Claude McKay's Early Poetry (1911-1922): A Digital Collection

Sukee River (1920 version)

[Compare to the 1912 version of this poem, as published in "Constab Ballads"]

Thou sweet-voiced stream that first gavest me drink,
Watched o'er me when I floated on thy breast,
What black-faced boy now gambols on thy brink,
Or finds beneath thy rocks a place of rest?
What naked lad doth linger long by thee,
And run and tumble in the sun-scorched sand,
Or heed the pea-dove in the wild fig tree,
While I am roaming in an alien land?
No wonder that my heart is happy never,
I have been faithless to thee, Sukee River.

When from my early wandering I returned,
Did I not promise to remain for aye?
Yet instantly for other regions yearned
And wearied of thee in a single day.
Thy murmurs sound now in my anguished ears,
Creating in my heart a world of pain;
I see thee wistful flowing down the years
And though I pine, afar I must remain:
No wonder that my feet are faltering ever,
I have been faithless to thee, Sukee River.

Though other boys may frolic by thy side,
I know their merry moods thou dost not heed
When I, O mother of my soul and bride,
Lie on strange breasts and on strange kisses feed.
Sometimes, kind fate permitting me, I dream
I am floating on thy bosom of deep blue,
A child again, beloved, unchanging stream;
But soon I wake to find it all untrue:
I vowed that never, never would we sever,
But I've been faithless to thee, Sukee River.

(Spring in New Hampshire, 1921; Cambridge Magazine, 1920)
(Edited and Proofread by Amardeep Singh)

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