Countée Cullen

by Countée Porter

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What is the meaning of Countée Cullen's "I have a Rendezvous with Life"?

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Countee Cullen's poem "I Have a Rendezvous With Life" was written during the Harlem Renaissance.

The poem's first line is the title. Here, the poem's narrator acknowledges that he (gender assumed) will meet with "Life" at a point each has agreed upon. "Life," here is personified. This illustrates that both...

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the narrator and Life (as a person) are in agreement that they should meet with one another.

This meeting, though, must not happen before the narrator is older ("ere [before] youth has sped") and knowledgable ("and strength of mind"). The narrator continues speaking about what must take place before this meeting: "ere voices grow dumb." This may illustrate the Romantic idea that youth is idealized, given it is the young who have not yet been tainted by the beliefs of the world around them.

The second idea presented once again begins with the thoughts of the rendezvous with Life. The narrator discusses the calling of Spring's sleep. For some who lack the knowledge of life and wisdom, Spring (which typically represents new life and beginnings) allows one to sit in his or her youth and not rush towards "the calling deep" (or death). While the narrator states that he does not fear the path to death, he does hope that death does not come before he has a chance to live. This "rendezvous with life" is living. The poem acts as the narrator's reflection on how empty a life will be if one does not actually live life. No actual time is given for the meeting between the narrator and Life; instead, there is only the knowledge that the meeting must take place at some point before it is too late.

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