(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

On These I Stand: An Anthology of the Best Poems of Countée Cullen is a collection of the formerly published poems for which Countée Cullen wanted to be remembered. Written during the 1920’s and 1930’s, these poems are from such works as Color (1925), Copper Sun (1927), The Ballad of the Brown Girl (1928), The Black Christ and Other Poems (1929), and The Medea and Some Poems (1935). Cullen also includes six new poems on subjects ranging from a tribute to John Brown (“A Negro Mother’s Lullaby”) to the evolution from birth to death (“Dear Friends and Gentle Hearts”). Cullen maintains the style of classical lyricists such as British poet John Keats in this collection, using rhymed couplets, ballads, or sonnet forms.

Color emphasizes racial themes and shows the influence of ideas associated with the Harlem Renaissance. There are religious overtones in some of the poems about the burden of racial oppression. The speaker recognizes a loss of faith but laments the racial prejudice against more religious blacks in “Pagan Prayer.” Cullen’s Simon the Cyrenian transcends his race by helping Christ bear the cross in “Simon the Cyrenian Speaks.” The poem for which Cullen is widely known, “Yet Do I Marvel,” questions the value of God’s decision to give creative talent to a black person, whose talents are ignored.

Cullen joined other Harlem Renaissance writers in...

(The entire section is 472 words.)


(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

Suggested Readings

Baker, Houston A. Afro-American Poetics: Revisions of Harlem and the Black Aesthetic. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1988.

Huggins, Nathan. Harlem Renaissance. New York: Oxford University Press, 1971.

Turner, Darwin T. In a Minor Chord: Three Afro-American Writers and Their Search for Identity. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1971.