If We Must Die

By Claude McKay 1889–1948 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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Poet Claude McKay 1889–1948

SCHOOL / PERIOD Harlem Renaissance

Subjects War & Conflict, Social Commentaries, History & Politics, Race & Ethnicity

Poetic Terms Sonnet

 Claude  McKay

Biography

Festus Claudius McKay, better known as Claude McKay, was a key figure in the Harlem Renaissance, a prominent literary movement of the 1920s. His work ranged from vernacular verse celebrating peasant life in Jamaica to fairly militant poems challenging white authority in America, and from generally straightforward tales of black life in both Jamaica and America to more philosophically ambitious fiction addressing . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT War & Conflict, Social Commentaries, History & Politics, Race & Ethnicity

SCHOOL / PERIOD Harlem Renaissance

Poetic Terms Sonnet

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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