Harlem Renaissance or New Negro Movement is a cultural movement , headed by leading African-American writers and artists , the heyday of African-American culture in the 1920s - 1930s . The development of Harlem Renaissance led to the recognition of a large influence of the culture of African-Americans on the culture of the United States of America. America first tried to get rid of stereotypes about blacks, who for decades have inculcated in American culture . There was a new image of an African American : educated, highly cultured and equal member of society. This cultural movement elected as its center the New York district of Harlem. There are many prominent poets and writers of the Harlem Renaissance. This essay is devoted to the poem Yet do I marvel by Countee Cullen. The essay will be divided into two parts. In the first part, I will analyze the poem. In the second part, I will analyze the peculiarity of allusion in the poem. The aim of the essay is to show the Biblical allusion in the poem, as well as its significance.
When speaking about the Harlem Renaissance, it is worth to mention that the poetry of the movement was traditional and new at the same time. When speaking about the poem Yet do I marvel, it is worth to mention that it compiled new moods of the twentieth century, as well as traditional notes and tones. The poem s written in the form of a sonnet. The form is rather old and traditional. On the contrary, the topics, revealed in the poem, are significant not only for the people of the beginning of the last century, but for modern society, as well. The main topics of the poem are race, religion, weakness and suffering. Although, the American society is equal there remain such problems as religion and race. Moreover, the problems of suffering and weakness are significant for every person in the modern world.
When speaking about the rhythm and rhyme of the poem, it is worth to mention that the poem is written as a classical English sonnet. The meter of the poem is iamb. The poem is perfectly written regarding the issue of rhythm and rhyme. Some say that in such a way the poet strived to show that African Americans were talented.
The peculiarity of the poem is that there is no location. When reading it, every person can imagine something private, although, the author did not give any clue where the speaker was locating or what the surroundings were. However, when reading the poem and knowing some background (some information about the author and the time when the poem was written), it is much easier to imagine something particular, for example, the stage in the Apollo. On the contrary, the image of the speaker is rather clear. When reading the poem, it is understood that the speaker is a smart man, perhaps, a Christian. However, it is seen from the poem that the speaker is a philosopher, as well. He talks to God asking him not silly questions. In the poem, Countee Cullen used both repetition and assonance. This helped the poet emphasize the speaker’s message, made it more understandable.
Allusion is a stylistic figure containing explicit, analogy or clear allusion to a literary, historical, mythological or political fact enshrined in culture or in a text conversation. As a material in the formulation of analogy or hint forming allusion, often serves as a well-known historical statement or any catch phrase. Biblical subjects can be used, as well. Allusion is something that differed Counte Cullen from other poets of the Harlem Renaissance. In this very poem, Countee Cullen used Biblical allusions:
“Make plain the reason tortured Tantalus
Is baited by the fickle fruit, declare
If merely brute caprice dooms Sisyphus
There is no single mind about the allusion in the poem. Some researchers state that the author referred to Greek mythology, whereas others argue that he used Biblical motives. However, I should admit that when analyzing the poem, one should take into account both points of view. In the poem, the author used both classic Greek mythology and Biblical allusions.
The peculiarity of the Greek mythology allusion is that the author did not take into account the Tantalus and Sisyphus’ sins and crimes. Instead, he paid attention to their eternal sufferings. The speaker does not understand how it is to suffer for ever.
On the contrary, when we do not look at these very lines, but the entire poem, it is easy to see that there is a lot of paradoxes there. Tantalus had much food, but he was starving all the time. Is not it the paradox? When we go further in the research, the starving Tantalus may symbolize modern society: living in the age of consumerism and globalization, people cannot get enough.
The Biblical allusion is seen in the very first lines:
“Why flesh that mirrors Him must some day die” (Cullen)
The allusion refers to the story when it is said that Adam was created in the image of God. Again, this line shows us how masterly the poet used the allusion to show all the paradox of the situation. Although, a human being have been created in the image of God, every person realizes that he or she would die. The speaker realizes that, as well.
Although, the author used allusion only in the first part of the poem, it helped the reader realize all the deepness of the author’s words, indeed. The peculiarity of the poem is that it made us think about lives. Besides, the author presented good examples using allusion
Harlem Renaissance is the movement that helped African Americans show that they were talented, as well as white Americans. In some sense, the Harlem Renaissance was the movement for the equal rights of African and white Americans. However, the peculiarity of the Harlem Renaissance was that it was the intellectual movement and not a strike or a protest. The poetry of the Harlem Renaissance is an outstanding happening in the American and World literature. The main peculiarity is that poets used old traditional forms to deliver some new ideas.
This essay was devoted to one of such poems – the poem Yet do I marvel written by Countee Cullen. Countee Cullen was one of the brightest representatives of the Harlem Renaissance. His poem Yet od I marvel is a classic representative of how traditional form could be united with a new content. The essay was aimed at showing the peculiarities of the poem, especially the allusion. In the analysis, I have shown the significance of allusion in the poem, as well as its peculiarities.
Cullen C. Yet do marvel n.d. Web. 28 Feb 2014
Cullen’s yet do I marvel n.d. Explicator Magazine
Yet do I marvel n.d. Masterplots II: Poetry. Salem Press