11/01/2010

Claude McKay

He was central to the Harlem Renaissance. William Churchill quoted his poem, If We Must Die, during World War 2. Although he became an American citizen, many people still believe Claude McKay was American-born.

However, Claude McKay was a Jamaican poet whose works inspired millions. His poems were daring and defiant, yet at the same time, they conveyed a nostalgic yearning for his native Jamaica. Claude McKay was born on September 15, 1890 in Clarendon, Jamaica. He never returned home to the land he loved and wrote so much about in his poems, and died in Chicago in 1948.

I am very pleased to feature Claude McKay as my poet of the month for November, and to share with you perhaps his most famous poem, If We Must Die. 

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 accursed 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 deathblow!
What though before us lies the open grave?
Like men we'll face the murderous, cowardly pack
Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back!


Here are some more details on the life of Claude McKay from the website, Modern American Poetry.

Modern American Poetry http://www.english.illinois.edu/maps/poets/m_r/mckay/life.htm

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