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Arna Bontemps - The Day-Breakers

We are not come to wage a strife
With swords upon this hill,
It is not wise to waste the life
Against a stubborn will.
Yet would we die as some have done.
Beating a way for the rising sun.

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Added: Jan 31 2004 | Viewed: 17210 times | Comments and analysis of The Day-Breakers by Arna Bontemps Comments (17)

The Day-Breakers - Comments and Information

Poet: Arna Bontemps
Poem: The Day-Breakers
Poem of the Day: Jan 20 2001

Comment 17 of 17, added on August 7th, 2013 at 6:00 AM.

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Comment 16 of 17, added on March 4th, 2011 at 3:34 AM.

This poem was written during the Harlem Renaissance (which lasted from the 1930s up until WW1) in which African Americans (and other poor Southerners who were jobless from the Great Depression) were migrating to industrial cities to find a new hope and better pay. The African Americans were drawn to Harlem in New York because it was an established African American community in which they could support each other. The Harlem Renaissance was a time in which African Americans showed America that they had a cultural identity and that they were a proud people as seen with the widespread love of jazz and certain dances such as the Stomp, both of which originated from African Americans.

This poem exemplifies this with its analogy of waging war on a hill and the pointlessness in doing so. There is no point in trying to fight with an inanimate object. The first to lines show this, but without the next two lines, this seems rather grim when stepping out of the symbolism. It says that there is no point trying to fight the racism of the white people (which at the time was extremely high due to the lack of jobs increasing tension leading to riots and lynchings). The poems follows up by saying that there is no point to waste time trying to convince the white people who will never listen. The poem lastly provides the alternative: damaging oneself trying to find the rising sun or hope. I believe that this is partially irony in that Arna believes that this hope for a new world without the racism is achievable and that the African Americans should not just try to make do with what they have.

Anon Ymous from United States
Comment 15 of 17, added on March 31st, 2010 at 11:49 PM.

I'm sorry but have any of you actually read this poem? The actual poet, Bontemps, lived from the beginning of the 1900s to the 1970s. If I'm not mistaken, slavery was abolished some thirty years before then. And even though he focuses mainly upon this aspect of the past in some other poems it does not mean that this specific poem does as well. Has anyone given a thought to this poem beyond fighting past white dominance? Here's a hint: The last phrase "rising sun" may or may not mean new generation, or, more specifically, their children. I'm just saying, Bontemps is all about symbolism (in this context at least). "Look underneath the underneath." (I stole this from that manga/anime Naruto but it fits perfectly with most aspects of poetry so deal with it.)

MooSaysTheLiar from United States

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