Samson

Samson, the chosen Nazarite, who ruled
The Jews for twenty years and judged their sins,
Snared in the web of flesh, by woman fooled,
Was captured by the hated Philistines.
But God remembered him in his downfall
And, in his blindness, gave him back his power,
Which nobly used he, at the gaoler’s call,
To save his soul in one grand crowning hour
O sable Samsons, in white prisons bound,
Wounded and blinded, in your hidden strength
Put forth your swarthy hands: the pillar found,
Strain mightily at them until at length
The accursed walls, reared of your blood and tears,
Come crashing, sounding freedom in your ears.

–Published in Workers Dreadnought, January 10, 1920. Signed as Claude McKay

 

 

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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.

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.

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.

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

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!