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Transcript of Countee Cullen
Cullen was a pioneer black activist minister He began writing poetry at the age of fourteen. In the last years of his life Cullen wrote mostly for the theatre. Cullen was an outstanding student at DeWitt Clinton High School. There he began to write poetry that achieved notice.
At New York University , he wrote most of the poems for his first three volumes: Color, Copper Sun, and The Ballad of the Brown Girl.
After graduating Phi Beta Kappa from NYU, Cullen earned a masters degree in English and French from Harvard. Between high school and his graduation from Harvard, Cullen was the most popular black poet and the most popular black literary figure in America. Poems:
In regards to the first stanza, The speaker emphasizes the wealth by saying those newborns have “the stars strung for a rattle.” The wealthy are able to afford them for their newborns.
However, the author was born into poverty... he “cut [his] teeth as the black raccoon / For implements of battle.” He had to be independent, because his parents were not wealthy enough like those who could offer their newborn a “silver spoon” and “stars strung for a rattle.”
Some are teethed on a silver spoon,
With the stars strung for a rattle;
I cut my teeth as the black racoon--
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.
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.
The author continues to describe the similarities. Cullen says that some people at birth are clothed in “silk,” and they receive quilts and pillows made of “down.” But he was wrapped in a plain “sackcloth gown” not silk. We also see that instead of his parents being happy for his birth, they view him as a burden and just "another mouth to feed".
This poem shows the friendship of two young boys, of different race who converse and walk down a street. Others would criticize and stare at them in dispair. The two boys continue their friendship despite the brutal remarks from the others. It reinforces the concept that friendship shouldn't be based off of race. The boys maintained their friendship, despite the criticisms of their interracial relationship.
Once riding in old Baltimore,
Heart-filled, head-filled with glee;
I saw a Baltimorean
Keep looking straight at me.
Now I was eight and very small,
And he was no whit bigger,
And so I smiled, but he poked out
His tongue, and called me, "N----r."
I saw the whole of Balimore
From May until December;
Of all the things that happened there
That's all that I remember.
Written by Countée Cullen
The poem the “Incident" is about a young boys' experience while visiting Baltimore. The poem begins with a young boy getting a great start to his day. Then a guy walking by changes the whole mood of the poem by calling the boy a racist comment. The boy grows up and later in life it's the one event that he remembers. The theme that Cullen wants you to get by reading this poem is that people's harsh words can have a profound impact on one's consciousness.
“Tableau” is a three-stanza poem that utilizes rhyme, imagery and metaphor. Literary Devices:
"Incident" is a twelve line poem. It has rhyme in it, also following eight syllables every other line and six syllables the other lines. It also contains foreshadowing. After reading the title of the poem, you are waiting for something bad to happen because you realize that the poem is called “Incident”. And the tone of "Incident" is one of reminiscence and sadness.
"Saturdays Child" has simile; On a night that was black as tar. It also has personification; Death cut the strings.