"Poets and Poetry."

Spring in New HampshireSpring in New Hampshire. By Claude McKay. London: Grant Richards. [3s. 6d. net.] is extrinsically as well as intrinsically interesting. It is, as the portrait frontispiece and Mr. Richards' preface tell us, written by a man who is a full-blooded negro, and it is, as Mr. Richards says, "the first success in poetry of a man of an African race with which, in Europe at any rate, we have been brought into contact." Perhaps the ordinary reader's first impulse in realizing that the book is by an American negro is to inquire into its good taste. Not until we are satisfied that his work does not overstep the barriers which a not quite explicable but deep instinct in us is ever alive to maintain can we judge it with genuine fairness. Mr. Claude McKay never offends our sensibilities. His love poetry is clear of the hint which would put our racial instinct against him whether we would or no. 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 Profusely fell; and, tossing coins in praise, The wine-flushed, bold-eyed boys, and even the girls, Devoured her with eager, passionate gaze: But, looking at her falsely-smiling face, I knew her self was not in that strange place. [source] The whole book sounds a curiously wistful note, but the pathos is nowhere more poignant than in the following:— His spirit in smoke ascended to high heaven. His father, by the cruellest 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. [source] Here is, indeed, the blot on the scutcheon of the United States. There are, of course, two sides to the question, but, especially after reading Mr. McKay's poem, we do not feel that the other side needs supporting in quite the way he depicts.


"Poets and Poetry." "Two Volumes of Verse.." The Spectator. (October 23, 1920.).


The complete review treats two volumes of verse: McKay's Spring in New Hampshire and Collected Poems by Edward Thomas (London: Selwyn and Blount). Only the section of the review discussing Spring in New Hampshire is reproduced here.


Harlem Shadows (1922)

Additional Poems by Claude McKay

Contemporary Reviews

Supplementary Texts