Presentation on theme: "Simon the Cyrenian Speaks"— Presentation transcript:
1 Simon the Cyrenian Speaks By Countee CullenKevin Palmer
2 Countee Cullen Background Information Cullen was born in Louisville, KY in We know very little about his early life except that he was born into a broken home and evntually adopted by Rev. Frederick Cullen.Attended New York University, where he began writing poetry. Mentored by the famous poets of the Harlem Renaissance, such as Langston Hughes.Experienced very much early success on the Harlem poetry scene of the 1920’s. Won the Witter Bynner Poetry Prize and became the 2nd Black to win a Guggenheim Fellowship.
3 Cullen Background Cont’d Cullen married the granddaughter of W.E.B. DuBois in 1928 in the most lavish wedding in Harlem history. However, they divorced in 1930 because Cullen’s wife did not like that he was bisexual.Cullen was greatly affected by his divorce and never again achieved the success that he had in the1920’s. His work has been eclipsed by that of more famous Harlem poets like Hughes and Zora Neale.Cullen’s poetry differs from that of other Harlem Renaissance poets because he was educated at the mostly white NYU. He tended to write in polished European-style quatrains with repeating rhythm and meter, while other black poets wrote les formally.Though briefly the most famous black poet in America, Cullen fell out of favor with his own race after saying he would rather be a poet than a Negro poet. Some leading Harlem figures called him a race traitor. Cullen died in 1946 at the age of 43.
4 “Simon the Cyrenian Speaks” He never spoke a word to me,And yet He called my name;He never gave a sign to me,And yet I knew and came. At first I said, "I will not bearHis cross upon my back;He only seeks to place it thereBecause my skin is black."
5 “Simon the Cyrenian Speaks” But He was dying for a dream,And He was very meekAnd in His eyes there shone a gleamMen journey far to seek.It was Himself my pity bought;I did for Christ aloneWhat all of Rome could not have wroughtWith bruise of lash or stone.
6 Now, James Burg Speaks He never spoke a word to me, And yet He called my name;He never gave a sign to me,And yet I knew and came. At first I said, "I will not bearHis cross upon my back;He only seeks to place it thereBecause my skin is black."
7 You Look White To Me But He was dying for a dream, And He was very meekAnd in His eyes there shone a gleamMen journey far to seek.It was Himself my pity bought;I did for Christ aloneWhat all of Rome could not have wroughtWith bruise of lash or stone.
9 The SpeakerThe speaker is Simon of Cyrene, as indicated by the title. Cullen assumes the persona of Simon and chooses to make him a black man.Simon appeared in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke as a man selected by the soldiers to help Jesus bear his cross.Cyrene was a city in North Africa, which is why Simon is referred to as black. However, at the time of the crucifixion, Cyrene had a large Jewish population as well. The Biblical Simon could have been either African or of the same Semitic race as Jesus.In this poem, Simon seems to be reflecting on his Good Friday experiences many years after the crucifixion. He appears to be far enough removed to understand the significance of the event.
10 Simon’s AttitudeSimon is very proud of what he did to aid Jesus. He casts an almost saintly aura, but at the same time gives the image of a regular person who was simply called by Christ.He understands his original misconception of the situation and seeks to correct it.Simon is reverent and treats the crucifixion with respect, but uses clear vocabulary to get his point across.
11 Organization Dramatic poem with four quatrains Ballad meter- ABAB rhyme scheme, alternates between iambic tetrameter and iambic trimeter.Each quatrain is one sentence long, and each line is a clause of that sentence.The quatrains each describe a different thought or emotion that Simon has.
12 Organization1st Quatrain- Jesus calls Simon without speaking or gesturing. Simon’s soul tells him what Jesus wants of him, and he knows what he must do.2nd Quatrain- Simon refuses to carry the cross. He feels that Jesus has singled him out because he is black and inferior to the others in the crowd.
13 Organization3rd Quatrain- Simon observes Jesus and has a change of heart. He realizes that Jesus means no harm to him, and has a greater sense of purpose about Him that very few men have.4th Quatrain- Simon realizes that he had to be the one to help Jesus because he, too, was oppressed. The Romans could not help him because they, with their weapons, were the oppressors. Simon’s pity did more for Christ that day than anything the Romans did.
14 ImageryThe Cross- The burden that we all must bear. For Jesus, it was the cross itself as well as the weight of humankind. For Simon and Cullen, it is the racism that forced them to live as social inferiors.The “Gleam” in Jesus’ Eye- God’s message, the Truth in life that we all journey to seek. Simon admires Jesus’ inner purpose and divine aura.Rome and the Lashes- Represent the oppressors of the world. For Cullen’s audience, this would have been racist whites.
15 Diction and SyntaxCullen is constrained by the nature of the rhythm and meter he has chosen. Since the lines and the quatrains are so short, he does not have room to add extra words for effect.The diction is very simple during the first three stanzas, when Simon is presented as an ordinary man trying to make up his mind.The strict ABAB rhyme scheme that Cullen employs also limits his word choice. This poem is representative of the European style that made Cullen unique among Harlem Renaissance poets.
16 Diction and SyntaxThe first quatrain is essentially the same idea repeated twice for effect. The sentence structure is very similar, with only a few words changed.In the final quatrain, after Simon has realized his purpose, the diction and syntax become more formal, almost like a Biblical Psalm. The inverted sentence and the word “wrought” stand out.
17 Conclusion“Simon the Cyrenian Speaks” shows us the passion story through the eyes of an often-forgotten Biblical figure. It provides us with Simon’s recollections of what he saw and felt that day, and follows his perspective, from his initial call to his refusal to help to his change of heart and the sense of purpose he gained. In the end, Simon had to be the one to help Jesus because he, too, was oppressed The poem also serves as a metaphor for the plight of blacks in American society. Cullen sought to convey that blacks should not simply wallow in self pity and assume all their troubles were due to racism. He urges them to be like Simon and finds a sense of purpose in their oppression, to carry their cross and serve Christ, and journey to seek the gleam of hope that Jesus provides.