Countee Cullen was an American poet who is one of the most representative voices of the Harlem Renaissance. His contemporaries sought to emulate the blues and jazz in their verse. Greatest Countee Cullen poems will encourage you to think a little deeper than you usually would and broaden your perspective.
If you’re searching for best known poems that perfectly capture what you’d like to say or just want to feel inspired yourself, browse through an amazing collection of Billy Collins poems, selected Oscar Wilde poems, and beautiful William Wordsworth poems.
Countee Cullen’s Most Famous Poems
Youth Sings A Song Of Rosebuds
Since men grow diffident at last,
And care no whit at all,
If spring be come, or the fall be past,
Or how the cool rains fall,
I come to no flower but I pluck,
I raise no cup but I sip,
For a mouth is the best of sweets to suck;
The oldest wine’s on the lip.
If I grow old in a year or two,
And come to the querulous song
Of ‘Alack and aday’ and ‘This was true,
And that, when I was young,’
I must have sweets to remember by,
Some blossom saved from the mire,
Some death-rebellious ember I
Can fan into a fire.
Karenge Ya Marenge
Wherein are words sublime or noble? What
Invests one speech with haloed eminence,
Makes it the sesame for all doors shut,
Yet in its like sees but impertinence?
Is it the hue? Is it the cast of eye,
The curve of lip or Asiatic breath,
Which mark a lesser place for Gandhi’s cry
Than “Give me liberty or give me death!”
Is Indian speech so quaint, so weak, so rude,
So like its land enslaved, denied, and crude,
That men who claim they fight for liberty
Can hear this battle-shout impassively,
Yet to their arms with high resolve have sprung
At those same words cried in the English tongue?
“White folks is white,” says uncle Jim;
“A platitude,” I sneer;
And then I tell him so is milk,
And the froth upon his beer.
His heart walled up with bitterness,
He smokes his pungent pipe,
And nods at me as if to say,
“Young fool, you’ll soon be ripe!”
I have a friend who eats his heart
Always with grief of mine,
Who drinks my joy as tipplers drain
Deep goblets filled with wine.
I wonder why here at his side,
Face-in-the-grass with him,
My mind should stray the Grecian urn
To muse on uncle Jim.
In Memory Of Col. Charles Young
Along the shore the tall thin grass,
That fringes that dark river,
While sinuously soft feet pass
Beings to bleed and quiver.
The great dark voice breaks with a sob
Across the womb of night;
Above your grave, the tom-toms throb
And the hills are weird with light.
The great dark beast is like a well
Drained bitter by the sky,
And all the honeyed lies they tell
Come there to thirst and die.
No lie is strong enough to kill
The roots that work below,
From your rich dust and slaughtered will
A tree with tongues shall grow.
She Of The Dancing Feet Sings
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.
Lines To My Father
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.
Thoughts In A Zoo
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?
To John Keats, Poet, At Spring Time
I cannot hold my peace, John Keats;
There never was a spring like this;
It is an echo, that repeats
My last year’s song and next year’s bliss.
I know, in spite of all men say
Of Beauty, you have felt her most.
Yea, even in your grave her way
Is laid. Poor, troubled, lyric ghost,
Spring never was so fair and dear
As Beauty makes her seem this year.
I cannot hold my peace, John Keats,
I am as helpless in the toil
Of Spring as any lamb that bleats
To feel the solid earth recoil
Beneath his puny legs. Spring beats
her tocsin call to those who love her,
And lo! the dogwood petals cover
Her breast with drifts of snow, and sleek
White gulls fly screaming to her, and hover
About her shoulders, and kiss her cheek,
While white and purple lilacs muster
A strength that bears them to a cluster
Of color and odor; for her sake
All things that slept are now awake.
And you and I, shall we lie still,
John Keats, while Beauty summons us?
Somehow I feel your sensitive will
Is pulsing up some tremulous
Sap road of a maple tree, whose leaves
Grow music as they grow, since your
Wild voice is in them, a harp that grieves
For life that opens death’s dark door.
Though dust, your fingers still can push
The Vision Splendid to a birth,
Though now they work as grass in the hush
Of the night on the broad sweet page of the earth.
‘John Keats is dead,’ they say, but I
Who hear your full insistent cry
In bud and blossom, leaf and tree,
Know John Keats still writes poetry.
And while my head is earthward bowed
To read new life sprung from your shroud,
Folks seeing me must think it strange
That merely spring should so derange
My mind. They do not know that you,
John Keats, keep revel with me, too.
Song In Spite Of Myself
Never love with all your heart,
It only ends in aching;
And bit by bit to the smallest part
That organ will be breaking.
Never love with all your mind,
It only ends in fretting;
In musing on sweet joys behind,
too poignant for forgetting.
Never love with all your soul,
for such there is no ending;
though a mind that frets may find control,
and a shattered heart find mending.
Give but a grain of the heart’s rich seed,
Confine some undercover,
And when love goes, bid him God-speed,
and find another lover.
To A Brown Boy
That brown girl’s swagger gives a twitch
To beauty like a Queen,
Lad, never damn your body’s itch
When loveliness is seen.
For there is ample room for bliss
In pride in clean brown limbs,
And lips know better how to kiss
Than how to raise white hymns.
And when your body’s death gives birth
To soil for spring to crown,
Men will not ask if that rare earth
Was white flesh once, or brown.
I Have A Rendezvous With Life
I have a rendezvous with Life,
In days I hope will come,
Ere youth has sped, and strength of mind,
Ere voices sweet grow dumb.
I have a rendezvous with Life,
When Spring’s first heralds hum.
Sure some would cry it’s better far
To crown their days with sleep
Than face the road, the wind and rain,
To heed the calling deep.
Though wet nor blow nor space I fear,
Yet fear I deeply, too,
Lest Death should meet and claim me ere
I keep Life’s rendezvous.
Locked arm in arm they cross the way
The black boy and the white,
The golden splendor of the day
The sable pride of night.
From lowered blinds the dark folk stare
And here the fair folk talk,
Indignant that these two should dare
In unison to walk.
Oblivious to look and word
They pass, and see no wonder
That lightning brilliant as a sword
Should blaze the path of thunder.
That Bright Chimeric Beast
That bright chimeric beast
Conceived yet never born,
Save in the poet’s breast,
The white-flanked unicorn,
Never may be shaken
From his solitude;
Never may be taken
In any earthly wood.
That bird forever feathered,
Of its new self the sire,
After aeons weathered,
Reincarnate by fire,
Falcon may not nor eagle
Swerve from his eyrie,
Nor any crumb inveigle
Down to an earthly tree.
That fish of the dread regime
Invented to become
The fable and the dream
Of the Lord’s aquarium,
Leviathan, the jointed
Harpoon was never wrought
By which the Lord’s anointed
Will suffer to be caught.
Bird of the deathless breast,
Fish of the frantic fin,
That bright chimeric beast
Flashing the argent skin,–
If beasts like these you’d harry,
Plumb then the poet’s dream;
Make it your aviary,
Make it your wood and stream.
There only shall the swish
Be heard of the regal fish;
There like a golden knife
Dart the feet of the unicorn,
And there, death brought to life,
The dead bird be reborn.
This is not water running here,
These thick rebellious streams
That hurtle flesh and bone past fear
Down alleyways of dreams
This is a wine that must flow on
Not caring how or where
So it has ways to flow upon
Where song is in the air.
So it can woo an artful flute
With loose elastic lips
Its measurements of joy compute
With blithe, ecstatic hips.