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

Countee Cullen, "The Poet Puts His Heart to School" (1927)

The Poet Puts His Heart to School

OUR love has dwindled down to this:
With proper stress and emphasis
To crown a given exercise;
Those lips, that bearing, those great eyes
I once was wont to praise, I trade
Now for technique and for a grade.
That sun in which I used to bask
Now glorifies a schoolboy’s task.
Priest am I now for wisdom’s pay,
And half a priest’s task is to slay,
Nor raise one far-remembering cry
Though with the slain the slayer die.
Aloft the sacred knife is curved:
The gods of knowledge must be served.