Skip to main content

Full text of "Harlem shadows; poems. With an introd. by Max Eastman"

See other formats


HARLEM SHADOWS 

THE POEMS OF 
CLAUDE McKAY 



WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY 
MAX EASTV. 




NEW YORK 

HARCOURT, BRACE AND COMPANY 



COPYRIGHT, 1922, BY 
HARCUURT, BRACE AND COMPANY, INC. 



PMINTCD IN TM U. . A. BY 

TMK OUINN * BOOKN COMPANY 

AMWAT. N. J. 



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



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 



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 



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 



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 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 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 



Introduction \\ 

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 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 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 



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 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 



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 never- 
theless 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 



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 sex- 
inferiority, and it is worth while to make clear 
the perfect folly of it. If any denned 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- 



7n/ro</*, XV 

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 



\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 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, 



IntroJu XVti 

from "pot-wrestling" in a boarding-house kitchen 
to dining<ar service on the New York and Phila- 
delphia Express. But like all true poets, he (ailed 
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 mote 
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 with 



\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. 



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 
fa 



xx 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 



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 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. 

CLAUDE MCKAY. 



HARLEM SHADOWS 



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. 



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 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. 



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. 



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 



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 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 



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. 



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! 



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. 



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. 



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. 



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? 



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 



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 



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. 



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. 



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. 



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. 



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 



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. 



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? 



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? 



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 



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 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, 
O black men, simple slaves of ruthless slaves. 






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. 



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 



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. 



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! 



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. 



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 



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. 



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. 



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 



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. 



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. 



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. 



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. 



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. 



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. 



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. 



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. 



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. 



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 



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 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, 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! 



Till- 



His 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. 



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. 



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 death- 
blow 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 



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 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 



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! 



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. 



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. 



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. 



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 



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, 



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. 



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. 



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. 

6 4 



Absence 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. 



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 

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! 



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 



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, all beautiful things, gave of 
their wealth to your birth. 



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, 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; 

7$ 



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 
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 



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 



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. 



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. 



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 



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. 



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! 



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. 



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. 



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. 



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 pause- 
But 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. 



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 



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. 



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 



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 



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 



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. 



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 window- 
pane, 

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! 



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? 



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 



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 



McKay, Claude 
3525 fcrlan shadows 

A24785 
H3 



PLEASE DO NOT REMOVE 
CARDS OR SLIPS FROM THIS POCKET 

UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO LIBRARY