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About this Poem 

“Heritage” was published in Harlem Shadows (Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1922). 

Heritage

Now the dead past seems vividly alive,
    And in this shining moment I can trace,
Down through the vista of the vanished years,
    Your faun-like form, your fond elusive face.

And suddenly some secret spring’s released,
    And unawares a riddle is revealed,
And I can read like large, black-lettered print,
    What seemed before a thing forever sealed.

I know the magic word, the graceful thought,
    The song that fills me in my lucid hours,
The spirit’s wine that thrills my body through,
    And makes me music-drunk, are yours, all yours.

I cannot praise, for you have passed from praise,
    I have no tinted thoughts to paint you true;
But I can feel and I can write the word;
    The best of me is but the least of you.
 

This poem is in the public domain. 

This poem is in the public domain. 

Claude McKay

Claude McKay

Claude McKay, who was born in Jamaica in 1889, wrote about social and political concerns from his perspective as a black man in the United States, as well as a variety of subjects ranging from his Jamaican homeland to romantic love.

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I 

Throughout the afternoon I watched them there, 
Snow-fairies falling, falling from the sky, 
Whirling fantastic in the misty air, 
Contending fierce for space supremacy. 
And they flew down a mightier force at night, 
As though in heaven there was revolt and riot, 
And they, frail things had taken panic
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So much have I forgotten in ten years,
  So much in ten brief years; I have forgot
What time the purple apples come to juice
  And what month brings the shy forget-me-not;
Forgotten is the special, startling season
  Of some beloved tree’s flowering and fruiting,
What time of year the

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I plucked my soul out of its secret place,
And held it to the mirror of my eye,
To see it like a star against the sky,
A twitching body quivering in space,
A spark of passion shining on my face.
And I explored it to determine why
This awful key to my infinity
Conspires to rob me