keats, Wheatley, and Dunbar, Cullen was one of the talented young African-American intellectuals who formed the backbone of the Harlem Renaissance. Graduating Phi Beta Kappa from NYU, Cullen went on to earn a Master's degree in English and French from Harvard and won more major literary prizes than any other Black writer of the time. And he married the only daughter of W.E.B. DuBois in one of the most lavish weddings in the history of the African-American community in New York. In memory of the beautiful who lived and died before us, here is one of his poems:

~~From the Dark Tower~~

We shall not always plant while others reap
The golden increment of bursting fruit,
Not always countenance, abject and mute,
That lesser men should hold their brothers cheap;
Not everlastingly while others sleep
Shall we beguile their limbs with mellow flute,
Not always bend to some more subtle brute;
We were not made to eternally weep.
The night whose sable breast relieves the stark
White stars is no less lovely being dark,
And there are buds that cannot bloom at all
In light, but crumple, piteous, and fall;
So in the dark we hide the heart that bleeds,
And wait, and tend our agonizing seeds.

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