If We Must Die

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!

by Claude McKay

Comments (26)

Blog Post #3 (AML 2600 – 78641) If We Must Die by Claude McKay In Claude McKay’s work, If We Must Die, there is a creative mixing of elements that one would encounter in peasantry and those encountered in a military setting. Mr. McKay constructs the setting of soldiers in battle, but the circumstances and the creative mind of the reader informs that the fight is to free a displaced and enslaved nation. He speaks of being hunted and penned as would an animal or even a soldier being pursued by the enemy in a battle situation, and beyond that, one can think of the helpless slave caught in a clandestine rush to freedom, flushed out by dogs, tied, and returned to the cage of no freedom. To appeal for a noble death, like that of an honorable soldier, Claude McKay uses imagery to highlight the humiliation suffered in the death of the slave. His rallying call, “O kinsmen! We must meet the common foe! ”, is an inducement to men to come to the battle field and free their progeny all the while knowing their fate he says, “Like men we'll face the murderous, cowardly pack, Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back! ” Claude McKay’s final statement is fitting symbolism of the African American spirit in reference to their refusal to accept slavery. They “fought back” in the fields by generating biblical chants and call-outs that made vague references to freedom here on earth. If the overseer averted his eye, some struck out, heading north, following the well referenced “drinking gourd” to freedom. Mr. McKay followed the course of many African American literary geniuses in being able to concisely communicate a huge message in a small space poetically. He did so with the power that is inherent in his works and which also served as a catalyst to black readers. Mr. McKay’s writing gave the African American nation the desire to read and the strength to act.
O kinsmen! we must meet the common foe!
Such noble words from an awesome poet.
Nadine Graybeal AML-2600-50456 03/31/2014 Claude McKay was one of the famous poems in the Harlem Renaissance time. In Claude McKay’s poem “If We Must Die” he uses imagery and describes the poem to deliver feeling by comparing the problems to symbols like animals or objects that his readers can relate to. He was referring to the bloodshed and massacre of 1919. The speaker seems to portray the enemy in many different ways. He represents the opponent as vicious dogs getting ready to hunt on their prey. He then makes it seem as if the dogs are more than hungry that they end up being some type of vicious cold-hearted beast who torture their pray rather than consume them. Then he speaks of the enemy as being a monster because dogs are too human to be portrayed as what is being represented. McKay’s poem represents more of a stand your ground and fight back action. He wanted the people not to be afraid of standing up for themselves. With all of the fight the people will end up dying, but he is saying if we must die, at least we can choose how we will die. We can die with dignity if we choose too! McKay wants them to give it their all so they can die proud. Word Count: 213
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