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Short poem

Claude McKay (1889-1948)


              1Although she feeds me bread of bitterness,
              2And sinks into my throat her tiger's tooth,
              3Stealing my breath of life, I will confess
              4I love this cultured hell that tests my youth!
              5Her vigor flows like tides into my blood,
              6Giving me strength erect against her hate.
              7Her bigness sweeps my being like a flood.
              8Yet as a rebel fronts a king in state,
              9I stand within her walls with not a shred
            10Of terror, malice, not a word of jeer.
            11Darkly I gaze into the days ahead,
            12And see her might and granite wonders there,
            13Beneath the touch of Time's unerring hand,
            14Like priceless treasures sinking in the sand.

Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: Harlem Shadows: The Poems of Claude McKay, with an introduction by Max Eastman (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Co., 1922): 6. PS 3525 A24785 H3 Robarts Library.
First publication date: December 1921
Publication date note: Liberator (Dec. 1921).
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: RPO 1998.
Recent editing: 2:2002/4/4

Form: sonnet
Rhyme: ababcdcdefefgg

Other poems by Claude McKay