Saturday’s Child

By Countee Cullen 1903–1946 Countee Cullen
Some are teethed on a silver spoon,
   With the stars strung for a rattle;
I cut my teeth as the black raccoon—
   For implements of battle.

Some are swaddled in silk and down,   
   And heralded by a star;
They swathed my limbs in a sackcloth gown   
   On a night that was black as tar.

For some, godfather and goddame   
   The opulent fairies be;
Dame Poverty gave me my name,   
   And Pain godfathered me.

For I was born on Saturday—
   “Bad time for planting a seed,”
Was all my father had to say,
   And, “One mouth more to feed.”

Death cut the strings that gave me life,
   And handed me to Sorrow,   
The only kind of middle wife
   My folks could beg or borrow.

Countee Cullen, “Saturday’s Child” 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, Birth & Birthdays, Parenthood, Living, Relationships

Occasions Birth

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 Family & Ancestors, Birth & Birthdays, Parenthood, Living, Relationships

SCHOOL / PERIOD Harlem Renaissance

Poetic Terms Ballad

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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