English Literature- WentworthClaude McKay: America”All aboard! Next stop…. the new world!” This phrase has beenrepeated many of times throughout history to all the people with hopes,dreams, and aspirations to live with dignity and absolute freedom. This wasthe case of one aspiring and venturous immigrant, Claude McKay. Believingin the equality and freedom of the poor and backwards peasantry he had leftbehind in Jamaica, he sought to establish a new life in the United Stateswith a similar dream in his mind. Landing in Harlem and being in theforefront at the Harlem renaissance movement, McKay etched a name forhimself in the prestigious of prestigious American poets through his awe-inspiring poetry. Through his experiences, McKay wrote a poem titled asAmerica to show his experiences in this strange and unforgiving land. Thispoem showed his first hand accounts of his feelings towards this new andstrange land. In conclusion he developed a love-hate relationship with thisnew land and one might even argue that he saw this new land as an empirerather than a country.
This poem is divided up basically as a sonnet, which McKay wasquite popularly known to do. He used the sonnet form generally to get hispoetry across almost melodiously with a message to his readers. The tone isset generally quite harsh and a bit of bitterness in complaints. Towardsthe end the tone changes to bewilderment and even foreshowing andpredictive thinking in the new “empire” he has settled in. The mood or toneis of bitterness and of sorrow, which is reflected through his writing. Asfar as the meaning of the poem, the first line basically indicates howalthough he has food to feed himself and how he is living upon only meagerrations. This was the case amongst many foreigners entering the RomanEmpire who came to seek fortune yet stayed their lives in despair due todisproportionate amounts of wealthy to unhealthy citizens. The second lineagain personifies America as “(America)…sinks into my throat her tiger’stooth”(pg 1460). This shows the cruelty and the viciousness of the bravenew world that McKay has just encountered. However, on the ironic side hetestifies in line three and four that in doing so this “cultured hell”(1460) gives him a drive and challenge in his life. Much like the RomanEmpire and new people wanting it to make it big, the gladiator rings were acultured hell where one enjoyed it much but any moment death was near. Thesheer force of the American life gives him strength he goes on to say whichstands defiantly fueling his hate. Line seven then continues to say thatthe mightiness of America is so grand that like a house in a flood he feelsswept away amongst her force. Again in comparison to Caesarian times, Romanauthority over Europe was unrivaled by even the barbarians and the militaryprowess left it being the only super power. Later McKay continues on sayingas a defiant “rebel fronts a king in state” (1460) he respects theauthority of this grand “empire” yet secretively quarrels which even inroman times to some extent was allowed due to a democratic way of thinkingprior to the Monarchs such as Augustus I. The last four lines change intone describing the road ahead for this empire predicting the fall is soonbound to happen despite the magnificence of “its granite wonders” whicheven ancient Rome possessed (coliseums). And the last line ends with”priceless treasures sinking in the sand.”The last line is almost a predicted and eerie fact of whatcould happen to America if it doesn’t stay out of unnecessary conflicts andwars as it is participating now in. McKay, almost as a foreseer for theculture of this empire had strong convincing views that the fall of thisEmpire was near. Eerily the ancient Romans themselves thought of themselvesto be invisible, however, a small group of tribes known as the Huns andtheir leader Attila wiped the rule which gave rise to internal strife. Acommon saying is that history repeats itself. The priceless treasures thatare unearthed today’s are ancient romes coliseums its coinage and itsweapons. Who knows? Maybe in the near future, a descending civilizationcould unearth America’s treasures and say wonder how this civilization?What caused its decline? Was its racial intolerance? Its capitalisticgreed? Or was it empirical ambitions?