To Certain Critics

By Countee Cullen 1903–1946 Countee Cullen
Then call me traitor if you must,   
Shout treason and default!
Say I betray a sacred trust
Aching beyond this vault.
I’ll bear your censure as your praise,   
For never shall the clan
Confine my singing to its ways
Beyond the ways of man.

No racial option narrows grief,
Pain is no patriot,
And sorrow plaits her dismal leaf   
For all as lief as not.
With blind sheep groping every hill,   
Searching an oriflamme,
How shall the shepherd heart then thrill   
To only the darker lamb?

Countee Cullen, “To Certain Critics” 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

Poetic Terms Ballad

 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 Ballad

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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