Lines to My Father

By Countee Cullen 1903–1946 Countee Cullen
The many sow, but only the chosen reap;   
Happy the wretched host if Day be brief,   
That with the cool oblivion of sleep
A dawnless Night may soothe the smart of grief.

If from the soil our sweat enriches sprout   
One meagre blossom for our hands to cull,   
Accustomed indigence provokes a shout   
Of praise that life becomes so bountiful.

Now ushered regally into your own,
Look where you will, as far as eye can see,   
Your little seeds are to a fullness grown,   
And golden fruit is ripe on every tree.

Yours is no fairy gift, no heritage
Without travail, to which weak wills aspire;
This is a merited and grief-earned wage
From One Who holds His servants worth their hire.

So has the shyest of your dreams come true,   
Built not of sand, but of the solid rock,   
Impregnable to all that may accrue
Of elemental rage: storm, stress, and shock.

Countee Cullen, “Lines to My Father” 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 Family & Ancestors, Growing Old, Life Choices, Parenthood, Religion, Living, Relationships

Holidays Father's Day

 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 Family & Ancestors, Growing Old, Life Choices, Parenthood, Religion, Living, Relationships

SCHOOL / PERIOD Harlem Renaissance

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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