From the Dark Tower

By Countee Cullen 1903–1946 Countee Cullen

(To Charles S. Johnson)

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 eternally to 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.

Countee Cullen, “From the Dark Tower” from My Soul’s High Song: The Collected Writings of Countee Cullen. Copyrights held by the Amistad Research Center, Tulane University, administered by Thompson and Thompson, Brooklyn, NY.

Source: My Soul’s High Song: The Collected Writings of Countee Cullen (Anchor Books, 1991)

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Poet Countee Cullen 1903–1946

SCHOOL / PERIOD Harlem Renaissance

Subjects Social Commentaries

Holidays Kwanzaa

Poetic Terms Sonnet

 Countee  Cullen

Biography

Countee Cullen was perhaps the most representative voice of the Harlem Renaissance. His life story is essentially a tale of youthful exuberance and talent of a star that flashed across the Afro-American firmament and then sank toward the horizon. When his paternal grandmother and guardian died in 1918, the fifteen-year-old Countee LeRoy Porter was taken into the home of the Reverend Frederick A. Cullen, the pastor of Salem . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Social Commentaries

SCHOOL / PERIOD Harlem Renaissance

Poetic Terms Sonnet

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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