The Space Between: Literature and Culture 1914-1945

Claude McKay’s Workers’ Dreadnought Poetry (1919-1920) | Joy in the Woods

Joy in the Woods (April 10, 1920. Signed as Hugh Hope)

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, tired,
Yet forced to go on—for I’m hired.

Just forced to go on through fear,
   For every day I must eat
And find ugly clothes to wear,
   And bad shoes to hurt my feet
And a shelter for work-drugged sleep!
   A mere drudge! but what can one do?
A man that’s a man cannot weep!
   Suicide? A quitter? Oh, no!

But a slave should never grow tired,
   Whom the masters have kindly hired.
But oh! for the woods, the flowers
   Of natural, sweet perfume,
The heartening, summer showers
   And the smiling shrubs in bloom,
Dust-free, dew-tinted at morn,
   The fresh and life-giving air,
The billowing waves of corn
   And the birds’ notes rich and clear: —

For a man-machine toil-tired
May crave beauty too—though he’s hired.


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