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Claude McKay

(15 September 1889 – 22 May 1948 / Clarendon)

The Lynching


His Spirit in smoke ascended to high heaven.
His father, by the cruelest way of pain,
Had bidden him to his bosom once again;
The awful sin remained still unforgiven.
All night a bright and solitary star
(Perchance the one that ever guided him,
Yet gave him up at last to Fate's wild whim)
Hung pitifully o'er the swinging char.
Day dawned, and soon the mixed crowds came to view
The ghastly body swaying in the sun
The women thronged to look, but never a one
Showed sorrow in her eyes of steely blue;
And little lads, lynchers that were to be,
Danced round the dreadful thing in fiendish glee.

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003

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Read poems about / on: women, fate, sorrow, star, father, heaven, pain, sun, night, woman, dance

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  • Rookie Samuel Williams (7/10/2007 10:31:00 PM)

    This poem is one of the most powerful and meaningful poems that I have ever read. The author creates the theme of racism and brutality, by using imagery and biblical allusion of the lynching of a black male in the deep South. He specifically creates the imagery of this violence, having used the north star as a guide, and then the victim was caught and lynched with the words: “All night a bright and solitary star (Perchance the one that ever guided him, Yet gave him up at last to Fate's wild whim) Hung pitifully o'er the swinging char.” This historically parallels the actual events of racism and brutality that had occurred in the deep American South. In addition, McKay also includes a bit of the macabre with these words: “And little lads, lynchers that were to be, Danced round the dreadful thing in fiendish glee.” It really sets the mood of darkness and somberness that is the backdropp of this powerful work.

    Claude Mckay uses biblical allusion at the same time: “His Spirit in smoke ascended to high heaven. His father, by the cruelest way of pain, Had bidden him to his bosom once again…” The author references the victim’s spirit, as the rising up of the smoke off of the charred body, ascending into the air to his heavenly father. The meter of the poem is iambic tetrameter putting the emphasis on the words at the end of the sentence by using rhyme, with the letters of the beginning of the last three lines being of a shape poem, SAD. This powerful work evokes the imagery of the racism and brutality that had befell a many black males during this time, and it speaks to the mind and spirit of mankind. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Alexia Dunn (2/14/2006 7:13:00 PM)

    well this poem has the mood of death, it was written in a time when there was racism it is like a biblical allusion as the father would refer to God and this man that was lynched (he was hung and burnt) and the mixed crowd is like lychers and other people the little ones danced around they were too young to know but it's like thats how they grew up the triple l is saying like the act of lynching to be cotinued it's like a cycle in the last 3 lines the first letter of each worh spells out the mood of the poem (SAD) although that was perhaps more luck that that was there :) hope this helps for all the poetry haters! :) (Report) Reply

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