A Black Poet Countee Cullen Speaks
(March 30, 1903 - January 9, 1946)
This was the song of the Wakeupworld,
The beautiful beast with long tailed curled:
"Wake up, O World; O World, awake!
The light is bright on hill and lake;
O World, awake; wake up, O World!
The flags of the wind are all unfurled;
Wake up, O World; O World, awake!
Of earth's delightfulness partake.
Wake up, O World, whatever hour;
Sweet are the fields, sweet is the flower!
Wake up, O World; O World, awake;
Perhaps to see the daylight break,
Perhaps to see the sun descend,
The night begin, the daylight end.
But something surely to behold,
Not bought with silver or with gold,
Not shown in any land of dreams.
For open eyes the whole world teems
With lovely things to do or make,
Wake up, O World; O World, awake!"
Such was the song of the Wakeupworld,
The beautiful beast with long tail curled,
The Wakeupworld so swift and fleet,
With twelve bright eyes and six strong feet.
Such was the song he sang all day,
Lest man or beast should sleep away
The gift of Time, and never know
The beauties of this life below.
Twelve were his eyes, as I have said,
Placed clockwise in his massive head.
Never in any time or weather
Were all those eyes shut tight together,
But daily, at it's certain hour,
Each eye became possessed with power.
At one, an eye all pale and white
Flew open for the days first sight,
And looked alone until at two
There woke his wondering eye of blue.
His eye of green at stroke of three
Blazed like a jewell brilliantly;
At four he opened up the red,
And all around his lustre spread.
Shyly then, as if all sleepy yet,
At five peeped forth the violet.
An eye of silver, chill and cold,
The hour of six would then unfold.
At seven with a sudden wink,
He would let loose his eye of pink.
At eight an eye so mild and mellow
Would gaze about; this one was yellow.
Prompt at the stroke of nine they say
Would twinkle forth his eye of gray.
At ten, as merry as a clown,
You could behold the laughing brown.
Eleven strikes! And open flies
An eye as black as midnight skies.
And when the hour of twelve was tolled,
And Time was one more half day old,
He opened full his eye of gold.
His twelve bright eyes he flashed around
'Till rainbows flecked the trees and ground!
Oh, loveliest beast in song and story,
The Wakeupworld in all his glory!
He could not sleep as others could;
But for a moment in the wood
Might stand and rest himself a mite,
Then quickly would be off in flight,
Crossing mountain, field, and lake,
Bidding the drowsy world awake.
Every hour some sleepyhead
Would hear his song and leap from bed
To open his eyes on some delight
Of lovely day or beauteous night.
What would you give to see alive
A Wakeupworld at half past five?
Could anything excite you more
Than seeing him at exactly four,
His eyes of white, blue, green and red,
Leaping like carlights from his head?
Or watch each eye from hour to hour,
Beginning at exactly one,
Unfold it's beauty like a flower,
Till all those eyes were on the sun?
'Twould take you half a day at least
To get the most of such a feast!
(He'd be the prize of any Zoo,
If he were here, I think, don't you?)
But shall never his like appear
Again, and we shall never hear
His song in lovely measures hurled
At sleepyheads throughout the world.
Excitement robbed him of his breath,
Excitement led him to his death.
Flood morning when he could have been
(Being awake) the first one in,
Excitement made him play the dunce
And open all his eyes at once!
He rushed right on through dawn and dark
Pointing late corners to the Ark.
Too great the strain was for his heart;
Slowly he sank; his great knees shook.
While those his song had helped to start
Passed on without a backward look.
The waters fell upon him there,
His twelve bright eyes shining like one;
They covered him, and none knew where
To find him when the storm was done.