Continuing on the Previous


Another poem by Countee Cullen--this one relates some of the feelings a person of color might have had at the time that he wrote his poetry. Once again, what an advantage it would have been to have been able to read something like this in a high-school literature course. Yes, I know there are innumerable wonderful things in literature, but I can recall a few things that made no sense of impression on me at all and could have been dispensed with. But here a cri de coeur which, like Rap Music, can be taken up by all who feel alienated from those around them. And heaven knows, youth knows enough about alienation.

from "The Shroud of Color"
Countee Cullen
(for Llewellyn Ransom)

"Lord, being dark," I said, "I cannot bear
The further touch of earth, the scented air;
Lord being dark, forewilled to that despair
My color shrouds me in, I am as dirt
Beneath my brother's heel; there is a hurt
In all the simple joys which to a child
Are sweet; they are contaminate, defiled
By truths of wrongs the childish vision fails
To see; too great a cost this birth entrails.
I strangle in this yoke drawn tighter than
The worth of beaing it, just to be man
I am not brave enough to pay the price
In full; I lack the strength to sacrifice.
I who have burned my hands upon a star
And climbed high hills at dawn to view the far
Illimitable wonderments of earth,
For whom all cups have dripped the wine of mirth,
For whom the sea has strained her honeyed throat
Till all the world was sea, and I a boat
Unmoored on what strange quest I willed to float. . .

Do yourself a favor and go and find the rest, it is worth your time, as will be any of the other poems you may find in a volume dedicated to his writings--"Christus Natus Est", "Judas Iscariot," and the wonderful narrative poem "The Black Christ." I think Dylan mentioned Countee Cullen as his favorite neglected poet--I owe him a great debt of thanks to the (re)-introduction.

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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on August 24, 2002 2:46 PM.

Multiculturalism--For Dylan and Ono I was the previous entry in this blog.

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