Monday, June 8, 2015

Monday's Poetry: "If We Must Die"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

Today’s poetry selection, “If We Must Die,” is a sonnet by the early 20th century poet, Claude McKay, a man who was at the very center of the Harlem Renaissance.  It is from his collection entitled Harlem Shadows.

“If We Must Die” became one of McKay’s most famous works.  It was radical, especially for the times, and seen as a threat of retaliation for racially motivated abuse.

How sad that now, nearly a full century later, America is still wracked with racial intolerance and abuse – often committed by those sworn to protect and serve.

Here then are the thoughts of Claude McKay on the need to stand and fight back.

If We Must Die
By Claude McKay

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 accursèd lot.
If we must die, O let us nobly die,
So that our precious blood may not be shed
In vain; then even the monsters we defy
Shall be constrained to honor us though dead!
O kinsmen! we must meet the common foe!
Though far outnumbered let us show us brave,
And for their thousand blows deal one death-blow!
What though before us lies the open grave?
Like men we’ll face the murderous, cowardly pack,
Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back!

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