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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.

by this poet

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Sometimes I tremble like a storm-swept flower,
And seek to hide my tortured soul from thee,
Bowing my head in deep humility
Before the silent thunder of thy power.
Sometimes I flee before thy blazing light,
As from the specter of pursuing death;
Intimidated lest thy mighty breath,
Windways, will sweep me into
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There is joy in the woods just now,
       The leaves are whispers of song,
And the birds make mirth on the bough
       And music the whole day long,
And God! to dwell in the town
       In these springlike summer days,
On my brow an unfading frown
       And hate in my heart always—

A machine out of gear, aye
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Some day, when trees have shed their leaves
    And against the morning’s white
The shivering birds beneath the eaves
    Have sheltered for the night,
We’ll turn our faces southward, love,
    Toward the summer isle
Where bamboos spire to shafted grove
    And wide-mouthed