Harlem shadows

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Title:
Harlem shadows poems. With an introd. by Max Eastman
Physical Description:
95 p. : ;
Language:
English
Creator:
McKay, Claude, 1890-1948
Publisher:
Harcourt, Brace
Place of Publication:
New York
Publication Date:

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non-fiction   ( marcgt )

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Mode of access: Internet.

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Source Institution:
University of Florida
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
oclc - 697779818
ocn697779818
Classification:
lcc - PS3525 A24785 H3
System ID:
AA00012099:00001


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HARLEM


SHADOWS


THE POEMS OF

CLAUDE McKAY

WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY
MAX EASTMAN










NEW YORK
HARCOURT. BRACE AND COMPANY


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COPYRIGHT, 1922, BY

HARCOURT, BRACI AND COMPANY, INC.

































PRINTED IN TNE U. S. A. E
THE QUINN & MODEM COMPANY
LANWAT. N. J.
















A number of these poems appeared in
the Seven Arts, Pearson's, The Libera-
tor, The Messenger, and The Cambridge
Magazine (England).

























Digitized by the
in 2007 with


Internet Archive
funding from


Microsoft Corporation


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CONTENTS

INTRODUCTION is
AUTHOR'S WORD XIZ
v THERE ASTER FLOWER J
v TO ONE COMING NORTH 4
AMERICA 6
ALFONSO, DRESSING TO WAIT AT TABLE 7
w THE TROPICS IN NEW YORK 8
SFLAMN HEART 9
R HOME THOUGHTS II
ON BROADWAY 12
THE BARRIER 1J
v ADOLESCNC 14
HOMING SWALLOWS 15
THE CITY'S LOVE 16
NORTH AND SOUTH 17
V WILD MAY r8
* THE PLATEAU 19
SATER THE WINTER 20
v THE WILD GOAT 21
HARLEM SHADOWS 2*
THZ WHITE CITY *3
STH SPANISH NEEDLE 24
, MY MOTHER 26
IN BONDAGE 28
S DECEMBER, 1919 29
V HERITAGE 30JO
WHEN I HAVE PASSED AWAY J3
V








vi


Contexts


ENSLAVED 32
t I SHALL RETURN 33
MORNING JOY 34
AFRICA 35
ON A PRIMITIVE CANOE 36
WINTER IN THE COUNTRY 37
TO WINTER 39
4 SPRING IN NEW HAMPSHIRE 40
ON THE ROAD 4r
THE HARLEM DANCER 42
DAWN IN NEW YORK 43
THE TIRED WORKER 44
OUTCAST 45
I KNOW MY SOUL 46
BIRDS OF PREY 47
THE CASTAWAYS 48
EXHORTATION: SUMMER, 1919 49
THE LYNCHING 51
BAPTISM 52
IF WE MUST DIE 53
SUBWAY WIND 54
THE NIGHT FIRE 55
POETRY 56
TO A POET 57
A PRAYER 58
WHEN DAWN COMES TO THE CITY 60
0 WORD I LOVE TO SING 63
ABSENCE 64
4 SUMMER MORN IN NEW HAMPSHIRE 66
REST IN PEACE 67
A RED FLOWER 68
COURAGE 70








Ceonst vii

TO 0. L. A. 71
ROMANCE 7J
FLOWER OF LOV 75
TUE SBOW rFAIR 76
LA PALOMA IN LONDON 78
A MEmoRY or JUNE 79
FLIRTATION 8s
TOMENTYm 85
CLARITY 5j
ON YAR AFTER 84
rFaNCH LXvA 86
JAsKUINs 88
COMMxMORATION 89
MEMORIAL 90

rum.TY 93
THROUGH AGONY 94














INTRODUCTION
These poems have a special interest for all the
races of man because they are sung by a pure
blooded Negro. They are the first significant
expression of that race in poetry. We tried
faithfully to give a position in our literature to
Paul Laurence Dunbar. We have excessively
welcomed other black poets of minor talent, seek-
ing in their music some distinctive quality other
than the fact that they wrote it. But here for
the first time we find our literature vividly en-
riched by a voice from this most alien race
among us. And it should be illuminating to
observe that while these poems are characteristic
of that race as we most admire it-they are
gentle-simple, candid, brave and friendly, quick
of laughter and of tears-yet they are still more
characteristic of what is deep and universal in
mankind. There is no special or exotic kind of
merit in them, no quality that demands a trans-
mutation of our own natures to perceive. Just
as the sculptures and wood and ivory carvings of
ix







x Introduction
the vast forgotten African Empires of If6 and
Benin, although so wistful in their tranquillity,
are tranquil in the possession of the qualities of
all classic and great art, so these poems, the
purest of them, move with a sovereignty that is
never new to the lovers of the high music of
human utterance.
It is the peculiarity of his experience, rather
than of his nature, that makes this poet's race a
fact to be remembered in the enjoyment of his
songs. The subject of all poetry is the experience
of the poet, and no man of any other race in the
world can touch or imagine the experience of the
children of African slaves in America.
Claude McKay was born in 189o in a little
thatched house of two rooms in a beautiful val-
ley of the hilly middle-country of Jamaica. He
was born to the genial, warm, patient, neigh-
borly farmer's life of that island. It was a life
rich in sun and sound and color and emotion, as
we can see in his poems which are forever
homeward yearning-in the midst of their present
passion and strong will into the future, forever
vividly remembering. Like a blue-bird's note in
a March wind, those sudden clear thoughts of









the warm South ring out in the midst of his north-
ern songs They carry a thrill into the depth
of our hearts. Perhaps in some sense they are
thoughts of a mother. At least it seems in-
evitable that we should find among them those
two sacred sonnets of a child's bereavement It
seems inevitable that a wonderful poet should
have had a wise and beautiful mother.
We can only distantly imagine how the happy
tropic life of play and affection, became shadowed
and somber for this sensitive boy as be grew,
by a sense of the subjection of his people,
and the memory of their bondage to an alien
race. Indeed the memory of Claude McKay's
family goes back on his mother's side beyond
the days of bondage, to a time in Madagascar
when they were still free, and by the grace of
God still "savage." He learned in early child-
hood the story of their violent abduction, and
how they were freighted over the seas in ships,
and sold at public auction in Jamaica. He learned
another story, too, which must have kindled a
fire that slept in his blood-a story of the rebel-
lion of the members of his own family at the
auction-block. A death-strike, we should call it


Intro defieu


xi









now-for they agreed that if they were divided
and sold away into different parts of the country
they would all kill themselves. And this fact
solemnly announced in the market by the oldest
white-haired Negro among them, had such an
effect upon prospective buyers that it was impos-
sible to sell them as individuals, and so they were
all taken away together to those hills at Clarendon
which their descendants still cultivate. With the
blood of these rebels in his veins, and their mem-
ory to stir it, we cannot wonder that Claude
McKay's earliest boyish songs in the Jamaica dia-
lect were full of heresy and the militant love of
freedom, and that his first poem of political sig-
nificance should have been a rally-call to the
street-car men on strike in Kingston. He found
himself by an instinctive gravitation singing in
the forefront of the battle for human liberty. A
wider experience and a man's comprehension of
the science of history has only strengthened his
voice and his resolution.
Those early songs and the music he composed
for them, were very popular in Jamaica. Claude
McKay was quite the literary prince of the island
for a time-a kind of Robert Burns among his


xii


Introduction









own people, as we can imagine, with his physical
beauty, his quick sympathy, and the magnetic
wayward humor of his ways. He received in
1912 the medal of the Institute of Arts and
Sciences in recognition of his pret inence. He
was the first Negro to receive this medal, and
he was the first poet who ever made songs in the
quaint haunting dialect of the island. But never-
theles it was not until he came to the United
States that Claude McKay began to confront
the deepest feelings in his heart, and realize that
a delicate syllabic music could not alone express
them. Here his imagination awoke, and the
colored imagery that is the language of all deep
passion began to appear in his poetry. Here
too he conceived and felt the history and position
of his people with mature poetic force. He knew
that his voice belonged not only to his own moods
and the general experience of humanity, but to
the hopes and sorrows of his race.
A great many foolish things are said even by
wise people upon the subject of racial infe-
riority. They seem to think that if science could
establish a certain difference of average ability
as between the whites and blacks, that would


Introdwction


Xiii









justify them in placing the whole of one of these
races in a position of inferior esteem. The same
fallacy is committed in the discussions of sex-
inferiority, and it is worth while to make clear
the perfect folly of it. If any defined quantita-
tive difference is ever established between the
average abilities of such groups, it will be a
relatively slight one. The difficulty of establish-
ing it, is a proof of that. And a slight difference
in the general average would have no application
whatever as between any two individuals, or any
minor groups of individuals. The enormous ma-
jority of both races, as of both sexes, would show
the same degree of ability. And so great is the
factor of individual variation that we could not
even be sure an example of the highest ability
might not arise in the group whose average was
"inferior." This simple consideration of fact and
good logic should suffice to silence those who
think they can ever appeal to science in support
of a general race or sex prejudice.
But in so far as the problem arises between a
dominant and a subjected race, it is impossible
for science to say anything even as to averages.
For a fair general test is impossible. The chil-


xiv


Introduction








dren of the subjected race never have a chance.
To be deprived at the very dawn of selfhood of
a sense of possible superiority, is to be under-
nourished at the point of chief educative impor-
tance. And to be assailed in early childhood with
a pervading intimation of inferiority is poison in
the very centers of growth. Except for people of
the highest force of character, therefore, to be
born into a subjected race is to grow up inferior,
not only to the other race, but to one's own poten-
tial self. We see an example of this kind of
growth in the bombastic locutions of the tradi-
tional "darkie" who has acquired a little culture.
Those great big words and long sentences are the
result of a feeling of inferiority. They are a
pathetic over-correction of the very quality of
simple-heartedness which is carried so high in
these poems of Claude McKay. It is carried so
high, and made so boldly beautiful, that we can
not withhold a tribute to his will, as well as to
his music and imagination. The naked force of
character that we feel in those two recent son-
nets, "Baptism" and "The White City," is no
mere verbal semblance. Its reality is certified by
the very achievement of such commanding art


Inltrodelioe


XV









in the face of a contemptuous or condescending
civilization.
Claude McKay came to the United States in
1912, having been offered an education here by
a friend in Jamaica who believed in his abilities.
His intention was to learn scientific farming, and
return to the island to offer practical wisdom as
well as music to his people. He went at first to
one of our established philanthropic institutions
for the training of colored people. He stayed
there a few months-long enough to weary of
the almost military system of discipline. And
then he went to the Agricultural College of
Kansas, where he had learned that a free life
and a more elective system of education prevailed.
He studied for two years there, thinking contin-
ually less about farming and more about litera-
ture, and gradually losing away altogether the
idea of returning to live in Jamaica. He left the
college in 1914, knowing that he was a poet-and
imagining, I think, that he was a rather irrespon-
sible and wayward character-to cast in his lot
with the working-class Negroes of the north.
Since then he has earned his living in every
one of the ways that the northern Negroes do,


xvi


Introduction








from "pot-wrestling" in a boarding-house kitchen
to dining-car service on the New York and Phila-
delphia Express. But like all true poets, he failed
to take the duty of "earning a living" very seri-
ously. It was a matter of collecting enough money
from each new job to quit for a while and live.
And with each period of living a new and a more
sure and beautiful song would come out of him.
The growth of beauty and sureness in these
songs would be apparent if they were arranged
in the order of their creation. As it is, the
reader will observe occasional lapses of quality.
One or two of the rhythms I confess I am not
able to apprehend at all. Perhaps they will be
picked up by receivers who are attuned to a dif-
ferent wave-length. But the quality is here in
them all-the pure, clear arrow-like transference
of his emotion into our breast, without any but
the inevitable words-the quality that reminds us
of Burns and Villon and Catullus, and all the
poets that we call lyric because we love them so
much. It is the quality that Keats sought to
cherish when he said that "Poetry should be
great and unobtrusive, a thing which enters into
the soul, and does not startle or amaze ith


Inatredlsinr


svu







xviii Introduction
itself but with its subject." Poetry with this
quality is not for those whose interest is mainly
in the manufacture of poems. It will come rather
to those whose interest is in the life of things.
It is the poetry of life, and not of the poet's
chamber. It is the poetry that looks upon a
thing, and sings. It is possessed by a feeling and
sings. May it find its way a little quietly and
softly, in this age of roar and advertising, to the
hearts that love a true and unaffected song.
MAx EASTMAN.













AUTHOR'S WORD
In putting ideas and feelings into poetry, I have
tried in each case to use the medium most
adaptable to the specific purpose. I own alle-
giance to no master. I have never found it pos-
sible to accept in entirety any one poet. But I
have loved and joyed in what I consider the finest
in the poets of all ages.
The speech of my childhood and early youth
was the Jamaica Negro dialect, the native variant
of English, which still preserves a few words of
African origin, and which is more difficult of
understanding than the American Negro dialect.
But the language we wrote and read in school
was England's English. Our text books then,
before the advent of the American and Jamaican
readers and our teachers, too, were all English-
made. The native teachers of the elementary
schools were tutored by men and women of British
import. I quite remember making up verses in
the dialect and in English for our moonlight ring
xix







Author's Word


dances and for our school parties. Of our purely
native songs the jammas (field and road), shay-
shays (yard and booth), wakes (post-mortem),
Anancy tales (transplanted African folk lore),
and revivals (religious) are all singularly punc-
tuated by meter and rhyme. And nearly all my
own poetic thought has always run naturally into
these regular forms.
Consequently, although very conscious of the
new criticisms and trends in poetry, to which I
am keenly responsive and receptive, I have ad-
hered to such of the older traditions as I find
adequate for my most lawless and revolutionary
passions and moods. I have not used patterns,
images and words that would stamp me a
classicist nor a modernist. My intellect is not
scientific enough to range me on the side of
either; nor is my knowledge wide enough for me
to specialize in any school.
I have never studied poetics; but the forms
I have used I am convinced are the ones I can
work in with the highest degree of spontaneity
and freedom.
I have chosen my melodies and rhythms by
instinct, and I have favored words and figures


XX









which flow smoothly and harmoniously into my
ompositions. And in all my moods I have
striven to achieve directness, truthfulness and
naturalness of expression instead of an enameled
originality. I have not hesitated to use words
which are old, and in some circles considered
poetically overworked and dead, when I thought
I could make them glow alive by new manipula-
tion. Nor have I stinted my senses of the pleas-
ure of using the decorative metaphor where it is
more truly and vividly beautiful than the exact
phrase. But for me there is more quiet delight
in "The golden moon of heaven" than in "The
terra-cotta disc of cloud-land."
Finally, while I have welcomed criticism,
friendly and unfriendly, and listened with willing
attention to many varying opinions concerning
other poems and my own, I have always, in the
summing up, fallen back on my own ear and
taste as the arbiter.
CLAuDz McKAY.


JAuthr's Word


nzi







































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HARLEM SHADOWS






































*s%











THE EASTER FLOWER
Far from this foreign Easer damp and chilly
My soul steals to a pear-shaped plot of ground,
Where gleamed the lilac-tinted Easter lily
Soft-scented in the air for yards around;

Alone, without a hint of guardian leafl
Just like a fragile bell of silver rime,
It burst the tomb for freedom sweet and brief
In the young pregnant year at Eastertime;

And many thought it was a sacred sign,
And some called it the resurrection flower;
And I, a pagan, worshiped at its shrine,
Yielding my heart unto its perfumed power.













TO ONE COMING NORTH


At first you'll joy to see the playful snow,
Like white moths trembling on the tropic air,
Or waters of the hills that softly flow
Gracefully falling down a shining stair.



And when the fields and streets are covered white
And the wind-worried void is chilly, raw,
Or underneath a spell of heat and light
The cheerless frozen spots begin to thaw,



Like me you'll long for home, where birds' glad
song
Means flowering lanes and leas and spaces
dry,
And tender thoughts and feelings fine and strong,
Beneath a vivid silver-flecked blue sky.
4








To One ComiMl North 5
But oh more than the changeless southern isles,
When Spring has shed upon the earth her
charm,
You'll love the Northland wreathed in golden
smiles
By the miraculous sun turned glad and wam.












AMERICA
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
Her vigor flows like tides into my blood,
Giving me strength erect against her hate.
Her bigness sweeps my being like a flood.
Yet as a rebel fronts a king in state,
I stand within her walls with not a shred
Of terror, malice, not a word of jeer.
Darkly I gaze into the days ahead,
And see her might and granite wonders there,
Beneath the touch of Time's unerring hand,
Like priceless treasures sinking in the sand.












ALFONSO, DRESSING TO WAIT AT TABLE

Alfonso is a handsome bronze-hued lad
Of subtly-changing and surprising parts;
His moods are storms that frighten and make
glad,
His eyes were made to capture women's hearts.

Down in the glory-hole Alfonso sings
An olden song of wine and clinking glasses
And riotous rakes; magnificently flings
Gay kisses to imaginary lasses.

Alfonso's voice of mellow music thrills
Our swaying forms and steals our hearts with
joy;
And when he soars, his fine falsetto trills
Are rarest notes of gold without alloy.
But, O Alfonso! wherefore do you sing
Dream-songs of carefree men and ancient
places?
Soon we shall be beset by clamouring
Of hungry and importunate palefaces.
7












THE TROPICS IN NEW YORK
Bananas ripe and green, and ginger-root,
Cocoa in pods and alligator pears,
And tangerines and mangoes and grape fruit,
Fit for the highest prize at parish fairs,

Set in the window, bringing memories
Of fruit-trees laden by low-singing rills,
And dewy dawns, and mystical blue skies
In benediction over nun-like hills.

My eyes grew dim, and I could no more gaze;
A wave of longing through my body swept,
And, hungry for the old, familiar ways,
I turned aside and bowed my head and wept.











FLAME-HEART
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.
I have forgot the special, startling season
Of the pimento's flowering and fruiting;
What time of year the ground doves brown the
fields
And fill the noonday with their curious fluting.
I have forgotten much, but still remember
The poinsettia's red, blood-red in warm December.

I still recall the honey-fever grass,
But cannot recollect the high days when
We rooted them out of the ping-wing path
To stop the mad bees in the rabbit pen.
I often try to think in what sweet month
The languid painted ladies used to dapple
The yellow by-road amazing from the main,
Sweet with the golden threads of the rose-apple.
I have forgotten-strange-but quite remember
The poinsettia's red, blood-red in warm December.
9







10 Flame-Heart
What weeks, what months, what time of the mild
year
We cheated school to have our fling at tops?
What days our wine-thrilled bodies pulsed with
joy
Feasting upon blackberries in the copse?
Oh some I know I have embalmed the days,
Even the sacred moments when we played,
All innocent of passion, uncorrupt,
At noon and evening in the flame-heart's shade.
We were so happy, happy, I remember,
Beneath the poinsettia's red in warm December.












HOME THOUGHTS
Oh something just now must be happening there!
That suddenly and quiveringly here,
Amid the city's noises, I must think
Of mangoes leaning o'er the river's brink,
And dexterous Davie climbing high above,
The gold fruits ebon-speckled to remove,
And toss them quickly in the tangled mass
Of wis-wis twisted round the guinea grass;
And Cyril coming through the bramble-track
A prize bunch of bananas on his back;
And Georgie-none could ever dive like him-
Throwing his scanty clothes off for a swim;
And schoolboys, from Bridge-tunnel going home,
Watching the waters downward dash and foam.
This is no daytime dream, there's something in it,
Oh something's happening there this very minute!


sI












ON BROADWAY


About me young and careless feet
Linger along the garish street;
Above, a hundred shouting signs
Shed down their bright fantastic glow
Upon the merry crowd and lines
Of moving carriages below.
Oh wonderful is Broadway-only
My heart, my heart is lonely.

Desire naked, linked with Passion,
Goes strutting by in brazen fashion;
From playhouse, cabaret and inn
The rainbow lights of Broadway blaze
All gay without, all glad within;
As in a dream I stand and gaze
At Broadway, shining Broadway-only
My heart, my heart is lonely.


12












THE BARRIER


I must not gaze at them although
Your eyes are dawning day;
I must not watch you as you go
Your sun-illumined way;

I hear but I must never heed
The fascinating note,
Which, fluting like a river reed,
Comes from your trembling throat;

I must not see upon your face
Love's softly glowing spark;
For there's the barrier of race,
You're fair and I am dark


is












ADOLESCENCE


There was a time when in late afternoon
The four-o'clocks would fold up at day's close
Pink-white in prayer, and neathh the floating moon
I lay with them in calm and sweet repose.

And in the open spaces I could sleep,
Half-naked to the shining worlds above;
Peace came with sleep and sleep was long and
deep,
Gained without effort, sweet like early love.

But now no balm-nor drug nor weed nor wine--
Can bring true rest to cool my body's fever,
Nor sweeten in my mouth the acid brine,
That salts my choicest drink and will forever.


14












HOMING SWALLOWS


Swift swallows sailing from the Spanish main,
O rain-birds racing merrily away
From hill-tops parched with heat and sultry plain
Of wilting plants and fainting flowers, say-

When at the noon-hour from the chapel school
The children dash and scamper down the dale,
Scornful of teacher's rod and binding rule
Forever broken and without avail,

Do they still stop beneath the giant tree
To gather locusts in their childish greed,
And chuckle when they break the pods to see
The golden powder clustered round the seed?


is












THE CITY'S LOVE


For one brief golden moment rare like wine,
The gracious city swept across the line;
Oblivious of the color of my skin,
Forgetting that I was an alien guest,
She bent to me, my hostile heart to win,
Caught me in passion to her pillowy breast;
The great, proud city, seized with a strange love,
Bowed down for one flame hour my pride to
prove.


z6












NORTH AND SOUTH


O sweet are tropic lands for waking dreams!
There time and life move lazily along.
There by the banks of blue-and-silver streams
Grass-sheltered crickets chirp incessant song,
Gay-colored lizards loll all through the day,
Their tongues outstretched for careless little
flies,
And swarthy children in the fields at play,
Look upward laughing at the smiling skies.
A breath of idleness is in the air
That casts a subtle spell upon all things,
And love and mating-time are everywhere,
And wonder to life's commonplaces clings.
The fluttering humming-bird darts through the
trees
And dips his long beak in the big bell-flowers,
The leisured buzzard floats upon the breeze,
Riding a crescent cloud for endless hours,
The sea beats softly on the emerald strands-
O sweet for quiet dreams are tropic lands
17












WILD MAY


Aleta mentions in her tender letters,
Among a chain of quaint and touching things,
That you are feeble, weighted down with fetters,
And given to strange deeds and mutterings.
No longer without trace or thought of fear,
Do you leap to and ride the rebel roan;
But have become the victim of grim care,
With three brown beauties to support alone.
But none the less will you be in my mind,
Wild May that cantered by the risky ways,
With showy head-cloth flirting in the wind,
From market in the glad December days;
Wild May of whom even other girls could rave
Before sex tamed your spirit, made you slave.


Is












THE PIATEAU


It was the silver, heart-enveloping view
Of the mysterious sea-line far away,
Seen only on a gleaming gold-white day,
That made it dear and beautiful to you.

And Laura loved it for the little hill,
Where the quartz sparkled fire, barren and dun,
Whence in the shadow of the dying sun,
She contemplated Hallow's wooden mill.

While Danny liked the sheltering high grass,
In which he lay upon a clear dry night,
To hear and see, screened skilfully from sight,
The happy lovers of the valley pass.

But oh! I loved it for the big round moon
That swung out of the clouds and swooned aloft,
Burning with passion, gloriously soft,
Lighting the purple flowers of fragrant June.


s9












AFTER THE WINTER


Some day, when trees have shed their leaves
And against the morning's white
The shivering birds beneath the eaves
Have sheltered for the night,
We'll turn our faces southward, love,
Toward the summer isle
Where bamboos spire to shafted grove
And wide-mouthed orchids smile.

And we will seek the quiet hill
Where towers the cotton tree,
And leaps the laughing crystal rill,
And works the droning bee.
And we will build a cottage there
Beside an open glade,
With black-ribbed blue-bells blowing near,
And ferns that never fade.


20












THE WILD GOAT


0 you would clothe me in silken frocks
And house me from the cold,
And bind with bright bands my glossy locks,
And buy me chains of gold;

And give me-meekly to do my will-
The hapless sons of men:-
But the wild goat bounding on the barren hill
Droops in the grassy pen.


as











HARLEM SHADOWS


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.
Ah, little dark girls who in slippered feet
Go prowling through the night from street to
street

Through the long night until the silver break
Of day the little gray feet know no rest;
Through the lone night until the last snow-flake
Has dropped from heaven upon the earth's
white breast,
The dusky, half-clad girls of tired feet
Are trudging, thinly shod, from street to street.

Ah, stern harsh world, that in the wretched way
Of poverty, dishonor and disgrace,
Has pushed the timid little feet of clay,
The sacred brown feet of my fallen race
Ah, heart of me, the weary, weary feet
In Harlem wandering from street to street
S2












THE WHITE CITY


I will not toy with it nor bend an inch.
Deep In the secret chambers of my heart
I muse my life-long hate, and without flinch
I bear it nobly as I live my part.
My being would be a skeleton, a shell,
If this dark Passion that fills my every mood,
And makes my heaven in the white world's hell,
Did not forever feed me vital blood.
I see the mighty city through a mist-
The strident trains that speed the goaded mass,
The poles and spires and towers vapor-kissed,
The fortressed port through which the great ships
pass,
The tides, the wharves, the dens I contemplate,
Are sweet like wanton loves because I hate.


as












THE SPANISH NEEDLE


Lovely dainty Spanish needle
With your yellow flower and white,
Dew bedecked and softly sleeping,
Do you think of me to-night?

Shadowed by the spreading mango,
Nodding o'er the rippling stream,
Tell me, dear plant of my childhood,
Do you of the exile dream?

Do you see me by the brook's side
Catching crayfish neathh the stone,
As you did the day you whispered:
Leave the harmless dears alone?

Do you see me in the meadow
Coming from the woodland spring
With a bamboo on my shoulder
And a pail slung from a string?


24







The Spanish Needle a2
Do you see me all epectant
Lying in an orange grove,
While the swee-wees sing above me,
Waiting for my elf-eyed love?

Lovely dainty Spanish needle,
Source to me of sweet delight,
In your far-off sunny southland
Do you dream of me to-night?












MY MOTHER


I
Reg wished me to go with him to the field,
I paused because I did not want to go;
But in her quiet way she made me yield
Reluctantly, for she was breathing low.
Her hand she slowly lifted from her lap
And, smiling sadly in the old sweet way,
She pointed to the nail where hung my cap.
Her eyes said: I shall last another day.
But scarcely had we reached the distant place,
When o'er the hills we heard a faint bell ringing;
A boy came running up with frightened face;
We knew the fatal news that he was bringing.
I heard him listlessly, without a moan,
Although the only one I loved was gone.

II
The dawn departs, the morning is begun,
The trades come whispering from off the seas,
The fields of corn are golden in the sun,
26







Mr Moter 27
The dark-brown tassels fluttering in the breeze;
The bell s sounding and the children pass,
Frog-leaping, skipping, shouting, laughing shrill,
Down the red road, over the pasture-grass,
Up to the school-house crumbling on the lhll.
The older folk re at their peaceful toil,
Some pulling up the weeds, some plucking corn,
And others breaking up the sun-baked soil.
Float, faintly-scented breeze, at early morn
Over the earth where mortals sow and reap-
Beneath its breast my mother lies asleep.












IN BONDAGE


I would be wandering in distant fields
Where man, and bird, and beast, lives leisurely,
And the old earth is kind, and ever yields
Her goodly gifts to all her children free;
Where life is fairer, lighter, less demanding,
And boys and girls have time and space for play
Before they come to years of understanding-
Somewhere I would be singing, far away.
For life is greater than the thousand wars
Men wage for it in their insatiate lust,
And will remain like the eternal stars,
When all that shines to-day is drift and dust
But I am bound with you in your mean graves,
0 black men, simple slaves of ruthless slaves.


2t













DECEMBER, 1919


Last night I heard your voice, mother,
The words you sang to me
When I, a little barefoot boy,
Knelt down against your knee.

And tears gushed from my heart, mother,
And passed beyond its wall,
But though the fountain reached my throat
The drops refused to fall.

'Tis ten years since you died, mother,
Just ten dark years of pain,
And oh, I only wish that I
Could weep just once again.


s9












HERITAGE


Now the dead past seems vividly alive,
And in this shining moment I can trace,
Down through the vista of the vanished years,
Your faun-like form, your fond elusive face.

And suddenly some secret spring's released,
And unawares a riddle is revealed,
And I can read like large, black-lettered print,
What seemed before a thing forever sealed.

I know the magic word, the graceful thought,
The song that fills me in my lucid hours,
The spirit's wine that thrills my body through,
And makes me music-drunk, are yours, all
yours.

I cannot praise, for you have passed from praise,
I have no tinted thoughts to paint you true;
But I can feel and I can write the word;
The best of me is but the least of you.
S1 30













WHEN I HAVE PASSED AWAY


When I have passed away and am forgotten,
And no one living can recall my face,
When under alien sod my bones lie rotten
With not a tree or stone to mark the place;

Perchance a pensive youth, with passion burning,
For olden verse that smacks of love and wine,
The musty pages of old volumes turning,
May light upon a little song of mine,

And he may softly hum the tune and wonder
Who wrote the verses in the long ago;
Or he may sit him down awhile to ponder
Upon the simple words that touch him so.


ps












ENSLAVED


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;
And in the Black Land disinherited,
Robbed in the ancient country of its birth,
My heart grows sick with hate, becomes as lead,
For this my race that has no home on earth.
Then from the dark depths of my soul I cry
To the avenging angel to consume
The white man's world of wonders utterly:
Let it be swallowed up in earth's vast womb,
Or upward roll as sacrificial smoke
To liberate my people from its yokel


3S











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 shall return to loiter by the streams
That bathe the brown blades of the bending
grasses,
And realize once more my thousand dreams
Of waters rushing down the mountain passes
I shall return to hear the fiddle and fife
Of village dances, dear delicious tunes
That stir the hidden depths of native life,
Stray melodies of dim remembered runes.
I shall return, I shall return again,
To ease my mind of long, long years of pain.


11











MORNING JOY


At night the wide and level stretch of wold,
Which at high noon had basked in quiet gold,
Far as the eye could see was ghostly white;
Dark was the night save for the snow's weird
light.

I drew thi shades far down, crept into bed;
Hearing the cold wind moaning overhead
Through the sad pines, my soul, catching its pain,
Went sorrowing with it across the plain.

At dawn, behold! the pall of night was gone,
Save where a few shrubs melancholy, lone,
Detained a fragile shadow. Golden-lipped
The laughing grasses heaven's sweet wine sipped.

The sun rose smiling o'er the river's breast,
And my soul, by his happy spirit blest,
Soared like a bird to greet him in the sky,
And drew out of his heart Eternity.
34












AFRICA


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.
Thou ancient treasure-land, thou modern prize,
New peoples marvel at thy pyramids!
The years roll on, thy sphinx of riddle eyes
Watches the mad world with immobile lids.
The Hebrews humbled them at Pharaoh's name.
Cradle of Power! Yet all things were in vain!
Honor and Glory, Arrogance and Fame!
They went. The darkness swallowed thee again.
Thou art the harlot, now thy time is done,
Of all the mighty nations of the sun.


Us












ON A PRIMITIVE CANOE

Here, passing lonely down this quiet lane,
Before a mud-splashed window long I pause
To gaze and gaze, while through my active brain
Still thoughts are stirred to wakefulness; because
Long, long ago in a dim unknown land,
A massive forest-tree, ax-felled, adze-hewn,
Was deftly done by cunning mortal hand
Into a symbol of the tender moon.
Why does it thrill more than the handsome boat
That bore me o'er the wild Atlantic ways,
And fill me with rare sense of things remote
From this harsh life of fretful nights and days?
I cannot aswer but, whatever it be,
An old wine has intoxicated me.












WINTER IN THE COUNTRY


Sweet life how lovely to be here
And feel the soft sea-laden breeze
Strike my flushed face, the spruce's fair
Free limbs to see, the lesser trees'


Bare hands to touch, the sparrow's cheep
To heed, and watch his nimble flight
Above the short brown grass asleep.
Love glorious in his friendly might,


Music that every heart could bless,
And thoughts of life serene, divine,
Beyond my power to express,
Crowd round this lifted heart of mine!


But oh! to leave this paradise
For the city's dirty basement room,
Where, beauty hidden from the eyes,
A table, bed, bureau and broom
17







38 Winter in tke Country
In corer set, two crippled chairs
All covered up with dust and grim
With hideousness and scars of years,
And gaslight burning weird and dim,

Will welcome me And yet, and yet
This very wind, the winter birds,
The glory of the soft sunset,
Come there to me in words.












TO WINTER


Stay, season of calm love and soulful sows !
There is a subtle sweetness in the sun,
The ripples on the stream's breast gaily run,
The wind more boisterously by me blows,
And each succeeding day now longer grows.
The birds a gladder music have begun,
The squirrel, full of mischief and of fun,
From maples' topmost branch the brown twig
throws.
I read these pregnant signs, know what they
mean:
I know that thou art making ready to go.
Oh stay I fled a land where fields are green
Always, and palms wave gently to and fro,
And winds are balmy, blue brooks ever sheen,
To ease my heart of its impassioned woe.


59












SPRING IN NEW HAMPSHIRE
(To J. J. F. E.)
Too green the springing April grass,
Too blue the silver-speckled sky,
For me to linger here, alas,
While happy winds go laughing by,
Wasting the golden hours indoors,
Washing windows and scrubbing floors.

Too wonderful the April night,
Too faintly sweet the first May flowers,
The stars too gloriously bright,
For me to spend the evening hours,
When fields are fresh and streams are leaping,
Wearied, exhausted, dully sleeping.












ON THE ROAD


Roar of the rushing train fearfully rocking,
Impatient people jammed in line for food,
The rasping noise of cars together knocking,
And worried waiters, some in ugly mood,
Crowding into the choking pantry bole
To call out dishes for each angry glutton
Exasperated grown beyond control,
From waiting for his soup or fish or mutton.
At last the station's reached, the engine stops;
For bags and wraps the red-caps circle round;
From off the step the passenger lightly hops,
And seeks his cab or tram-car homeward bound;
The waiters pass out weary, listless, glum,
To spend their tips on harlots, cards and rum.


4












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.
She sang and danced on gracefully and calm,
The light gauze hanging loose about her form;
To me she seemed a proudly-swaying palm
Grown lovelier for passing through a storm.
Upon her swarthy neck black shiny curls
Luxuriant fell; and tossing coins in praise,
The wine-flushed, bold-eyed boys, and even the
girls,
Devoured her shape with eager, passionate gaze;
But looking at her falsely-smiling face,
I knew her self was not in that strange place.


4s












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
Almost the mighty city is asleep,
No pushing crowd, no tramping, tramping feet.
But here and there a few cars groaning creep
Along, above, and underneath the street,
Bearing their strangely-ghostly burdens by,
The women and the men of garish nights,
Their eyes wine-weakened and their clothes awry,
Grotesques beneath the strong electric lights.
The shadows wane. The Dawn comes to New
York.
And I go darkly-rebel to my work.


43












THE TIRED WORKER


O whisper, O my soul The afternoon
Is waning into evening, whisper softly
Peace, O my rebel heart for soon the moon
From out its misty veil will swing aloft
Be patient, weary body, soon the night
Will wrap thee gently in her sable sheet,
And with a leaden sigh thou wilt invite
To rest thy tired hands and aching feet.
The wretched day was theirs, the night is mine;
Come tender sleep, and fold me to thy breast.
But what steals out the gray clouds red like wine?
O dawn O dreaded dawn 0 let me rest
Weary my veins, my brain, my life Have pityl
Nol Once again the harsh, the ugly city.


44












OUTCAST


For the dim regions whence my fathers came
My spirit, bondaged by the body, longs.
Words felt, but never heard, my lips would frame;
My soul would sing forgotten jungle songs.
I would go back to darkness and to peace,
But the great western world holds me in fee,
And I may never hope for full release
While to its alien gods I bend my knee.
Something in me is lost, forever lost,
Some vital thing has gone out of my heart,
And I must walk the way of life a ghost
Among the sons of earth, a thing apart;
For I was born, far from my native clime,
Under the white man's menace, out of time.


45












I KNOW MY SOUL


I plucked my soul out of its secret place,
And held it to the mirror of my eye,
To see it like a star against the sky,
A twitching body quivering in space,
A spark of passion shining on my face.
And I explored it to determine why
This awful key to my infinity
Conspires to rob me of sweet joy and grace.
And if the sign may not be fully read,
If I can comprehend but not control,
I need not gloom my days with futile dread,
Because I see a part and not the whole.
Contemplating the strange, I'm comforted
By this narcotic thought: I know my soul.


46












BIRDS OF PREY


Their shadow dims the sunshine of our day,
As they go lumbering across the sky,
Squawking in joy of feeling safe on high,
Beating their heavy wings of owlish gray.
They scare the singing birds of earth away
As, greed-impelled, they circle threateningly,
Watching the toilers with malignant eye,
From their exclusive haven-birds of prey.
They swoop down for the spoil in certain might,
And fasten in our bleeding flesh their claws.
They beat us to surrender weak with fright,
And tugging and tearing without let or pause,
They flap their hideous wings in grim delight,
And stuff our gory hearts into their maws.


47












THE CASTAWAYS


The vivid grass with visible delight
Springing triumphant from the pregnant earth,
The butterflies, and sparrows in brief flight
Chirping and dancing for the season's birth,
The dandelions and rare daffodils
That touch the deep-stirred heart with hands of
gold,
The thrushes sending forth their joyous trills,-
Not these, not these did I at first behold!
But seated on the benches daubed with green,
The castaways of life, a few asleep,
Some withered women desolate and mean,
And over all, life's shadows dark and deep.
Moaning I turned away, for misery
I have the strength to bear but not to see.


41












EXHORTATION: SUMMER, 1919


Through the pregnant universe rumbles life's
terrific thunder,
And Earth's bowels quake with terror; strange
and terrible storms break,
Lightning-torches flame the heavens, kindling
souls of men, thereunder:
Africa! long ages sleeping, O my motherland,
awake!

In the East the clouds glow crimson with the new
dawn that is breaking,
And its golden glory fills the western skies.
O my brothers and my sisters, wake arise!
For the new birth rends the old earth and the
very dead are waking,
Ghosts are turned flesh, throwing off the grave's
disguise,
And the foolish, even children, are made wise;
For the big earth groans in travail for the strong,
new world in making-
49







50 Exhortation: Summer, rigp
O my brothers, dreaming for dim centuries,
Wake from sleeping; to the East turn, turn
your eyes!

Oh the night is sweet for sleeping, but the shin-
ing day's for working;
Sons of the seductive night, for your children's
children's sake,
From the deep primeval forests where the crouch-
ing leopard's lurking,
Lift your heavy-lidded eyes, Ethiopial awake!

In the East the clouds glow crimson with the new
dawn that is breaking,
And its golden glory fills the western skies.
O my brothers and my sisters, wake! arise
For the new birth rends the old earth and the
very dead are waking,
Ghosts are turned flesh, throwing off the
grave's disguise,
And the foolish, even children, are made wise;
For the big earth groans in travail for the strong,
new world in making-
O my brothers, dreaming for long centuries,
Wake from sleeping; to the East turn, turn
your eyes!











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.


5$












BAPTISM


Into the furnace let me go alone;
Stay you without in terror of the heat.
I will go naked in-for thus 'tis sweet-
Into the weird depths of the hottest zone.
I will not quiver in the frailest bone,
You will not note a flicker of defeat;
My heart shall tremble not its fate to meet,
My mouth give utterance to any moan.
The yawning oven spits forth fiery spears;
Red aspish tongues shout wordlessly my name.
Desire destroys, consumes my mortal fears,
Transforming me into a shape of flame.
I will come out, back to your world of tears,
A stronger soul within a finer frame.


Ss












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,
MakLng their mock at our accursId lot.
If we must die, 0 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 deadly
0 kinsmen we must meet the common foe!
Though far outnumbered let us show us brave,
And for their thousand blows deal one death-
blowl
What though before us lies the open grave?
Like men well face the murderous, cowardly
pack,
Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back !


55












SUBWAY WIND


Far down, down through the city's great, gaunt
gut
The gray train rushing bears the weary wind;
In the packed cars the fans the crowd's breath
cut,
Leaving the sick and heavy air behind.
And pale-cheeked children seek the upper door
To give their summer jackets to the breeze;
Their laugh is swallowed in the deafening roar
Of captive wind that moans for fields and seas;
Seas cooling warm where native schooners drift
Through sleepy waters, while gulls wheel and
sweep,
Waiting for windy waves the keels to lift
Lightly among the islands of the deep;
Islands of lofty palm trees blooming white
That lend their perfume to the tropic sea,
Where fields lie idle in the dew drenched night,
And the Trades float above them fresh and
free.
54












THE NIGHT FIRE


No engines shrieking rescue storm the night,
And hose and hydrant can here avail;
The flames laugh high and fing their challenging
light,
And clouds turn gray and black from silver-pale.
The fire leaps out and licks the ancient walls,
And the big building bends and twists and groans.
A bar drops from its place; a rafter falls
Burning the flowers. The wind in frenzy moans.
The watchers gaze, held wondering by the fire,
The dwellers cry their sorrow to the crowd,
The flames beyond themselves rise higher, higher,
To lose their glory in the frowning cloud,
Yielding at length the last reluctant breath.
And where life lay asleep broods darkly death.


ss











POETRY

Sometimes I tremble like a storm-swept flower,
And seek to hide my tortured soul from thee.
Bowing my head in deep humility
Before the silent thunder of thy power.
Sometimes I flee before thy blazing light,
As from the specter of pursuing death;
Intimidated lest thy mighty breath,
Windways, will sweep me into utter night.
For oh, I fear they will be swallowed up-
The loves which are to me of vital worth,
My passion and my pleasure in the earth-
And lost forever in thy magic cup!
I fear, I fear my truly human heart
Will perish on the altar-stone of artl












TO A POET


There is a lovely noise about your name,
Above the shouting of the city clear,
More than a moment's merriment, whose claim
Will greater grow with every mellowed year.

The people will not bear you down the street,
Dancing to the strong rhythm of your words,
The modern kings will throttle you to greet
The piping voice of artificial birds.

But the rare lonely spirits, even mine,
Who love the immortal music of all days,
Will see the glory of your trailing line,
The bedded beauty of your haunting lays.


57












A PRAYER

'Mid the discordant noises of the day I hear thee
calling;
I stumble as I fare along Earth's way; keep me
from falling.


Mine eyes are open but they cannot see for gloom
of night;
I can no more than lift my heart to thee for in-
ward light.

The wild and fiery passion of my youth consumes
my soul;
In agony I turn to thee for truth and self-control.


For Passion and all the pleasures it can give will
die the death;
But this of me eternally must live, thy borrowed
breath.
$S








A Prsyer 59
'Mid the discordant noises of the day I hear thee
calling;
I stumble as I fare along Earth's way; keep me
from falling.












WHEN DAWN COMES TO THE CITY

The tired cars go grumbling by,
The moaning, groaning cars,
And the old milk carts go rumbling by
Under the same dull stars.
Out of the tenements, cold as stone,
Dark figures start for work;
I watch them sadly shuffle on,
'Tis dawn, dawn in New York.


But I would be on the island of the sea,
In the heart of the island of the sea,
Where the cocks are crowing, crowing, crowing,
And the hens are cackling in the rose-apple tree,
Where the old draft-horse is neighing, neighing,
neighing
Out on the brown dew-silvered lawn,
And the tethered cow is lowing, lowing, lowing,
And dear old Ned is braying, braying, braying,
And the shaggy Nannie goat is calling, calling,
calling
6o







When Dawm Comn to the City


From her little trampled corner of the long
wide lea
That stretches to the waters of the hill-stream
falling
Sheer upon the flat rocks joyously
There, oh there on the island of the sea,
There I would be at dawn.

The tired cars go grumbling by,
The crazy, lazy cars,
And the same milk carts go rumbling by
Under the dying stars.
A lonely newsboy hurries by,
Humming a recent ditty;
Red streaks strike through the gray of the sky,
The dawn comes to the city.

But I would be on the island of the sea,
In the heart of the island of the sea,
Where the cocks are crowing, crowing, crowing,
And the hens are cackling in the rose-apple tree,
Where the old draft-horse is neighing, neighing,
neighing
Out on the brown dew-silvered lawn,
And the tethered cow is lowing, lowing, lowing,


6a






62 When Dawn Comes to the City
And dear old Ned is braying, braying, braying,
And the shaggy Nannie goat is calling, calling,
calling
From her little trampled corner of the long
wide lea
That stretches to the waters of the hill-stream
falling
Sheer upon the flat rocks joyously
There, oh there on the island of the sea,
There I would be at dawn.












0 WORD I LOVE TO SING


O word I love to sing! thou art too tender
For all the passions agitating me;
For all my bitterness thou art too tender,
I cannot pour my red soul into thee.

O haunting melody thou art too slender,
Too fragile like a globe of crystal glass;
For all my stormy thoughts thou art too slender,
The burden from my bosom will not pass.

0 tender word 0 melody so slender!
O tears of passion saturate with brine,
O words, unwilling words, ye can not render
My hatred for the foe of me and mine.


63












ABSENCE

Your words dropped into my heart like pebbles
into a pool,
Rippling around my breast and leaving it melting
cool.


Your kisses fell sharp on my flesh like dawn-dews
from the limb,
Of a fruit-filled lemon tree when the day is young
and dim.


Like soft rain-christened sunshine, as fragile as
rare gold lace,
Your breath, sweet-scented and warm, has kindled
my tranquil face.


But a silence vasty-deep, oh deeper than all these
ties
Now, through the menacing miles, brooding be-
tween us lies.
64







dbUs c 65
And more than the songs I sing, I await your
written word,
To stir my fluent blood as never your presence
stirred.











SUMMER MORN IN NEW HAMPSHIRE

All yesterday it poured, and all night long
I could not sleep; the rain unceasing beat
Upon the shingled roof like a weird song,
Upon the grass like running children's feet.
And down the mountains by the dark cloud kissed,
Like a strange shape in filmy veiling dressed,
Slid slowly, silently, the wraith-like mist,
And nestled soft against the earth's wet breast

But lo, there was a miracle at dawn!
The still air stirred at touch of the faint breeze,
The sun a sheet of gold bequeathed the lawn,
The songsters twittered in the rustling trees.
And all things were transfigured in the day,
But me whom radiant beauty could not move;
For you, more wonderful, were far away,
And I was blind with hunger for your love.


66












REST IN PEACE


No more for you the city's thorny ways,
The ugly corners of the Negro belt;
The miseries and pains of these harsh days
By you will never, never again be felt.

No more, if still you wander, will you meet
With nights of unabating bitterness;
They cannot reach you in your safe retreat,
The city's hate, the city's prejudice!

'Twas sudden-but your menial task is done,
The dawn now breaks on you, the dark is over,
The sea is crossed, the longed-for port is won;
Farewell, oh, fare you well! my friend and
lover.


67












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.


Your lips betray the secret of your soul,
The dark delicious essence that is you,
A mystery of life, the flaming goal
I seek through mazy pathways strange and new.


Your lips are the red symbol of a dream.
What visions of warm lilies they impart,
That line the green bank of a fair blue stream,
With butterflies and bees close to each heart


Brown bees that murmur sounds of music rare,
That softly fall upon the languorous breeze,
Wafting them gently on the quiet air
Among untended avenues of trees.
68







A Red Flower 69
0 were I hovering, a bee, to probe
Deep down within your scented heart, fair
flower,
Enfolded by your soft vermilion robe,
Amorous of sweets, for but one perfect hour I












COURAGE


0 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?

Your lustrous-warm eyes are too sadly kind
To mask the meaning of your dreamy tale,
Your guarded life too exquisitely frail
Against the daggers of my warring mind.

There is no part of the unyielding earth,
Even bare rocks where the eagles build their
nest,
Will give us undisturbed and friendly rest.
No dewfall softens this vast belt of dearth.

But in the socket-chiseled teeth of strife,
That gleam in serried files in all the lands,
We may join hungry, understanding hands,
And drink our share of ardent love and life.
70












TO O.E.A.
Your voice is the color of a robin's breast,
And there's a sweet sob in it like rain-still
rain in the night.
Among the leaves of the trumpet-tree, close to his
nest,
The pea-dove sings, and each note thrills me
with strange delight
Like the words, wet with music, that well from
your trembling throat
I'm afraid of your eyes, they're so bold,
Searching me through, reading my thoughts,
shining like gold.
But sometimes they are gentle and soft like the
dew on the lips of the eucharis
Before the sun comes warm with his lover's kiss.
You are sea-foam, pure with the star's love-
liness,
Not mortal, a flower, a fairy, too fair for the
beauty-shorn earth.
All wonderful things, al beautiful things, gave of
their wealth to your birth.
y7







72 To O.E.d.
Oh I love you so much, not recking of passion,
that I feel it is wrong
But men will love you, flower, fairy, non-
mortal spirit burdened with flesh,
Forever, life-long.












ROMANCE


To clasp you now and feel your head close-
pressed,
Scented and warm against my beating breast;

To whisper soft and quivering your name,
And drink the passion burning in your frame;

To lie at full length, taut, with cheek to cheek,
And tease your mouth with kisses till you speak

Love words, mad words, dream words, sweet
senseless words,
Melodious like notes of mating birds;

To hear you ask if I shall love always,
And myself answer: Till the end of days;

To feel your easeful sigh of happiness
When on your trembling lips I murmur: Yes;
7S







74 Romance
It is so sweet. We know it is not true.
What matters it? The night must shed her dew.

We know it is not true, but it is sweet-
The poem with this music is complete.











FLOWER OF LOVE


The perfume of your body dulls my sense.
I want nor wine nor weed; your breath alone
Sufices. In this moment rare and tense
I worship at your breast. The flower is blown,
The saffron petals tempt my amorous mouth,
The yellow heart is radiant now with dew
Soft-scented, redolent of my loved South;
0 flower of lovely I give myself to you.
Uncovered on your couch of figured green,
Here let us linger indivisible.
The portals of your sanctuary unseen
Receive my offering, yielding unto me.
Oh, with our love the night is warm and deep!
The air is sweet, my flower, and sweet the flute
Whose music lulls our burning brain to sleep,
While we lie loving, passionate and mute.


75












THE SNOW FAIRY


I
Throughout the afternoon I watched them there,
Snow-fairies falling, falling from the sky,
Whirling fantastic in the misty air,
Contending fierce for space supremacy.
And they flew down a mightier force at night,
As though in heaven there was revolt and riot,
And they, frail things had taken panic flight
Down to the calm earth seeking peace and quiet.
I went to bed and rose at early dawn
To see them huddled together in a heap,
Each merged into the other upon the lawn,
Worn out by the sharp struggle, fast asleep.
The sun shone brightly on them half the day,
By night they stealthily had stol'n away.

II
And suddenly my thoughts then turned to you
Who came to me upon a winter's night,
When snow-sprites round my attic window flew,
76




Full Text

PAGE 3

HARLEM SHADOWS THE POEMS OF CLAUDE McKAY WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY MAX EASTV. NEW YORK HARCOURT, BRACE AND COMPANY

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COPYRIGHT, 1922, BY HARCUURT, BRACE AND COMPANY, INC. PMINTCD IN TM U. A. BY TMK OUINN BOOKN COMPANY AMWAT. N. J.

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A number of these poems appeared in the Seven Arts, Pearson's, The Liberator, The Messenger, and The Cambridge Magazine (England).

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CONTENTS INTRODUCTION OT AUTHOR'S WORD xix THX EASTER FLOWER J TO ONI COMING NORTH 4 AMERICA 6 ALFONSO, DRESSING TO WAIT AT TABLE THE TROPICS IN NEW YORK 8 FLAME HEART Q HOME THOUGHTS // ON BROADWAY 12 THE BARRIER /J ADOLESCENCE 14 HOMING SWALLOWS /5 THE CITY'S LOVE 1 6 NORTH AND SOUTH // WILD MAY l8 THE PLATEAU IQ AFTER THE WINTER 2O THE WILD COAT 21 HARLEM SHADOWS 22 THE WHITE CITY 2J THE SPANISH NEEDLE 24 MY MOTHER 26 IN BONDAGE 28 DECEMBER, IQIQ *? HERITAGE JO WHEN I HAVE PASSED AWAY J/ T

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vi Contents ENSLAVED J2 I SHALL RETURN JJ MORNING JOY 34 AFRICA 35 ON A PRIMITIVE CANOE j6 WINTER IN THE COUNTRY J/ TO WINTER 39 SPRING IN NEW HAMPSHIRE 40 ON THE ROAD 41 THE HARLEM DANCER 42 DAWN IN NEW YORK 43 THE TIRED WORKER 44 OUTCAST 45 I KNOW MY SOUL 46 BIRDS OF PREY 47 THE CASTAWAYS 48 EXHORTATION: SUMMER, 1919 49 THE LYNCHING 5/ BAPTISM 52 IF WE MUST DIE 5J SUBWAY WIND 54 THE NIGHT FIRE 55 POETRY 56 TO A POET 57 A PRAYER 58 WHEN DAWN COMES TO THE CITY 60 O WORD I LOVE TO SING 63 ABSENCE 64 SUMMER MORN IN NEW HAMPSHIRE 66 REST IN PEACE 67 A RED FLOWER 68 COURAGE 70

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Content! vii TO o. E. A. 77 ROMANCE 73 FLOWER OF LOVE 75 THE SNOW FAIRY 76 LA PALOIfA IN LONDON A MEMORY OF JUNE 70 FLIRTATION */ TORMENTED $2 POLARITY *J ONE YEAR AFTER 84 FRENCH LEAVE 86 JASMINES 88 COMMEMORATION 89 MEMORIAL 00 FUTILITY 93 THROUGH AGONY 94

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INTRODUCTION These poems have a special interest for all the races of man because they are sung by a pure blooded Negro. They are the first significant expression of that race in poetry. We tried faithfully to give a position in our literature to Paul Laurence Dunbar. We have excessively welcomed other black poets of minor talent, seeking in their music some distinctive quality other than the fact that they wrote it. But here for the first time we find our literature vividly enriched by a voice from this most alien race among us. And it should be illuminating to observe that while these poems are characteristic of that race as we most admire it they are gentle-simple, candid, brave and friendly, quick of laughter and of tears yet they are still more characteristic of what is deep and universal in mankind. There is no special or exotic kind of merit in them, no quality that demands a transmutation of our own natures to perceive. Just as the sculptures and wood and ivory carvings of ix

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x Introduction the vast forgotten African Empires of Ifc and Benin, although so wistful in their tranquillity, are tranquil in the possession of the qualities of all classic and great art, so these poems, the purest of them, move with a sovereignty that is never new to the lovers of the high music of human utterance. It is the peculiarity of his experience, rather than of his nature, that makes this poet's race a fact to be remembered in the enjoyment of his songs. The subject of all poetry is the experience of the poet, and no man of any other race in the world can touch or imagine the experience of the children of African slaves in America. Claude McKay was born in 1890 in a little thatched house of two rooms in a beautiful valley of the hilly middle-country of Jamaica. He was born to the genial, warm, patient, neighborly farmer's life of that island. It was a life rich in sun and sound and color and emotion, as we can see in his poems which are forever homeward yearning in the midst of their present passion and strong will into the future, forever vividly remembering. Like a blue-bird's note in a March wind, those sudden clear thoughts of

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Introduction \\ the warm South ring out in the midst of his northern songs. They carry a thrill into the depth of our hearts. Perhaps in some sense they are thoughts of a mother. At least it seems inevitable that we should find among them those two sacred sonnets of a child's bereavement. It seems inevitable that a wonderful poet should have had a wise and beautiful mother. We can only distantly imagine how the happy tropic life of play and affection, became shadowed and somber for this sensitive boy as he grew, by a sense of the subjection of his people, and the memory of their bondage to an alien race. Indeed the memory of Claude McKay's family goes back on his mother's side beyond the days of bondage, to a time in Madagascar when they were still free, and by the grace of God still "savage." He learned in early childhood the story of their violent abduction, and how they were freighted over the seas in ships, and sold at public auction in Jamaica. He learned another story, too, which must have kindled a fire that slept in his blood a story of the rebellion of the members of his own family at the auction-block. A death-strike, we should call it

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xii Introduction now for they agreed that if they were divided and sold away into different parts of the country they would all kill themselves. And this fact solemnly announced in the market by the oldest white-haired Negro among them, had such an effect upon prospective buyers that it was impossible to sell them as individuals, and so they were all taken away together to those hills at Clarendon which their descendants still cultivate. With the blood of these rebels in his veins, and their memory to stir it, we cannot wonder that Claude McKay's earliest boyish songs in the Jamaica dialect were full of heresy and the militant love of freedom, and that his first poem of political significance should have been a rally-call to the street-car men on strike in Kingston. He found himself by an instinctive gravitation singing in the forefront of the battle for human liberty. A wider experience and a man's comprehension of the science of history has only strengthened his voice and his resolution. Those early songs and the music he composed for them, were very popular in Jamaica. Claude McKay was quite the literary prince of the island for a time a kind of Robert Burns among his

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own people, as we can imagine, with his physical beauty, his quick sympathy, and the magnetic wayward humor of his ways. He received in 1912 the medal of the Institute of Arts and Sciences in recognition of his preeminence. He was the first Negro to receive this medal, and he was the first poet who ever made 10091 in the quaint haunting dialect of the island. But nevertheless it was not until he came to the United States that Claude McKay began to confront the deepest feelings in his heart, and realize that a delicate syllabic music could not alone express them. Here his imagination awoke, and the colored imagery that is the language of all deep passion began to appear in his poetry. Here too he conceived and felt the history and position of his people with mature poetic force. He knew that his voice belonged not only to his own moods and the general experience of humanity, but to the hopes and sorrows of his race. A great many foolish things are said even by wise people upon the subject of racial inferiority. They seem to think that if science could establish a certain difference of average ability as between the whites and blacks, that would

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xiv Introduction justify them in placing the whole of one of these races in a position of inferior esteem. The same fallacy is committed in the discussions of sexinferiority, and it is worth while to make clear the perfect folly of it. If any denned quantitative difference is ever established between the average abilities of such groups, it will be a relatively slight one. The difficulty of establishing it, is a proof of that. And a slight difference in the general average would have no application whatever as between any two individuals, or any minor groups of individuals. The enormous majority of both races, as of both sexes, would show the same degree of ability. And so great is the factor of individual variation that we could not even be sure an example of the highest ability might not arise in the group whose average was "inferior." This simple consideration of fact and good logic should suffice to silence those who think they can ever appeal to science in support of a general race or sex prejudice. But in so far as the problem arises between a dominant and a subjected race, it is impossible for science to say anything even as to averages. For a fair general test is impossible. The chil-

PAGE 17

7n/ro
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\vi Introduction in the face of a contemptuous or condescending civilization. Claude McKay came to the United States in 1912, having been offered an education here by a friend in Jamaica who believed in his abilities. His intention was to learn scientific farming, and return to the island to offer practical wisdom as well as music to his people. He went at first to one of our established philanthropic institutions for the training of colored people. He stayed there a few months long enough to weary of the almost military system of discipline. And then he went to the Agricultural College of Kansas, where he had learned that a free life and a more elective system of education prevailed. He studied for two years there, thinking continually less about farming and more about literature, and gradually losing away altogether the idea of returning to live in Jamaica. He left the college in 1914, knowing that he was a poet and imagining, I think, that he was a rather irresponsible and wayward character to cast in his lot with the working-class Negroes of the north. Since then he has earned his living in every one of the ways that the northern Negroes do,

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IntroJu XVti from "pot-wrestling" in a boarding-house kitchen to dining
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\viii Introduction itself but with its subject." Poetry with this quality is not for those whose interest is mainly in the manufacture of poems. It will come rather to those whose interest is in the life of things. It is the poetry of life, and not of the poet's chamber. It is the poetry that looks upon a thing, and sings. It is possessed by a feeling and sings. May it find its way a little quietly and softly, in this age of roar and advertising, to the hearts that love a true and unaffected song. MAX EASTMAN.

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AUTHOR'S WORD In putting ideas and feelings into poetry, I have tried in each case to use the medium most adaptable to the specific purpose. I own allegiance to no master. I have never found it possible to accept in entirety any one poet. But I have loved and joyed in what I consider the finest in the poets of all ages. The speech of my childhood and early youth was the Jamaica Negro dialect, the native variant of English, which still preserves a few words of African origin, and which is more difficult of understanding than the American Negro dialect. But the language we wrote and read in school was England's English. Our text books then, before the advent of the American and Jamaican readers and our teachers, too, were all Englishmade. The native teachers of the elementary schools were tutored by men and women of British import. I quite remember making up verses in the dialect and in English for our moonlight ring fa

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xx Author's Word dances and for our school parties. Of our purely native songs the jammas (field and road), shayshays (yard and booth), wakes (post-mortem), Anancy tales (transplanted African folk lore), and revivals (religious) are all singularly punctuated by meter and rhyme. And nearly all my own poetic thought has always run naturally into these regular forms. Consequently, although very conscious of the new criticisms and trends in poetry, to which I am keenly responsive and receptive, I have adhered to such of the older traditions as I find adequate for my most lawless and revolutionary passions and moods. I have not used patterns, images and words that would stamp me a classicist nor a modernist. My intellect is not scientific enough to range me on the side of either; nor is my knowledge wide enough for me to specialize in any school. I have never studied poetics; but the forms I have used I am convinced are the ones I can work in with the highest degree of spontaneity and freedom. I have chosen my melodies and rhythms by instinct, and I have favored words and figures

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Author* Word xxi which flow smoothly and harmoniously into my compositions. And in all my moods I have striven to achieve directness, truthfulness and naturalness of expression instead of an enameled originality. I have not hesitated to use words which are old, and in some circles considered poetically overworked and dead, when I thought I could make them glow alive by new manipulation. Nor have I stinted my senses of the pleasure of using the decorative metaphor where it is more truly and vividly beautiful than the exact phrase. But for me there is more quiet delight in The golden moon of heaven" than in "The terra-cotta disc of cloud-land." Finally, while I have welcomed criticism, friendly and unfriendly, and listened with willing attention to many varying opinions concerning other poems and my own, I have always, in the summing up, fallen back on my own ear and taste as the arbiter. CLAUDE MCKAY.

PAGE 25

HARLEM SHADOWS

PAGE 27

THE EASTER FLOWER Far from this foreign Easter damp and chilly My soul steals to a pear-shaped plot of ground, Where gleamed the lilac-tinted Easter lily Soft-scented in the air for yards around; Alone, without a hint of guardian leaf! Just like a fragile bell of silver rime, It burst the tomb for freedom sweet and brief In the young pregnant year at Eastertime; And many thought it was a sacred sign, And some called it the resurrection flower; And I, a pagan, worshiped at its shrine, Yielding my heart unto its perfumed power.

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TO ONE COMING NORTH At first you'll joy to see the playful snow, Like white moths trembling on the tropic air, Or waters of the hills that softly flow Gracefully falling down a shining stair. And when the fields and streets are covered white And the wind-worried void is chilly, raw, Or underneath a spell of heat and light The cheerless frozen spots begin to thaw, Like me you'll long for home, where birds' glad song Means flowering lanes and leas and spaces dry, And tender thoughts and feelings fine and strong, Beneath a vivid silver-flecked blue sky. 4

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To One Coming North 5 But oh! more than the changeless southern isles, When Spring has shed upon the earth her charm, You'll love the Northland wreathed in golden smiles By the miraculous sun turned glad and warm.

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AMERICA 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! Her vigor flows like tides into my blood, Giving me strength erect against her hate. Her bigness sweeps my being like a flood. Yet as a rebel fronts a king in state, I stand within her walls with not a shred Of terror, malice, not a word of jeer. Darkly I gaze into the days ahead, And see her might and granite wonders there, Beneath the touch of Time's unerring hand, Like priceless treasures sinking in the sand.

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A I 1 ONSO, DRESSING TO WAIT AT TABLE Alfonso is a handsome bronze-hued lad Of subtly-changing and surprising parts; His moods are storms that frighten and make glad, His eyes were made to capture women's hearts. Down in the glory-hole Alfonso sings An olden song of wine and clinking glasses And riotous rakes; magnificently flings Gay kisses to imaginary lasses. Alfonso's voice of mellow music thrills Our swaying forms and steals our hearts with joy; And when he soars, his fine falsetto trills Are rarest notes of gold without alloy. But, O Alfonso! wherefore do you sing Dream-songs of carefree men and ancient places? Soon we shall be beset by clamouring Of hungry and importunate palefaces. 7

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THE TROPICS IN NEW YORK Bananas ripe and green, and ginger-root, Cocoa in pods and alligator pears, And tangerines and mangoes and grape fruit, Fit for the highest prize at parish fairs, Set in the window, bringing memories Of fruit-trees laden by low-singing rills, And dewy dawns, and mystical blue skies In benediction over nun-like hills. My eyes grew dim, and I could no more gaze; A wave of longing through my body swept, And, hungry for the old, familiar ways, I turned aside and bowed my head and wept.

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FLAME-HEART 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. I have forgot the special, startling season Of the pimento's flowering and fruiting; What time of year the ground doves brown the fields And fill the noonday with their curious fluting. I have forgotten much, but still remember The poinsettia's red, blood-red in warm December. I still recall the honeyfever grass, But cannot recollect the high days when We rooted them out of the ping-wing path To stop the mad bees in the rabbit pen. I often try to think in what sweet month The languid painted ladies used to dapple The yellow by-road mazing from the main, Sweet with the golden threads of the rose-apple. I have forgotten strange but quite remember The poinsettia's red, blood-red in warm December. 9

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io Flame-Heart What weeks, what months, what time of the mild year We cheated school to have our fling at tops? What days our wine-thrilled bodies pulsed with joy Feasting upon blackberries in the copse? Oh some I know! I have embalmed the days, Even the sacred moments when we played, All innocent of passion, uncorrupt, At noon and evening in the flame-heart's shade. We were so happy, happy, I remember, Beneath the poinsettia's red in warm December.

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HOMF. THOUGHTS Oh something just now must be happening there! That suddenly and quiveringly here, Amid the city's noises, I must think Of mangoes leaning o'er the river's brink, And dexterous Davie climbing high above, The gold fruits ebon-speckled to remove, And toss them quickly in the tangled mass Of wis-wis twisted round the guinea grass; And Cyril coming through the bramble-track A prize bunch of bananas on his back; And Georgie none could ever dive like him Throwing his scanty clothes off for a swim; And schoolboys, from Bridge-tunnel going home, Watching the waters downward dash and foam. This is no daytime dream, there's something in it, Oh something's happening there this very minute!

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ON BROADWAY About me young and careless feet Linger along the garish street; Above, a hundred shouting signs Shed down their bright fantastic glow Upon the merry crowd and lines Of moving carriages below. Oh wonderful is Broadway only My heart, my heart is lonely. Desire naked, linked with Passion, Goes strutting by in brazen fashion; From playhouse, cabaret and inn The rainbow lights of Broadway blaze All gay without, all glad within; As in a dream I stand and gaze At Broadway, shining Broadway only My heart, my heart is lonely.

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THE BARRIER I must not gaze at than although Your eyes are dawning day; I must not watch you as you go Your sun-illumined way; I hear but I must never heed The fascinating note, Which, fluting like a river reed, Comes from your trembling throat; I must not see upon your face Love's softly glowing spark; For there's the barrier of race, You're fair and I am dark.

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ADOLESCENCE There was a time when in late afternoon The four-o'clocks would fold up at day's close Pink-white in prayer, and 'neath the floating moon I lay with them in calm and sweet repose. And in the open spaces I could sleep, Half-naked to the shining worlds above; Peace came with sleep and sleep was long and deep, Gained without effort, sweet like early love. But now no balm nor drug nor weed nor wine Can bring true rest to cool my body's fever, Nor sweeten in my mouth the acid brine, That salts my choicest drink and will forever.

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HOMING SWALLOWS Swift swallows sailing from the Spanish main, O rain-birds racing merrily away From hill-tops parched with heat and sultry plain Of wilting plants and fainting flowers, say When at the noon-hour from the chapel school The children dash and scamper down the dale, Scornful of teacher's rod and binding rule Forever broken and without avail, Do they still stop beneath the giant tree To gather locusts in their childish greed, And chuckle when they break the pods to see The golden powder clustered round the seed?

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THE CITY'S LOVE For one brief golden moment rare like wine, The gracious city swept across the line; Oblivious of the color of my skin, Forgetting that I was an alien guest, She bent to me, my hostile heart to win, Caught me in passion to her pillowy breast; The great, proud city, seized with a strange love, Bowed down for one flame hour my pride to prove. 16

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NORTH AND SOUTH O sweet are tropic lands for waking dreams I There time and life move lazily along. There by the banks of blue-and-silver streams Grass-sheltered crickets chirp incessant song, Gay-colored lizards loll all through the day, Their tongues outstretched for careless little flies, And swarthy children in the fields at play, Look upward laughing at the smiling skies. A breath of idleness is in the air That casts a subtle spell upon all things, And love and mating-time are everywhere, And wonder to life's commonplaces clings. The fluttering humming-bird darts through the trees And dips his long beak in the big bell-flowers, The leisured buzzard floats upon the breeze, Riding a crescent cloud for endless hours, The sea beats softly on the emerald strands O sweet for quiet dreams are tropic lands 1

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WILD MAY Aleta mentions in her tender letters, Among a chain of quaint and touching things, That you are feeble, weighted down with fetters, And given to strange deeds and mutterings. No longer without trace or thought of fear, Do you leap to and ride the rebel roan; But have become the victim of grim care, With three brown beauties to support alone. But none the less will you be in my mind, Wild May that cantered by the risky ways, With showy head-cloth flirting in the wind, From market in the glad December days; Wild May of whom even other girls could rave Before sex tamed your spirit, made you slave.

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THE PLATFAU It was the silver, heart-enveloping view Of the mysterious sea-line far away, Seen only on a gleaming gold-white day, That made it dear and beautiful to you. And Laura loved it for the little hill, Where the quartz sparkled fire, barren and dun, Whence in the shadow of the dying sun, She contemplated Hallow's wooden mill. While Danny liked the sheltering high grass, In which he lay upon a clear dry night, To hear and see, screened skilfully from sight, The happy lovers of the valley pass. But oh! I loved it for the big round moon That swung out of the clouds and swooned aloft, Burning with passion, gloriously soft, Lighting the purple flowers of fragrant June.

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AFTER THE WINTER Some day, when trees have shed their leaves And against the morning's white The shivering birds beneath the eaves Have sheltered for the night, We'll turn our faces southward, love, Toward the summer isle Where bamboos spire to shafted grove And wide-mouthed orchids smile. And we will seek the quiet hill Where towers the cotton tree, And leaps the laughing crystal rill, And works the droning bee. And we will build a cottage there Beside an open glade, With black-ribbed blue-bells blowing near, And ferns that never fade.

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THE WILD GOAT O you would clothe me in silken frocks And house me from the cold, And bind with bright bands my glossy locks, And bay me chains of gold; And give me meekly to do my will The hapless sons of men:But the wild goat bounding on the barren hill Droops in the grassy pen.

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HARLEM SHADOWS 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. Ah, little dark girls who in slippered feet Go prowling through the night from street to street! Through the long night until the silver break Of day the little gray feet know no rest; Through the lone night until the last snow-flake Has dropped from heaven upon the earth's white breast, The dusky, half-clad girls of tired feet Are trudging, thinly shod, from street to street. Ah, stern harsh world, that in the wretched way Of poverty, dishonor and disgrace, Has pushed the timid little feet of clay, The sacred brown feet of my fallen race! Ah, heart of me, the weary, weary feet In Harlem wandering from street to street. aa

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THF WHITE CITY I will not toy with it nor bend an inch. Deep in the secret chambers of my bean I muse my life-long hate, and without flinch I bear it nobly as I live my part My being would be a skeleton, a shell, If this dark Passion that fills my every mood, And makes my heaven in the white world's hell, Did not forever feed me vital blood. I see the mighty city through a mist The strident trains that speed the goaded mass, The poles and spires and towers vapor-kissed, The fortressed port through which the great ships pass, The tides, the wharves, the dens I contemplate, Are sweet like wanton loves because I hate.

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THE SPANISH NEEDLE Lovely dainty Spanish needle With your yellow flower and white, Dew bedecked and softly sleeping, Do you think of me to-night? Shadowed by the spreading mango, Nodding o'er the rippling stream, Tell me, dear plant of my childhood, Do you of the exile dream? Do you see me by the brook's side Catching crayfish 'neath the stone, As you did the day you whispered: Leave the harmless dears alone? Do you see me in the meadow Coming from the woodland spring With a bamboo on my shoulder And a pail slung from a string?

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Tkt Spcniik NffJIt 25 Do you see roe all expectant Lying in an orange grove, While the succ-twcea sing above roe, Waiting for my elf-eyed love? Lovely dainty Spanish needle, Source to me of sweet delight, In your far-off sunny southland Do you dream of me to-night?

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MY MOTHER I Reg wished me to go with him to the field, I paused because I did not want to go; But in her quiet way she made me yield Reluctantly, for she was breathing low. Her hand she slowly lifted from her lap And, smiling sadly in the old sweet way, She pointed to the nail where hung my cap. Her eyes said: I shall last another day. But scarcely had we reached the distant place, When o'er the hills we heard a faint bell ringing; A boy came running up with frightened face; We knew the fatal news that he was bringing. I heard him listlessly, without a moan, Although the only one I loved was gone. II The dawn departs, the morning is begun, The trades come whispering from off the seas, The fields of corn are golden in the sun, 26

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My Motktr 27 The dark-brown tassels fluttering in the breeze; The bell is sounding and the children put, Frog-leaping, skipping, shouting, laughing shrill, Down the red road, over the pasture-grass, Up to the school-house crumbling on the hill. The older folk are at their peaceful toil, Some pulling up the weeds, some plucking corn, And others breaking up the sun-baked soil. Float, faintly-scented breeze, at early morn Over the earth where mortals sow and reapBeneath its breast my mother lies asleep.

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IN BONDAGE I would be wandering in distant fields Where man, and bird, and beast, lives leisurely, And the old earth is kind, and ever yields Her goodly gifts to all her children free; Where life is fairer, lighter, less demanding, And boys and girls have time and space for play Before they come to years of understanding Somewhere I would be singing, far away. For life is greater than the thousand wars Men wage for it in their insatiate lust, And will remain like the eternal stars, When all that shines to-day is drift and dust But I am bound with you in your mean graves, O black men, simple slaves of ruthless slaves.

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DECEMBER, 1919 Last night I heard your voice, mother, The words you sang to me When I, a little barefoot boy, Knelt down against your knee. And tears gushed from my heart, mother, And passed beyond its wall, But though the fountain reached my throat The drops refused to fall. Tis ten years since you died, mother, Just ten dark years of pain, And oh, I only wish that I Could weep just once again.

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HERITAGE Now the dead past seems vividly alive, And in this shining moment I can trace, Down through the vista of the vanished years, Your faun-like form, your fond elusive face. And suddenly some secret spring's released, And unawares a riddle is revealed, And I can read like large, black-lettered print, What seemed before a thing forever sealed. I know the magic word, the graceful thought, The song that fills me in my lucid hours, The spirit's wine that thrills my body through, And makes me music-drunk, are yours, all yours. I cannot praise, for you have passed from praise, I have no tinted thoughts to paint you true; But I can feel and I can write the word; The best of me is but the least of you. 30

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WHEN I HAVE PASSED AWAY When I have passed away and am forgotten, And no one living can recall my face, When under alien sod my bones lie rotten h not a tree or stone to mark the place; Perchance a pensive youth, with passion burning, For olden verse that smacks of love and wine, The musty pages of old volumes turning, May light upon a little song of mine, And he may softly hum the tune and wonder Who wrote the verses in the long ago; Or he may sit him down awhile to ponder Upon the sample words that touch him so.

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ENSLAVED 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; And in the Black Land disinherited, Robbed in the ancient country of its birth, My heart grows sick with hate, becomes as lead, For this my race that has no home on earth. Then from the dark depths of my soul I cry To the avenging angel to consume The white man's world of wonders utterly: Let it be swallowed up in earth's vast womb, Or upward roll as sacrificial smoke To liberate my people from its yoke!

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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 shall return to loiter by the streams That bathe the brown blades of the bending And realize once more my thousand dreams Of waters rushing down the mountain passes. I shall return to hear the fiddle and fife Of village dances, dear delicious tunes That stir the hidden depths of native life, Stray melodies of dim remembered nines. I shall return, I shall return again, To ease my mind of long, long years of pain.

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MORNING JOY At night the wide and level stretch of wold, Which at high noon had basked in quiet gold, Far as the eye could see was ghostly white; Dark was the night save for the snow's weird light. I drew the shades far down, crept into bed; Hearing the cold wind moaning overhead Through the sad pines, my soul, catching its pain, Went sorrowing with it across the plain. At dawn, behold! the pall of night was gone, Save where a few shrubs melancholy, lone, Detained a fragile shadow. Golden-lipped The laughing grasses heaven's sweet wine sipped. The sun rose smiling o'er the river's breast, And my soul, by his happy spirit blest, Soared like a bird to greet him in the sky, And drew out of his heart Eternity, 34

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AFRICA The sun sought thy dim bed and brought forth light, The sciences were suckling* at thy breast; When all the world was young in pregnant night Thy slaves toiled at thy monumental belt Thou ancient treasure-land, thou modern prize, New peoples marvel at thy pyramids! The years roll on, thy sphinx of riddle eyes Watches the mad world with immobile lids. The Hebrews humbled them at Pharaoh's name. Cradle of Power! Yet all things were in vain! Honor and Glory, Arrogance and Fame! They went The darkness swallowed thee again. Thou art the harlot, now thy time is done, Of all the mighty nations of the sun.

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ON A PRIMITIVE CANOE Here, passing lonely down this quiet lane, Before a mud-splashed window long I pause To gaze and gaze, while through my active brain Still thoughts are stirred to wakefulness; because Long, long ago in a dim unknown land, A massive forest-tree, ax-felled, adze-hewn, Was deftly done by cunning mortal hand Into a symbol of the tender moon. Why does it thrill more than the handsome boat That bore me o'er the wild Atlantic ways, And fill me with rare sense of things remote From this harsh life of fretful nights and days? I cannot answer but, whatever it be, An old wine has intoxicated me.

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WINTER IN THE COUNTRY Sweet life! bow lovely to be here And feel the soft sea-laden breeze Strike my flushed face, the spruce's fair Free limbs to see, the lesser trees' Bare hands to touch, the sparrow's cheep To heed, and watch his nimble flight Above the short brown grass asleep. Love glorious in his friendly might, Music that every heart could bless, And thoughts of life serene, divine, Beyond my power to express, Crowd round this lifted heart of mine! But oh! to leave this paradise For the city's dirty basement room, Where, beauty hidden from the eyes, A table, bed, bureau and broom S7

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38 Winter in the Country In corner set, two crippled chairs All covered up with dust and grim With hideousness and scars of years, And gaslight burning weird and dim, Will welcome me ... And yet, and yet This very wind, the winter birds, The glory of the soft sunset, Come there to me in words.

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TO WINTER Stay, season of calm love and soulful snows! There is a subtle sweetness in the sun, The ripples on the stream's breast gaily run, The wind more boisterously by me blows, And each succeeding day now longer grows. The birds a gladder music have begun, The squirrel, full of mischief and of fun, From maples' topmost branch the brown twig throws. I read these pregnant signs, know what they nn-an: I know that thou art making ready to go. Oh stay! I fled a land where fields are green Always, and palms wave gently to and fro, And winds are balmy, blue brooks ever sheen, To ease my heart of its impassioned woe.

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SPRING IN NEW HAMPSHIRE (To J. L. J. F. E.) Too green the springing April grass, Too blue the silver-speckled sky, For me to linger here, alas, While happy winds go laughing by, Wasting the golden hours indoors, Washing windows and scrubbing floors. Too wonderful the April night, Too faintly sweet the first May flowers, The stars too gloriously bright, For me to spend the evening hours, When fields are fresh and streams are leaping, Wearied, exhausted, dully sleeping.

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ON THE ROAD Roar of the rushing train fearfully rocking, Impatient people jammed in line for food, The rasping noise of cars together knocking, And worried waiters, some in ugly mood, Crowding into the choking pantry hole To call out dishes for each angry glutton Exasperated grown beyond control, From waiting for his soup or fish or mutton. At last the station's reached, the engine stops; For bags and wraps the red-caps circle round; From off the step the passenger lightly hops, And seeks his cab or tram-car homeward bound; The waiters pass out weary, listless, glum, To spend their tips on harlots, cards and rum.

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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. She sang and danced on gracefully and calm, The light gauze hanging loose about her form; To me she seemed a proudly-swaying palm Grown lovelier for passing through a storm. Upon her swarthy neck black shiny curls Luxuriant fell; and tossing coins in praise, The wine-flushed, bold-eyed boys, and even the girls, Devoured her shape with eager, passionate gaze; But looking at her falsely-smiling face, I knew her self was not in that strange place.

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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. Almost the mighty city is asleep, No pushing crowd, no tramping, tramping feet. But here and there a few cars groaning creep Along, above, and underneath the street, Bearing their strangely-ghostly burdens by, The women and the men of garish nights, Their eyes wine-weakened and their clothes awry, Grotesques beneath the strong electric lights. The shadows wane. The Dawn comes to New York. And I go darkly-rebel to my work.

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THE TIRED WORKER O whisper, O my soul! The afternoon Is waning into evening, whisper soft! Peace, O my rebel heart! for soon the moon From out its misty veil will swing aloft! Be patient, weary body, soon the night Will wrap thee gently in her sable sheet, And with a leaden sigh thou wilt invite To rest thy tired hands and aching feet. The wretched day was theirs, the night is mine; Come tender sleep, and fold me to thy breast. But what steals out the gray clouds red like wine? O dawn! O dreaded dawn! O let me rest Weary my veins, my brain, my life! Have pity! No! Once again the harsh, the ugly city.

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OUTCAST For the dim regions whence my fathers came My spirit, bondaged by the body, longs. Words felt, but never heard, my lips would frame; My soul would sing forgotten jungle songs. I would go back to darkness and to peace, But the great western world holds me in fee, And I may never hope for full release While to its alien gods I bend my knee. Something in me is lost, forever lost, Some vital thing has gone out of my heart, And I must walk the way of life a ghost Among the sons of earth, a thing apart; For I was born, far from my native clime. Under the white man's menace, out of time. 45

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I KNOW MY SOUL I plucked my soul out of its secret place, And held it to the mirror of my eye, To see it like a star against the sky, A twitching body quivering in space, A spark of passion shining on my face. And I explored it to determine why This awful key to my infinity Conspires to rob me of sweet joy and grace. And if the sign may not be fully read, If I can comprehend but not control, I need not gloom my days with futile dread, Because I see a part and not the whole. Contemplating the strange, I'm comforted By this narcotic thought: I know my soul.

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BIRDS OF PREY Their shadow dims the sunshine of our day, As they go lumbering across the sky, Squawking in joy of feeling safe on high, Beating their heavy wings of owlish gray. They scare the singing birds of earth away As, greed-impelled, they circle threateningly, Watching the toilers with malignant eye, From their exclusive haven birds of prey. They swoop down for the spoil in certain might, And fasten in our bleeding flesh their claws. They beat us to surrender weak with fright, And tugging and tearing without let or pause, They flap their hideous wings in grim delight, And stuff our gory hearts into their maws. 47

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THE CASTAWAYS The vivid grass with visible delight Springing triumphant from the pregnant earth, The butterflies, and sparrows in brief flight Chirping and dancing for the season's birth, The dandelions and rare daffodils That touch the deep-stirred heart with hands of gold, The thrushes sending forth their joyous trills, Not these, not these did I at first behold! But seated on the benches daubed with green, The castaways of life, a few asleep, Some withered women desolate and mean, And over all, life's shadows dark and deep. Moaning I turned away, for misery I have the strength to bear but not to see.

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EXHORTATION: SUMMER, 1919 Through the pregnant universe rumbles life's terrific thunder, And Earth's bowels quake with terror; strange and terrible storms break, Lightning-torches flame the heavens, kindling souls of men, thereunder: Africa! long ages sleeping, O my motherland, awake! In the East the clouds glow crimson with the new dawn that is breaking, And its golden glory fills the western skies. O my brothers and my sisters, wake! arise! For the new birth rends the old earth and the very dead are waking, Ghosts are turned flesh, throwing off the give's disguise, And the foolish, even children, are made wise; For the big earth groans in travail for the strong, new world in making 49

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5O Exhortation: Summer, O my brothers, dreaming for dim centuries, Wake from sleeping; to the East turn, turn your eyes! Oh the night is sweet for sleeping, but the shining day's for working; Sons of the seductive night, for your children's children's sake, From the deep primeval forests where the crouching leopard's lurking, Lift your heavy-lidded eyes, Ethiopia! awake! In the East the clouds glow crimson with the new dawn that is breaking, And its golden glory fills the western skies. O my brothers and my sisters, wake! arise! For the new birth rends the old earth and the very dead are waking, Ghosts are turned flesh, throwing off the grave's disguise, And the foolish, even children, are made wise; For the big earth groans in travail for the strong, new world in making O my brothers, dreaming for long centuries, Wake from sleeping; to the East turn, turn your eyes!

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TillHis Spirit in smoke ascended to high heaven. His father, by the crudest way of pain, Had bidden him to his bosom once again; The awful sin remained still un forgiven. All night a bright and solitary stir (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, lynchcrs that were to be, Danced round the dreadful thing in fiendish glee.

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BAPTISM Into the furnace let me go alone; Stay you without in terror of the heat. I will go naked in for thus 'tis sweet Into the weird depths of the hottest zone. I will not quiver in the frailest bone, You will not note a flicker of defeat; My heart shall tremble not its fate to meet, My mouth give utterance to any moan. The yawning oven spits forth fiery spears; Red aspish tongues shout wordlessly my name. Desire destroys, consumes my mortal fears, Transforming me into a shape of flame. I will come out, back to your world of tears, A stronger soul within a finer frame.

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IF \Vi I' DIK 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 I Though far outnumbered let us show us brave, And for their thousand blows deal one deathblow 1 What though before us lies the open grave? Like men well face the murderous, cowardly pack, Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back! 53

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SUBWAY WIND Far down, down through the city's great, gaunt gut The gray train rushing bears the weary wind; In the packed cars the fans the crowd's breath cut, Leaving the sick and heavy air behind. And pale-cheeked children seek the upper door To give their summer jackets to the breeze; Their laugh is swallowed in the deafening roar Of captive wind that moans for fields and seas; Seas cooling warm where native schooners drift Through sleepy waters, while gulls wheel and sweep, Waiting for windy waves the keels to lift Lightly among the islands of the deep; Islands of lofty palm trees blooming white That lend their perfume to the tropic sea, Where fields lie idle in the dew drenched night, And the Trades float above them fresh and free. 54

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THE NIGHT FIRE No engines shrieking rescue storm the night, And hose and hydrant cannot here avail; The flames laugh high and fling their challenging And clouds turn gray and black from silver-pale. The fire leaps out and licks the ancient walls, And the big building bends and twists and groans. A bar drops from its place; a rafter falls Burning the flowers. The wind in frenzy moans. The watchers gaze, held wondering by the fire, The dwellers cry their sorrow to the crowd, The flames beyond themselves rise higher, higher, To lose their glory in the frowning cloud, Yielding at length the last reluctant breath. And where life lay asleep broods darkly death. 55

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POETRY Sometimes I tremble like a storm-swept flower, And seek to hide my tortured soul from thee. Bowing my head in deep humility Before the silent thunder of thy power. Sometimes I flee before thy blazing light, As from the specter of pursuing death; Intimidated lest thy mighty breath, Windways, will sweep me into utter night. For oh, I fear they will be swallowed up The loves which are to me of vital worth, My passion and my pleasure in the earth And lost forever in thy magic cup! I fear, I fear my truly human heart Will perish on the altar-stone of art!

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TO A POET There is a lovely noise about your name, Above the shoutings of the city clear, More than a moment's merriment, whose claim Will greater grow with every mellowed year. The people will not bear you down the street, Dancing to the strong rhythm of your words, The modern kings will throttle you to greet The piping voice of artificial birds. But the rare lonely spirits, even mine, Who love the immortal music of all days, Will see the glory of your trailing line, The bedded beauty of your haunting lays.

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A PRAYER 'Mid the discordant noises of the day I hear thee calling; I stumble as I fare along Earth's way; keep me from falling. Mine eyes are open but they cannot see for gloom of night; I can no more than lift my heart to thee for inward light. The wild and fiery passion of my youth consumes my soul; In agony I turn to thee for truth and self-control. For Passion and all the pleasures it can give will die the death; But this of me eternally must live, thy borrowed breath.

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A Prayer 59 "Mid the discordant noises of the day I bear thee calling; I stumble as I fare along Earth's way; keep me from falling.

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WHEN DAWN COMES TO THE CITY The tired cars go grumbling by, The moaning, groaning cars, And the old milk carts go rumbling by Under the same dull stars. Out of the tenements, cold as stone, Dark figures start for work; I watch them sadly shuffle on, Tis dawn, dawn in New York. But I would be on the island of the sea, In the heart of the island of the sea, Where the cocks are crowing, crowing, crowing, And the hens are cackling in the rose-apple tree, Where the old draft-horse is neighing, neighing, neighing Out on the brown dew-silvered lawn, And the tethered cow is lowing, lowing, lowing, And dear old Ned is braying, braying, braying, And the shaggy Nannie goat is calling, calling, calling 60

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When Dawn Comet to tkt City 6l From her little trampled corner of the long wide lea That stretches to the waters of the hill-stream falling Sheer upon the flat rocks joyously! There, oh there! on the island of the sea, There I would be at dawn. The tired cars go grumbling by, The crazy, lazy cars, And the same milk carts go rumbling by Under the dying stars. A lonely newsboy hurries by, Humming a recent ditty; Red streaks strike through the gray of the sky, The dawn comes to the city. But I would be on the island of the sea, In the heart of the island of the sea, Where the cocks are crowing, crowing, crowing, And the hens are cackling in the rose-apple tree, Where the old draft-horse is neighing, neighing, neighing Out on the brown dew-silvered lawn, And the tethered cow is lowing, lowing, lowing,

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62 When Dawn Comes to the City And dear old Ned is braying, braying, braying, And the shaggy Nannie goat is calling, calling, calling From her little trampled corner of the long wide lea That stretches to the waters of the hill-stream falling Sheer upon the flat rocks joyously! There, oh there! on the island of the sea, There I would be at dawn.

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O WORD I LOVE TO SING O word I love to sing! thou art too tender For all the passions agitating me; For all my bitterness thou art too tender, I cannot pour my red soul into thee. O haunting melody! thou art too slender, Too fragile like a globe of crystal glass; For all my stormy thoughts thou art too slender, The burden from my bosom will not pass. O tender word! O melody so slender! O tears of passion saturate with brine, O words, unwilling words, ye can not render My hatred for the foe of me and mine.

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ABSENCE Your words dropped into my heart like pebbles into a pool, Rippling around my breast and leaving it melting cool. Your kisses fell sharp on my flesh like dawn-dews from the limb, Of a fruit-filled lemon tree when the day is young and dim. Like soft rain-christened sunshine, as fragile as rare gold lace, Your breath, sweet-scented and warm, has kindled my tranquil face. But a silence vasty-deep, oh deeper than all these ties Now, through the menacing miles, brooding between us lies. 6 4

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Absence 65 And more than the songs I sing, I await your written word, To stir my fluent blood as never your presence stirred

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SUMMER MORN IN NEW HAMPSHIRE All yesterday it poured, and all night long I could not sleep; the rain unceasing beat Upon the shingled roof like a weird song, Upon the grass like running children's feet. And down the mountains by the dark cloud kissed, Like a strange shape in filmy veiling dressed, Slid slowly, silently, the wraith-like mist, And nestled soft against the earth's wet breast. But lo, there was a miracle at dawn! The still air stirred at touch of the faint breeze, The sun a sheet of gold bequeathed the lawn, The songsters twittered in the rustling trees. And all things were transfigured in the day, But me whom radiant beauty could not move; For you, more wonderful, were far away, And I was blind with hunger for your love. 66

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REST IN PEACE No more for you the city's thorny ways. The ugly corners of the Negro belt; The miseries and pains of these harsh days By you will never, never again be felt. No more, if still you wander, will you meet With nights of unabating bitterness; They cannot reach you in your safe retreat, The city's hate, the city's prejudice! Twas sudden but your menial task is done, The dawn now breaks on you, the dark is over, The sea is crossed, the longed-for port is won; Farewell, oh, fare you well! my friend and lover.

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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. Your lips betray the secret of your soul, The dark delicious essence that is you, A mystery of life, the flaming goal I seek through mazy pathways strange and new. Your lips are the red symbol of a dream. What visions of warm lilies they impart, That line the green bank of a fair blue stream, With butterflies and bees close to each heart! Brown bees that murmur sounds of music rare, That softly fall upon the languorous breeze, Wafting them gently on the quiet air Among untended avenues of trees. 68

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A Red Flower 69 O were I hovering, a bee, to probe Deep down within your scented heart, fair flower, Enfolded by your soft vermilion robe, Amorous of sweets, for but one perfect hour!

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COURAGE 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? Your lustrous-warm eyes are too sadly kind To mask the meaning of your dreamy tale, Your guarded life too exquisitely frail Against the daggers of my warring mind. There is no part of the unyielding earth, Even bare rocks where the eagles build their nest, Will give us undisturbed and friendly rest. No dewfall softens this vast belt of dearth. But in the socket-chiseled teeth of strife, That gleam in serried files in all the lands, We may join hungry, understanding hands, And drink our share of ardent love and life. 70

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TO O.E.A. Your voice is the color of a robin's breast, And there's a sweet sob in it like rain still rain in the night. Among the leaves of the trumpet-tree, close to his nest, The pea-dove sings, and each note thrills me with strange delight Like the words, wet with music, that well from your trembling throat. I'm afraid of your eyes, they're so bold, Searching me through, reading my thoughts, shining like gold. But sometimes they are gentle and soft like the dew on the lips of the eucharis Before the sun comes warm with his lover's kiss. You are sea-foam, pure with the star's loveliness, Not mortal, a flower, a fairy, too fair for the beauty-shorn earth. All wonderful things, all beautiful things, gave of their wealth to your birth.

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72 To O.E.A. Oh I love you so much, not recking of passion, that I feel it is wrong! But men will love you, flower, fairy, nonmortal spirit burdened with flesh, Forever, life-long.

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ROMANCE To clasp you now and feel your head closepressed, Scented and warm against my beating breast; To whisper soft and quivering your name, And drink the passion burning in your frame; To lie at full length, taut, with cheek to cheek, And tease your mouth with kisses till you speak Love words, mad words, dream words, sweet senseless words, Melodious like notes of mating birds; To hear you ask if I shall love always, And myself answer: Till the end of days; To feel your easeful sigh of happiness When on your trembling lips I murmur: Yes; 7$

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74 Romance It is so sweet. We know it is not true. What matters it? The night must shed her dew. We know it is not true, but it is sweet The poem with this music is complete.

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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, The saffron petals tempt my amorous mouth, The yellow heart is radiant now with dew Soft-scented, redolent of my loved South; O flower of love! I give myself to you. Uncovered on your couch of figured green, Here let us linger indivisible. The portals of your sanctuary unseen Receive my offering, yielding unto me. Oh, with our love the night is warm and deepl The air is sweet, my flower, and sweet the flute Whose music lulls our burning brain to sleep, While we lie loving, passionate and mute. 75

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THE SNOW FAIRY I Throughout the afternoon I watched them there, Snow-fairies falling, falling from the sky, Whirling fantastic in the misty air, Contending fierce for space supremacy. And they flew down a mightier force at night, As though in heaven there was revolt and riot, And they, frail things had taken panic flight Down to the calm earth seeking peace and quiet. I went to bed and rose at early dawn To see them huddled together in a heap, Each merged into the other upon the lawn, Worn out by the sharp struggle, fast asleep. The sun shone brightly on them half the day, By night they stealthily had stoFn away. II And suddenly my thoughts then turned to you Who came to me upon a winter's night, When snow-sprites round my attic window flew, 76

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Tk* Snow Fmn 77 Your hair disheveled, eyes aglow with Ught. My heart was like the weather when you came, The wanton winds were blowing loud and long; But you, with joy and passion all aflame, You danced and sang a lilting summer song. I made room for you in my little bed, Took covers from the closet fresh and warm, A downful pillow for your scented head, And lay down with you resting in my arm. You went with Dawn. You left me ere the day, The lonely actor of a dreamy play.

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LA PALOMA IN LONDON About Soho we went before the light; We went, unresting six, craving new fun, New scenes, new raptures, for the fevered night Of rollicking laughter, drink and song, was done. The vault was void, but for the dawn's great star That shed upon our path its silver flame, When La Paloma on a low guitar Abruptly from a darkened casement came Harlem! All else shut out, I saw the hall, And you in your red shoulder sash come dancing With Val against me languid by the wall, Your burning coffee-colored eyes keen glancing Aslant at mine, proud in your golden glory! I loved you, Cuban girl, fond sweet Diory.

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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, I always see the evening when we met The first of June baptized in tender rain And walked home through the wide streets, gleaming wet, Arms locked, our warm flesh pulsing with love's pain. I always see the cheerful little room, And in the corner, fresh and white, the bed, Sweet scented with a delicate perfume, Wherein for one night only we were wed; Where in the starlit stillness we lay mute, And heard the whispering showers all night long, And your brown burning body was a lute Whereon my passion played his fevered song. 79

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8o A Memory of June When June comes dancing o'er the death of May, With scarlet roses staining her fair feet, My soul takes leave of me to sing all day A love so fugitive and so complete.

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FLIRTATION Upon thy purple mat thy body bare Is fine and limber like a tender tree. The motion of thy supple form is rare, Like a lithe panther lolling languidly, Toying and turning slowly in her lair. Oh, I would never ask for more of thee, Thou art so clean in passion and so fair. Enough! if thou wilt ask no more of me!

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TORMENTED I will not reason, wrestle here with you, Though you pursue and worry me about; As well put forth my swarthy arm to stop The wild wind howling, darkly mad without. The night is yours for revels; day will light. I will not fight you, bold and tigerish, For I am weak, while you are gaining strength; Peace! cease tormenting me to have your wish. But when you're filled and sated with the flesh, I shall go swiftly to the silver stream, To cleanse my body for the spirit's sake, And sun my limbs, and close my eyes to dream.

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POLARITY Nay, why reproach each other, be unkind, For there's no plane on which we two may meet? Let's both forgive, forget, for both were blind, And life is of a day, and time is fleet. And I am fire, swift to flame and burn, Melting with elements high overhead, While you are water in an earthly urn, All pure, but heavy, and of hue like lead.

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ONE YEAR AFTER I Not once in all our days of poignant love, Did I a single instant give to thee My undivided being wholly free. Not all thy potent passion could remove The barrier that loomed between to prove The full supreme surrendering of me. Oh, I was beaten, helpless utterly Against the shadow-fact with which I strove. For when a cruel power forced me to face The truth which poisoned our illicit wine, That even I was faithless to my race Bleeding beneath the iron hand of thine, Our union seemed a monstrous thing and base! I was an outcast from thy world and mine. II Adventure-seasoned and storm-buffeted, I shun all signs of anchorage, because The zest of life exceeds the bound of laws.

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Ont Ytar Jftrr 85 New gales of tropic fury round my head Break lashing me through hours of soulful dread; But when the terror thins and, spent, withdraws, Leaving me wondering awhile, I pauseBut soon again the risky ways I tread 1 No rigid road for me, no peace, no rest, While molten elements run through my blood; And beauty-burning bodies manifest Their warm, heart-melting motions to be wooed; And passion boldly rising in my breast, Like rivers of the Spring, lets loose its flood.

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FRENCH LEAVE No servile little fear shall daunt my will This morning. I have courage steeled to say I will be lazy, conqueringly still, I will not lose the hours in toil this day. The roaring world without, careless of souls, Shall leave me to my placid dream of rest, My four walls shield me from its shouting ghouls, And all its hates have fled my quiet breast. And I will loll here resting, wide awake, Dead to the world of work, the world of love, I laze contented just for dreaming's sake With not the slightest urge to think or move. How tired unto death, how tired I was! Now for a day I put my burdens by, And like a child amidst the meadow grass Under the southern sun, I languid lie 86

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French Leave 87 And feel the bed about me kindly deep, My strength ooze gently from my hollow bones, My worried brain drift aimlessly to sleep, Like softening to a song of tuneful tones.

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JASMINES Your scent is in the room. Swiftly it overwhelms and conquers me! Jasmines, night jasmines, perfect of perfume, Heavy with dew before the dawn of day! Your face was in the mirror. I could see You smile and vanish suddenly away, Leaving behind the vestige of a tear. Sad suffering face, from parting grown so dear! Night jasmines cannot bloom in this cold place; Without the street is wet and weird with snow; The cold nude trees are tossing to and fro; Too stormy is the night for your fond face; For your low voice too loud the wind's mad roar. But oh, your scent is here jasmines that grow Luxuriant, clustered round your cottage door! 88

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COMMEMORATION When first your glory shone upon my face My body kindled to a mighty flame, And burnt you yielding in my hot embrace Until you swooned to love, breathing my name. And wonder came and filled our night of sleep, Like a new comet crimsoning the sky; And stillness like the stillness of the deep Suspended lay as an unuttered sigh. I never again shall feel your warm heart flushed, Panting with passion, naked unto mine, Until the throbbing world around is hushed To quiet worship at our scented shrine. Nor will your glory seek my swarthy face, To kindle and to change my jaded frame Into a miracle of godlike grace, Transfigured, bathed in your immortal flame. N

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MEMORIAL Your body was a sacred cell always, A jewel that grew dull in garish light, An opal which beneath my wondering gaze Gleamed rarely, softly throbbing in the night. I touched your flesh with reverential hands, For you were sweet and timid like a flower That blossoms out of barren tropic sands, Shedding its perfume in one golden hour. You yielded to my touch with gentle grace, And though my passion was a mighty wave That buried you beneath its strong embrace, You were yet happy in the moment's grave. Still more than passion consummate to me, More than the nuptials immemorial sung, Was the warm thrill that melted me to see Your clean brown body, beautiful and young; 90

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Mtmorial 91 The Joy in your maturity at length, The peace that filled my soul like cooling wine, When you responded to my tender strength, And prated your heart exulting into mine. How shall I with such memories of you In coarser forms of love fruition find? No, I would rather like a ghost pursue The fairy phantoms of my lonely mind.

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THIRST My spirit wails for water, water now! My tongue is aching dry, my throat is hot For water, fresh rain shaken from a bough, Or dawn dews heavy in some leafy spot. My hungry body's burning for a swim In sunlit water where the air is cool, As in Trout Valley where upon a limb The golden finch sings sweetly to the pool. Oh water, water, when the night is done, When day steals gray-white through the windowpane, Clear silver water when I wake, alone, All impotent of parts, of fevered brain; Pure water from a forest fountain first, To wash me, cleanse me, and to quench my thirst!

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FUTILITY Oh, I have tried to laugh the pain away, Let new flames brush my love-springs like a feather. But the old fever seizes me to-day, As sickness grips a soul in wretched weather. I have given up myself to every urge, With not a care of precious powers spent, Have bared my body to the strangest scourge, To soothe and deaden my heart's unhealing rent. But you have torn a nerve out of my frame, A gut that no physician can replace, And reft my life of happiness and aim. Oh what new purpose shall I now embrace? What substance hold, what lovely form pursue, When my thought burns through everything to you?

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THROUGH AGONY I All night, through the eternity of night, Pain was my portion though I could not feel. Deep in my humbled heart you ground your heel, Till I was reft of even my inner light, Till reason from my mind had taken flight, And all my world went whirling in a reel. And all my swarthy strength turned cold like steel, A passive mass beneath your puny might. Last night I gave you triumph over me, So I should be myself as once before, I marveled at your shallow mystery, And haunted hungrily your temple door. I gave you sum and substance to be free, Oh, you shall never triumph any more! II I do not fear to face the fact and say, How darkly-dull my living hours have grown, My wounded heart sinks heavier than stone, 94

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95 Because I loved you longer than a day! I do not shame to turn myself away From beckoning flowers beautifully blown, To mourn your vivid memory alone In mountain fastnesses austerely gray. The mists will shroud me on the utter height, The salty, brimming waters of my breast Will mingle with the fresh dews of the night To bathe my spirit hankering to rest But after sleep Til wake with greater might, Once more to venture on the eternal quest

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McKay, Claude 3525 fcrlan shadows A24785 H3 PLEASE DO NOT REMOVE CARDS OR SLIPS FROM THIS POCKET UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO LIBRARY


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