Claude McKay

(15 September 1889 – 22 May 1948 / Clarendon)

If We Must Die

Poem by Claude McKay

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!


Comments about If We Must Die by Claude McKay

  • da serenequeen (6/29/2020 4:34:00 PM)

    boiiiiiiiiiiiii: the answer to your question is a resounding no(Report)Reply

    0 person liked.
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  • Rosa JamaliRosa Jamali (10/1/2019 3:25:00 AM)

    Mc kay's poem in Harlem Renaissance tradition is a nostalgic piece of reminiscence of the past and
    again is a poem of collective unconscious. The language is not filled with much of imagination or
    tropes but it's passionate and touching. The poem doesn't have a personal tone but encouragingly
    talking to a group of comrades and wants them to get united and fight against the oppressors.(Report)Reply

    2 person liked.
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  • Michael WalkerMichael Walker (8/31/2019 8:28:00 PM)

    A poem of fighting spirit, ' Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back'.(Report)Reply

    4 person liked.
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  • Shaun J. St. Clair (7/26/2019 7:00:00 AM)

    Useful to me in my warfaring A. D. 2019, July 26th, ~5:00 A. M. Pacific Daylight time.(Report)Reply

    3 person liked.
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  • bob the fat guy (5/9/2019 11:22:00 AM)

    my name is bob the fat guy and i love this poem its filled my fat guy needs. :) thank you black guyAlready ReportedReply

    7 person liked.
    10 person did not like.
  • boiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii (4/25/2019 2:07:00 PM)

    is Mc Kay dead? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?(Report)Reply

    2 person liked.
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  • boiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii (4/25/2019 2:07:00 PM)

    is he dead? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
    Mc kay(Report)Reply

    2 person liked.
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  • boiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii (4/25/2019 2:06:00 PM)

    dope poem keep on the work Mc kay(Report)Reply

    6 person liked.
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  • ching chong (1/10/2019 8:48:00 AM)

    i SAID ching chhing mingy mong whats si ard to understand(Report)Reply

    iusasad(1/30/2020 12:10:00 PM)

    accidently put a dislike I'm sorry

    who dis?(1/10/2019 8:56:00 AM)

    how did you know same.

    4 person liked.
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  • ching chong (1/10/2019 8:45:00 AM)

    ching chong mingy mong(Report)Reply

    8 person liked.
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  • AHHHHHHHHHHH (11/2/2018 2:29:00 PM)

    AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH(Report)Reply

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  • Rhonda Hardy (4/3/2016 9:05:00 AM)

    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.(Report)Reply

    20 person liked.
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  • Angel Dzidula-komlaAngel Dzidula-komla (8/2/2015 4:46:00 PM)

    O kinsmen! we must meet the common foe!(Report)Reply

    14 person liked.
    13 person did not like.
  • Godfrey MorrisGodfrey Morris (2/17/2015 5:56:00 PM)

    Such noble words from an awesome poet.(Report)Reply

    25 person liked.
    33 person did not like.
  • Nadine Graybeal (3/31/2014 8:58:00 PM)

    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(Report)Reply

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  • Mai Xiong (3/31/2014 7:42:00 PM)

    Mai Xiong
    AML-2600-50456
    March 31,2014
    In Claude McKay’s “If We Must Die”, McKay uses imagery and description to convey how African Americans felt towards whites. McKay's powerful lines, If we must die, let it not be like hogs and Though far outnumbered let us show us brave tells his friends to stand up for themselves. During this time period, African Americans were still being disrespected and treated harshly. Mckay sends out a message to be brave because their blood are just as precious as anyone else's. Mckay states that if they were to die, they must die nobly. Although they may die in this fight for freedom, at least they were fighting for something they truly believe in. Mckay wanted to send an encouraging message to give strength to the African American community. This poem resembles peasant life more than militant because just like peasants, they were treated unequal and like hogs. If the community gather up together, they can make a difference and they will be able to beat those who are the cowardly pack.
    Word Count: 171(Report)Reply

    27 person liked.
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  • Kimberly Mclean (3/31/2014 7:11:00 PM)

    In the poem, the emotion I received was a sense of endurance and pain. African-Americans being owned by someone. Even though they were physically owned, their mind was the one thing that no one could confiscate from them. It tears me apart inside to imagine how they must have felt knowing that their lives were going to be taken away, without a pure logical explanation as to why. Slave owners made blacks feel like they were nothing, had nothing valuable to offer to society, which is why extinguishing them was agreed to be some sort of solution to the American society. Which brings the reference to animals such as hogs McKay used to describe how poorly African-Americans were treated. Pigs were used in the Bible to describe how unsanitary it was to devour to our bodies. Towards the end of the poem, McKay expressed that if they were going to die, at least have them leave some dignity behind, after fighting a long hard fight.(Report)Reply

    30 person liked.
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  • Tiffany Edmead (3/31/2014 2:20:00 PM)

    Tiffany Edmead
    AML 2600-50456
    March 31,2014
    Claude McKay’s “If We must Die” conveys so much power behind each word of this riveting poem. When reading this, as an African American, I can not help but to sense an overwhelming feeling of rebellion and pride. In so many cases African Americans have been treated less than human. In former years we as a people were looked upon as less than a dog, sneered at as if we were not of the human variety but yet a less than worthy being. In the poem, Claude McKay references these animals that my fore father was treated as, hogs and dogs. This fits securely into the rest of his bodies of work, which displays a strong, exuberant stance on equal rights. In this poem he asks to be upheld to the highest regard, “then even the monsters we defy shall be constrained to honor us though dead! ” In this piece he reminds us that in death and in valor we are all human.(Report)Reply

    25 person liked.
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  • Alvon Hart (3/30/2014 8:21:00 PM)

    Alvon Hart
    AML 2600-50456
    March 30,2014

    Claude McKay was considered one of the first African American poets of the Harlem Renaissance. Claude helped to shape the trends that would later define the literary movement with African Americans. In the poem “If We Must Die” Claude McKay uses vivid imagery and description he compares the life of an African American being hunted to the lowest of all animals a “hog” being hunted. Although African Americans are far from a hog, sadly and very unjustly African Americans were once treated that way, we were once being hunted, we were once being cornered and slaughtered just the same. McKay uses the comparison to let the world know how African Americans were treated back then and to let the world know that no matter what African Americans wanted to die a noble death as well. “If we must die, O let us nobly die”. This piece of work does not fit into the militant life but it does however somewhat fit into the life of a peasant.(Report)Reply

    18 person liked.
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  • Crystal Melton (3/30/2014 1:06:00 PM)

    Crystal Melton
    AML-2600-50456
    March 30,2014
    In Claude McKay’s “If We Must Die”, McKay employs the comparison of an undesirable death as that of being to hogs. The comparison relates to how one may be cornered by the enemy and tortured until killed. Slaughter is the image that instantly comes to my mind in his opening lines. This presents that if there is an inevitable end then let it be of a noble death. McKay describes our blood as “precious” which makes us feel that we are of value therefore avoiding the loss of our lives to not go in vain. This would in turn force those who wish us dead to face our legacy after death. No matter how many foe’s we may face, McKay speaks of not allowing fear to overcome us but rather to face them with strength and bravery. If we are going down, let us go down fighting even though one may be cornered, out-numbered, and faced with the inevitable end.
    Word count: 166(Report)Reply

    19 person liked.
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Read poems about / on: death, dog, hunting



Poem Submitted: Friday, January 3, 2003