’Mid the discordant noises of the day I hear thee calling; I stumble as I fare along Earth’s way; keep me from falling. Mine eyes are open but they cannot see for gloom of night: I can no more than lift my heart to thee for inward light. The wild and fiery passion of my youth consumes my soul; In agony I turn to thee for truth and self-control. For Passion and all the pleasures it can give will die the death; But this of me eternally must live, thy borrowed breath. ’Mid the discordant noises of the day I hear thee calling; I stumble as I fare along Earth’s way; keep me from falling.
This poem was originally published in Harlem Shadows (Harcourt Brace, 1922) and is in the public domain.
Claude McKay (1889–1948) was a Jamaican American poet and fiction writer who was a key figure in the Harlem Renaissance, his work ranging from celebrations of Jamaican life and culture to protests of racial and economic inequities in the United States. Born in Sunny Ville, Jamaica, to well-to-do farmers of Malagasy (from Madagascar) and Ashanti descent, he was raised in the Baptist faith and with an appreciation for literature, philosophy, science, and theology. He came to the US in 1912 to attend Tuskegee Institute and was shocked by the racism he experienced in his newly adopted country. He moved to New York City in 1914 and became involved in social causes on behalf of Blacks and laborers. From 1923 to 1934 he traveled through Europe and North Africa, eventually returning to Harlem and becoming an American citizen in 1940. He started associating with Catholic social activists and studying Catholic social theory, and in October 1944 he converted to Catholicism. He died of heart failure at age fifty-seven.