Heritage (poem)

Heritage (poem) Metaphors and Similes

Blood as Wine (Simile)

In the second stanza, Cullen writes, "with the dark blood dammed within/ like great pulsing tides of wine." The comparison between blood and wine has several implications. The first association is religious. As seen in the latter half of the poem, the speaker is a practicing Christian and therefore elements of Christianity are woven into his work. In this case, the blood could be seen as holy wine, blessed and consecrated by an affirming figure. Yet he describes the tides as "pulsing," a quality not often assigned to wine. It could then be seen as a force of intoxication that leads the speaker to seek out non-Christian forms of worship.

The Rain as a Soul Gone Mad (Simile)

In the third stanza, Cullen writes "when the rain begins to fall;/ like a soul gone mad with pain." He personifies the rain as if it could suffer like the human soul, and further, be driven from sanity.

Baited Worm (Simile)

In the third stanza, Cullen writes "ever must I twist and squirm/ writhing like a baited worm." This rhymed simile offers a personal reflection from the speaker. He admits to feeling powerless, and controlled by some other entity, like a worm being used as fishing bait. This brings him a level of unease, eliciting the "twist and squirm."

Burning like the Dryest Flax (Simile)

In the final stanza of the poem, Cullen expresses his wish to "quench [his] pride and cool [his] blood" with the fear that it will begin "burning like the dryest flax." This simile suggests that if he is not able to control his pride and blood, they will spread and consume the rest of his life. As the flax is dry, it will burn with ease. This image of dryness can further be contrasted to Cullen's references to floods and rivers throughout the poem.

In a Likeness Like their Own

In the fifth stanza of the poem, Cullen writes of those who "fashion out of rods/ clay, and brittle bits of stone/ in a likeness like their own." This wordplay directly compares the African men to the products they create. He is likely speaking of religious icons, created to honor their "heathen gods."