Claude McKay was a Jamaican-American writer and poet. He was a seminal figure in the Harlem Renaissance and wrote three novels: Home to Harlem (1928), a best-seller which won the Harmon Gold Award for Literature, Banjo (1929), and Banana Bottom (1933). McKay also authored a collection of short stories, Gingertown (1932), and two autobiographical books, A Long Way from Home (1937) and Harlem: Negro Metropolis (1940). His book of poetry, Harlem Shadows (1922) was among the first books published during the Harlem Renaissance. His book of collected poems, Selected Poems (1953), was published posthumously.
McKay was attracted to communism in his early life, but he was never a member ... more »
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Claude McKay Poems
If We Must Die
If we must die, let it not be like hogs Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot, While round us bark the mad and hungry dogs, Making their mock at our accursèd lot.
Although she feeds me bread of bitterness, And sinks into my throat her tiger's tooth, Stealing my breath of life, I will confess I love this cultured hell that tests my youth!
Oh when I think of my long-suffering race, For weary centuries despised, oppressed, Enslaved and lynched, denied a human place In the great life line of the Christian West;
A Memory of June
When June comes dancing o'er the death of May, With scarlet roses tinting her green breast, And mating thrushes ushering in her day, And Earth on tiptoe for her golden guest,
A Red Flower
Your lips are like a southern lily red, Wet with the soft rain-kisses of the night, In which the brown bee buries deep its head, When still the dawn's a silver sea of light.
O lonely heart so timid of approach, Like the shy tropic flower that shuts its lips To the faint touch of tender finger tips: What is your word? What question would you broach?
So much have I forgotten in ten years, So much in ten brief years! I have forgot What time the purple apples come to juice, And what month brings the shy forget-me-not.
The sun sought thy dim bed and brought forth light, The sciences were sucklings at thy breast; When all the world was young in pregnant night Thy slaves toiled at thy monumental best.
Flower of Love
The perfume of your body dulls my sense. I want nor wine nor weed; your breath alone Suffices. In this moment rare and tense I worship at your breast. The flower is blown,
I Shall Return
I shall return again; I shall return To laugh and love and watch with wonder-eyes At golden noon the forest fires burn, Wafting their blue-black smoke to sapphire skies.
I hear the halting footsteps of a lass In Negro Harlem when the night lets fall Its veil. I see the shapes of girls who pass To bend and barter at desire's call.
To clasp you now and feel your head close-pressed, Scented and warm against my beating breast; To whisper soft and quivering your name,
Dawn in New York
The Dawn! The Dawn! The crimson-tinted, comes Out of the low still skies, over the hills, Manhattan's roofs and spires and cheerless domes! The Dawn! My spirit to its spirit thrills.
The Harlem Dancer
Applauding youths laughed with young prostitutes And watched her perfect, half-clothed body sway; Her voice was like the sound of blended flutes Blown by black players upon a picnic day.
(4 April 1928 - 28 May 2014)
(March 26, 1874 – January 29, 1963)
(10 December 1830 – 15 May 1886)
(26 April 1564 - 23 April 1616)
(12 July 1904 – 23 September 1973)
Edgar Allan Poe
(19 January 1809 - 7 October 1849)
(1 February 1902 – 22 May 1967)
(31 May 1819 - 26 March 1892)
(16 August 1920 – 9 March 1994)
If We Must Die
If we must die, let it not be like hogs
Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot,
While round us bark the mad and hungry dogs,
Making their mock at our accursèd lot.
If we must die, O let us nobly die,
So that our precious blood may not be shed
In vain; then even the monsters we defy
Shall be constrained to honor us though dead!
O kinsmen! we must meet the common foe!
Though far outnumbered let us show us brave,
And for their thousand blows deal one death-blow!
What though before us lies the open grave?
Like men we'll face the murderous, cowardly ...