By Countee Cullen
I doubt not God is good, well-meaning, kind
And did He stoop to quibble could tell why
The little buried mole continues blind,
Why flesh that mirrors Him must some day die,
Make plain the reason tortured Tantalus
Is baited by the fickle fruit, declare
If merely brute caprice dooms Sisyphus
To struggle up a never-ending stair.
Inscrutable His ways are, and immune
To catechism by a mind too strewn
With petty cares to slightly understand
What awful brain compels His awful hand.
Yet do I marvel at this curious thing:
To make a poet black, and bid him sing!
Countee Cullen (1903-46), Harlem Renaissance poet and man of letters, is perhaps best known for the couplet “Yet do I marvel at this curious thing:/ to make a poet black, and bid him sing.” His poems infuse a Keatsean prosody with the existential concerns of being black, American, and Christian: “It is a rare and tantalizing fruit/ Our hands reach for, but nothing absolute.” Lauded by educated blacks and whites of the Twenties, Countee Cullen’s work has been neglected in recent years. This long-overdue collection expands a poetry selection released soon after his death. More poems, a novel, essays, translations, speeches, an interview by James Baldwin, notes, and more have been added by Early, whose fine introduction is a moving portrait of a man whose biography has proven elusive. – Regarding the book My Soul’s High Song a collection of works by Countee Cullen