‘Petrograd: May Day, 1923’ by Claude McKay from The Liberator. Vol. 6 No. 8. August, 1923.

‘Petrograd: May Day, 1923’ by Claude McKay from The Liberator. Vol. 6 No. 8. August, 1923.

THE Neva moves majestically on,
The sun-rays playing on her breast at seven,
From her blue breast all winter’s snow-slabs gone.
Now ripples curl where yesterday lay riven
Great silver oblongs chiselled by the hand
Of Spring that bellies through earth’s happy womb,
To glad and mower the long, long pregnant land.
Where yesterday a veil of winter gloom
Shrouded the city’s splendid face,-today
All life rejoices for the first of May!

The Nevsky glows ablaze with regal red,
Symbolic of the triumph and the rule
Of the new Power lifting high its head
Above the place where once a sceptered fool
Was mounted by the plunderers of men
To awe the plundered while they schemed and robbed.
The marchers shout again, again, again!
The stones where once the hearts of martyrs sobbed
Their blood are sweet unto their feet today
In celebration of the First of May.

Cities are symbols of man’s forward reach,
Man drawing near to man in close commune.
And mighty cities mighty lessons teach
Of man’s decay or progress, late or soon.
And many an iron-towered Babylon,
Beneath the quiet golden breath of Time,
Has vanished like the snow under the sun,
Leaving no single mark in stone or rhyme
To flame the lifted heart of man today
As Petrograd upon the First of May.

Oh many a thoughtful romance-seeking boy,
Slow-fingering the leaves of ancient glory,
Is stirred to rapture by the tales of Troy,
And each invigorate, vein-tingling story
Of Egypt and of Athens and of Rome,
Where slaves long toiled for knights and kings to reap.
But in the years, the wondrous years to come,
The heart of Youth in every clime will leap
For Russia that first made national the day
The world-wide workers’ day-the First of May.

Jerusalem is fading from men’s mind,
And Christmas from its universal thrall
Shall free the changing spirit of mankind:
The First of May the holy day for all!
And Petrograd, the proud, triumphant, city,
The gateway to the new awakening East-
Where warrior-workers wrestled without pity-
Against the powers of magnate, monarch, priest!
World Fort of Struggle! each day’s a First of May
To learn of thee to strive for Labor’s Day.

The Liberator was published monthly from 1918, first established by Max Eastman and his sister Crystal Eastman continuing The Masses, was shut down by the US Government during World War One. Like The Masses, The Liberator contained some of the best radical journalism of its, or any, day. It combined political coverage with the arts, culture, and a commitment to revolutionary politics. Increasingly, The Liberator oriented to the Communist movement and by late 1922 was a de facto publication of the Party. In 1924, The Liberator merged with Labor Herald and Soviet Russia Pictorial into Workers Monthly. An essential magazine of the US left.

PDF of full issue: https://www.marxists.org/history/usa/culture/pubs/liberator/1923/08/v6n08-w64-aug-1923-liberator.pdf

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