African American Poetry (1870-1928): A Digital Anthology

Countee Cullen, "Extenuation to Certain Critics" (1927)

Cry Shame upon me if you must, 
Shout Treason and Default, 
Say I betray a sacred trust 
Aching beyond this vault. 
I'll bear your censure as your praise, 
Yet never shall a clan 
Confine my singing to its ways 
Beyond the ways of man. 
No racial option narrows grief;
Pain is no patriot; 
And sorrow braids her dismal leaf 
For all as lief as not. 
With blind sheep groping every hill 
Seeking an oriflamme, 
What shepherd heart would keep its fill 
For only the darker lamb? 

Published in Ebony and Topaz, 1927

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