Dawn in New York

Submitted by Matthew on 18 September, 2013 - 12:19

Claude McKay (1889-1948) was a Jamaican poet who, during his time in London, became involved in revolutionary socialist circles.

He attended the Fourth Congress of the Communist International in 1922. While he did not associate himself with Trotskyism, he became disillusioned with Stalinism in the 1930s and later became a Roman Catholic.

He was a key figure in the “Harlem Renaissance”, and his 1922 poem “Dawn in New York” reimagines William Wordsworth’s “Upon Westminster Bridge” for 20th-century Manhattan, writing in the stories of human struggle and suffering that Wordsworth’s picturesque rendering of London painted out.

The Ruby Kid

The Dawn! The Dawn! The crimson-tinted, comes

Out of the low still skies, over the hills,

Manhattan's roofs and spires and cheerless domes!

The Dawn! My spirit to its spirit thrills.

Almost the mighty city is asleep,

No pushing crowd, no tramping, tramping feet.

But here and there a few cars groaning creep

Along, above, and underneath the street,

Bearing their strangely-ghostly burdens by,

The women and the men of garish nights,

Their eyes wine-weakened and their clothes awry,

Grotesques beneath the strong electric lights.

The shadows wane. The Dawn comes to New York.

And I go darkly-rebel to my work.

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