1st July 10
And what would I do in heaven pray,
Me with my dancing feet?
And limbs like apple boughs that sway
When the gusty rain winds beat.
And how would I thrive in a perfect place
Where dancing would be a sin,
With not a man to love my face,
Nor an arm to hold me in?
The seraphs and the cherubim
Would be too proud to bend,
To sing the faery tunes that brim
My heart from end to end.
The wistful angels down in hell
Will smile to see my face,
And understand, because they fell
From that all-perfect place.
1st July 10
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.
29th June 10
Dead men are wisest, for they know
How far the roots of flowers go,
How long a seed must rot to grow.
Dead men alone bear frost and rain
On throbless heart and heatless brain,
And feel no stir of joy or pain.
Dead men alone are satiate;
They sleep and dream and have no weight,
To curb their rest, of love or hate.
Strange, men should flee their company,
Or think me strange who long to be
Wrapped in their cool immunity.
29th June 10
They in their cruel traps, and we in ours,
Survey each other’s rage, and pass the hours
Commiserating each the other’s woe,
To mitigate his own pain’s fiery glow.
Man could but little proffer in exchange
Save that his cages have a larger range.
That lion with his lordly, untamed heart
Has in some man his human counterpart,
Some lofty soul in dreams and visions wrapped,
But in the stifling flesh securely trapped.
Gaunt eagle whose raw pinions stain the bars
That prison you, so men cry for the stars!
Some delve down like the mole far underground,
(Their nature is to burrow, not to bound),
Some, like the snake, with changeless slothful eye,
Stir not, but sleep and smoulder where they lie.
Who is most wretched, these caged ones, or we,
Caught in a vastness beyond our sight to see?
28th June 10
Born in 1903 in New York City, Countee Cullen was raised in a Methodist parsonage. He attended De Witt Clinton High School in New York and began writing poetry at the age of fourteen. In 1922, Cullen entered New York University.
His poems were published in The Crisis, under the leadership of W. E. B. Du Bois, and Opportunity, a magazine of the National Urban League. He was soon after published in Harper’s, the Century Magazine, and Poetry. He won several awards for his poem, “Ballad of the Brown Girl,” and graduated from New York University in 1923. That same year, Harper published his first volume of verse, Color, and he was admitted to Harvard University where he completed a master’s degree.
His favorite poet was John Keats, but his own work also included plays.