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Countee Cullen, "Threnody for a Brown Girl" (1925)
1media/Threnody-for-a-Brown-Girl-by-Countee-Cullen-Poetry-Magazine May 1925_thumb.png2022-06-11T07:27:05-04:00Amardeep Singhc185e79df2fca428277052b90841c4aba30044e12131Published in "Poetry" Magazine, May 1925plain2022-06-11T07:27:05-04:00Amardeep Singhc185e79df2fca428277052b90841c4aba30044e1
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12022-06-11T07:35:48-04:00Countee Cullen, "Threnody for a Brown Girl" (1925)1plain2022-06-11T07:35:48-04:00 Weep not, you who love her -- What rebellious flow Grief undams shall recover Whom the gods bid go? Sorrow rising like a wall, Bitter, blasphemous -- What avails it to recall Beauty back to us?
Think not this grave shall keep her, This marriage-bed confine; Death may dig it deep and deeper -- She shall climb it like a vine. Body that was quick and sentient, Dear as thought or speech, Death could not, with one trenchant Blow, snatch out of reach!
She is nearer than the word Wasted on her now, Nearer than the swaying bird On its rhythmic bough. Only were our faith as much As a mustard seed, Aching hungry hands might touch Her as they touch a reed.
Life, who was not loth to trade Her unto death, has done Better than he planned, has made Her wise as Solomon. Now she knows the Why and Wherefore, Troublous Whence and Whither; Why men strive and sweat, and care for Bays that droop and wither.
All the stars she knows by name, End and origin thereof, Knows if love be kin to shame, If shame be less than love. What was crooked now is straight, What was rough is plain; Grief and sorrow have no weight Now to cause her pain.
One to her are flame and frost; Silence is her singing lark. We alone are children -- lost, Crying in the dark. Varied features now, and form Change has bred upon her; Crush no bug or nauseous worm Lest you tread upon her.
Pluck no flower lest she scream; Bruise no slender reed Lest it prove more than it seem, Lest she groan and bleed. More than ever trust your brother, Read him golden, pure -- It may be she finds no other House so safe and sure.
Set no poet carving Rhymes to make her laugh; Only live hearts starving Need an epitaph. Lay upon her no white stone From a foreign quarry; Earth and sky, be these alone Her obituary.
Swift as a startled fawn or swallow, Silence all her sound, She has fled; we cannot follow Further than this mound. We who take the beaten track, Trying to appease Hearts near breaking with their lack, We need elegies.
First published in Poetry Magazine, May 1925 Excerpted in The Crisis, July 1925