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

Countee Cullen, "Self Criticism" (1927)

Shall I go all my bright days singing, 
(A little pallid, a trifle wan) 
The failing note still vainly clinging 
To the throat of the stricken swan? 
Shall I never feel and meet the urge 
To bugle out beyond my sense 
That the fittest song of earth is a dirge, 
And only fools trust Providence? 
Than this better the reed never turned flute, 
Better than this no song, 
Better a stony silence, better a mute 
Mouth and a cloven tongue. 

Published in Ebony and Topaz, 1927

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