K TIM BERS
Poles, Posts and
FOR THE LOCAL MARKET
F Address Enquiries to -
British Guiana Timbers, Ltd.,
34. Robb Street .. Georgetown.
Investment. 7 ,
Wm. FOGARTY, Ltd.,
We aim to please with .
and achieve this object by the skilful blending of
specially selected tobaccos, in order to give that satisfaction
that is expected and obtained from these fine cigarettes.
The Demerara Tobacco Co., Ltd.
6 Valve Auto-
Superb double e
IVrWOV rnUh L;.f
GARNETT & CO.,
BARLOVA MALTED MILK
PEPSODENT TOOTH PASTE
ATKINSON'S TOILET PREPARATIONS
KNIGHT'S CASTILE SOAP
WHITE HORSE WHISKY
JOHNNIE WALKER WHISKY
MOEWAN YOUNGER'S MALTS
O'KEEFE'S OLD VIENNA LAGER
ARDATH, STATE EXPRESS AND
DU MAURIER CIGARETTES
ANGOSTURA BITTERS, ETC.
Phone Central 39.
The New Vauxhall
With the New Square Engines
ALL EYES ON THE
Acclaimed as the greatest success in years
No wonder trade and public alike
are applauding the new Vauxhalls
wherever they are displayed! Here,
without overclaiming, is engineering
technique years ahead of its time!
Study these outstanding cars as a
whole, or in every detail of their
specification, and you will agree. We
shall be proud to show them to you.
2I litres; 75 m.ph. For really
high performance with surprising
economy. (25 m.p.g. with normal
Same size, same modern styling as
Velox; t litre engine, and out-
standing economy. (Well Invr
30 m.p.g. with normal driving.)
The Central Garage,
HIGH STREET GEORGETOWN.
FIRST TO OV Buckland Batteries
*PLATES -Hand-pasted with
sp purest lead exides.
Cedar wood specially treated.
*CONTAINERS AND LIDS are
subject to the most rigorous test.
They are acid proof, non-inflam-
mable, and impervious to oil and
water and have been proved the
most reliable for Lead-Acid
Willems Timber & Trading Co., Ltd.
Agency Department Tel. 757,758. 7, Water Street, Georgetown.
NEWMAN ELECTRICAL MOTORS
Proudly presents products of world-wide research in the entire range of motors
designed to provide the greatest possible efficiency at the lowest manufactur-
ing cost by standarising on the world-renowned Newman totally enclosed
Motors, built to a specification which meets National Electrical Manufacturers
Association of America (N.E. W.A.) and Canadian Standards Association
All types of Motors are available from 1/12 H.P. to 200 H.P. Includ-
ing Geared Motor Units for all Applications.
A British Battery throughout built to with-
stand the assault of all climates
YOUTH MOVES ON .
Changing, always new. Fashion too,
keeps young by constant change.
HUMPHREY'S ON HIGH STREET
FOR THE LATEST DESIGNS IN
Diamond Jewellery ..
Gold and Silver Filigree Bracelets,
Brooches, Necklaces, Earrings, Etc.
Humphrey & Co.,Ltd.,
Corner Robb & High Streets,
Georgetown, British Guiana,
Jewellers and Electro-platers.
i ~--------------- ------------
Tradd Over All
I Guiana Match Factory,
Vreed-en-Hoop, W.B., Demerara.
It can be Misery or it can be
If you choose to travel to Britain by Cunarder from
New York or Canada, you will enjoy:-
The Finest Food in the World.
On the Finest Ships in the World.
Which are the Largest and Fastest Ships in the World.
Giving a Service Second to None.
THE COSr ?- Very comfortable accommodation can be booked
for as little as $273.60 (B.G.) from New York
$256.80 (B.G.) from Canada
Call in and discuss your trip with
S DAVSON & Co., LTD.
Agents: CUNARD STEAMSHIP CO., LTI).
By the Way...
BOTTLED UNDER AUTHORITY OF THE COCA-COLA COMPANY Bf
Weiting & Richter, Ltd.
The proof of a good investment comes
from the prompt payment of interest over a
The New Building Society was established
in 1940 and since that time has paid all dividends
with unfailing regularity.
Plan your future security by joining the
New Building Society,
1, HIGH STREET, NEWTOWN, GEORGETOWN 9.
A member of the British Building Societies' Association
and of the United States Savings and Loan League.
TELEPHONE NUMBER-CENTRAL 252.
G/VE YOU SAFETY-
The new Firestone Super-
Balloon Tire combines
against skidding and
blowouts, "magic carpet"
riding ease, amazing econ-
omy and service, to give
you a tire that in itself
proves, "Your Safety Is
Our Business At
Take advantage of
Firestone's 50 years expe-
rience in making the safest
tire money can buy by
equipping with Firestone
Super-Balloon Tires today.
T. Geddes Grant, Ltd.,
Come and see our stock of...
made from Diamonds found and cut in the Colony.
If you require a Ring style not in stock we
can always make for you, either from a description,
a drawing or from a catalogue.
cull in at
R. G. HUMPHREY & SON, LTD.,
40, WATER STREET.
At al times
DANCES (Orchestras on Saturday Nights.)
Four Cool Comfortable Rooms.
Catering for Parties, etc.
WATCHES OVER ALL
B.G. Soap & Oil Works,
31/32, D'Urban Street, Wortmanville
make good companions
We stock a wide range of
FICTION & NON-FICTION
including the well known PENGUIN & PELICAN series and
invite you to examine our display with the confidence
that you will find a book to satisfy your taste.
You can always find a Good Book at
"THE ARGOSY" Co., LTD.,
CENTRAL STATIONERY STORE
REGENT & HIGH STREETS
The British Guiana & Trinidad Mutual
Fire Insurance Company, Ltd.
Extract from Annual Report
30TH JUNE 1952
New Business for Year $ 8,109,870
Total Insurance in Force [Fire] 36,887, I 34
Scrip & Stock Capital 1,000,000
Fire, Marine, Motor, Employers
Liability & Bicycle Insurance,
APPLY TO -
27/29 Robb & Hincks Streets, -
A. J. SEYMOUR.
Vol. 5 No. 15
Editorial .. .
4 French Poems
(translated by Miriam Koshland) .
Sun serpent .
We have abandoned
He left today .. .
And we shall bathe ..
West Indian Portraits
C. L. R. James
Wood Engraving ..
Literary Criticism and the Creative
The Question of Form and Realism i
West Indian Artist
The Kind Eagle (Poems of Prison)
Latin Caribbean Culture ..
The Study of the West Indian Family
Wood Engraving ..
, Art in British Guiana
The Alliance Francaise
The Fabulous Well (poem)
Correspondence on the Calypso III
A. J. S.
Etienne Lero ..
. J. D. Ramkeeson
.A. J. Seymour ,
E. R. Burrowes
Writer Edgar Mittelholzer
W. Adolphe Roberts
Raymond T. Smith
E. R. B.
E. R. Burrowes
C. M. Bernard
. WIson Harris
Scene from a Play
(Picture of Antiguan Painting)
And Sometimes Quite Unsou
O Girl how should I tell you
Thoughts on Crossing the At
.A. J. Seymour
E. McG. Keane
ght R. L. C. McFarlane
lantic .. C. W. Hamilton
Documents on E.W.I. History (1807-1833'
Challenge to the Br. Caribbean
Christ in Jamaica
Capture of Jamaica .. Taylor
Tales of Old Jamaica .. .. .. Black
A Brighter Sun .. .. Seivon
Looking through BIM .. .. ..........
The Miniature Poets .. .. .. ..........
Working People's Art Class Exhibition ..........
The Creative Impulse .. .. Caudwell
Contributions and all letters should be sent to the Editor "Kyk-
Over-Al", 120, Fourth Street, Georgetown, British Guiana.
-This is a publication of the B.G. Writers' Association.
The West Indies of the Future
and the Writer
Some months ago I formulated proposals for a Congress of
Writers in the Br. Caribbean. The major themes of the Congress
may be described as first, discussions of the cultural relationships
existing between the Br. Caribbean territories and our neighbours
in the region i.e. with the Spanish-speaking territories Cuba
and Venezuela and the Latin American Republics whose shores are
washed by the Atlantic Ocean, with Haiti and the French speaking
departments of Martinique and Guadeloupe and Guiana, and the
Dutch of Curacao, Aruba and Surinam.
Secondly the Congress should consider a national tradition
for the Br. Caribbean, and the part to be played in creating and
fostering such a tradition by the man of letters by the creative
writer such as the poet, the novelist and fiction writer, the drama-
tist, and by the critic of literature and society, this term to include
the journalist. To this end, it was proposed that one product of
the Congress should be a publication consisting of articles and
other contributions on the state of West Indian Society today, by
writers at present eminent in their various sections of literature.
These writers should include let us say, Eric Williams and
Adolphe Roberts on aspects of history and organisation; Philip
Sherlock on education, H. A. Vaughan on biography of a great
West Indian; C. L. R. James on the problem of the middle class;
critical studies by J. E. Clare MacFarlane and others on literature
and society such as the article on West Indian themes recently
written for the Caribbean Quarterly by Andrew Pearse; extracts
4 from the novels and short stories of the region written by West
Indian authors such as Victor Reid, Edgar Mittelholzer and Alfred
A book compiled on this pattern could be called "The West
Indies Today" and would be a summary of the history and culture
of the region. It would be a splendid missionary effort to send
abroad and at home it would be a nucleus for the infant regional
spirit which would nourish and be nourished by the young people
in schools and out of school in this region of ours. Such a book
would not meet the day to day needs of the people in the Br.
Caribbean, if a national tradition is to be built. It would be written
principally with the aim of projecting the West Indies abroad.
But we must not overlook the importance of addressing particular
publications to meet particular reading needs. It would also be
necessary to plan a series of occasional publications among others
for (1) the child of primary and secondary schools, (2) the man-
in-the-street, (3) the West Indian woman, (4) the West Indian
artist and critic. The children and the man-in-the-street would
need to be presented with stories of the great men and events of
the region, written "from the inside", by West Indians and sold at
a very low price. There should be a magazine for the West Indian
woman telling the stories of the women who work against odds
in the sphere of social welfare, like Audrey Jeffers, Amy Bailey.
Mildred Mansfield, Mrs. Singh; in the realm of poetry and art and
dance like Edna Manley, Una Marson, Hilda McDonald, Beryl
McBurnie, Louise Bennett, Ulminita McShine, and Eula Redhead.
This magazine would indicate the role the West Indian woman
can play in welding the young middle class into responsible and
intelligent action on West Indian society.
There would also be need for discussions among the West
Indian artists and critics on the relationships between literature
and society; part of this demand is already met by periodicals like
Kyk and Bim. These publications may be planned as periodicals.
or individual pamphlets and studies, but their main aim would
be to bring West Indian values home to the consciousness of the
people found in the separate layers of West Indian society, to pro-
voke thought and discussion and to ensure publication and a
circulation of ideas and opinions leading, it is hoped, to a com-
munity of attitudes which is an indispensable basis for nationhood.
The Congress would also face the technical disabilities facing
the writer in the Caribbean and his work.
It is the responsibility of the West Indian artist and especially
the writer, to help to create and foster a community of ideas and
reference within the Br. Caribbean. Individual territories are
moving swiftly towards more responsible government and the
whole region is moving, more slowly, in the direction of closer
association and federation. What is holding back peoples every-
where are latent fears and mistrusts, born of lack of knowledge
of one another and even lack of knowledge of their own mental
possibilities. Certainly there is a lack of community and that is
the keystone which the West Indian writer must create. Actually
now that the political situation is rapidly becoming less tied to
official administration, the need becomes greater for the public
to engage in discussions of ends and means, in order that an
informed and rational public opinion may emerge and that the
writer may exercise his social task of critical comment on decisions
and actions. 'There are always the newspapers to perform part of
this duty of criticism, but the journalist has primarily to deal with
short term material and he supplies more of fact and less o.
opinion. It is to the weekly and monthly and quarterly issues
of critical material that we must look for more fundamental prob-
ing, there we must seek the expression of the more slowly
maturing spirit of the people.
In other words, publications are necessary if the leaven of
community and of national unity is to work among an unorganised
people. Creative writers must in their writings help to create this
national consciousness and when their writings are published,
there must be a body of critics who will attempt to relate this
new literature to the new society. Both creative writers and
critics must be, to use a journalistic phrase "racy of the soil", and
members of no other society, English or American, can take their
place properly among either the creative writers or the critics
unless they have been fully assimilated, if that is possible, into
the new emergent consciousness.
This feature cannot be too strongly emphasised. There are
values for the West Indies which can only be created by West
Indians. Let me put it by way of litotes. A Canadian critic writing
in 1804 (I'm grateful to A. J. M. Smith for this reference from
the introductory essay to his "Book of Canadian Poetry") sets out
the stifling effect of the colonial habit of mind. He wrote "Colon-
ialism is a spirit that gratefully accepts a place of subordination,
that looks elsewhere for its standards of excellence and is content
to imitate with a modest and timid conservation the products of a
parent tradition in abstract and conventional patriotic poetry....
One of the most damaging of the results of colonialism is the feel-
ing of inferiority and doubt it engenders and the remoteness it
encourages. The colonial attitude of mind sets the great good place
not in its future, but somewhere outside its own borders, some-
where beyond its possibilities. Thus a direct result may be a turn-
ing away from the despised local present, not towards the mother
country but towards impossible hopes and noble dreams .... To
consider the realities of the life around as too modest or too coarse
for the attention of poetry is a temptation that faces the poet
Sin a colony."
The West Indies has passed through its colonial phase. Let
me put it in a positive way. In spite of shaping influences in the
past and present for which everyone is grateful the time has come
for the area to create its own standards of excellence, to reject
anything that savours of accepting a place of subordination. Instead
of the abstract and conventional, the symbols of poetry and art
must be realistic and concrete, reflecting and accepting the un-
pleasant conditions around us where they exist as so many chal-
lenges to our organising and remedial ability. Feelings of doubt
and inferiority must be cast away and an atmosphere of optimism
and pride created in their place. Who are the great leaders, what
are the great events in our regional history? Let them be known
and celebrated. The great and good future of the region becomes
an aim towards which we must move steadily and knowingly.
There must not be impossible dreams but the plan of our action
in the entire society must be an inchmeal advance, making do
with a little, being patient with small successes but always building
slowly upon them to higher but manageable aims.
Put in practical terms, what does this mean? It means that
writers in the West Indies must accept the fact that English or
American publishers may be reluctant to accept West Indian manu-
scripts for publication and that we must publish these manuscripts
ourselves. There is little or no hope of patronage in the aristocratic
sense, no Maecenas exists, and the University College of the West
Indies has at present no money to procure its own printing press.
That is why the B.G. Writers Association has embarked upon a
series of monthly publications of 16 pages each to be sold for 1/-
among West Indian subscribers. It is an amateur venture and the
advantage of the lack of profit is that the writers themselves can
keep it in their hands. In the recent Spring 1952 issue of the
California Quarterly, Angus Cameron writing on the Crisis in
Books in the U.S.A. affirmed that "art has a social function......
to keep our culture informed of its nature and its change" express-
ing "the truth of the world we live in, bringing truth and knowl-
edge .... the culture of man depends on the long process of ex-
tending truth through scientific and artistic criticism". So the
small core of the community who are interested in these matters
begin the discussion which later will percolate to other sections,
In the article quoted above, Angus Cameron was stressing the
need for a really free press in America since he claimed that social
pressure and official intimidation often acted as a deterrent against
publication. Andre Malraux in the Partisan Review September-
October 1951, discussing Popular Art and the Illusion of the Folk,
claims that crowds do not expect profound emotion from the arts
but rather the superficial and the puerile expression of violence,
cruelty and amorous sentimentality. The technique of advertising
has discovered a collective sensibility, a mass appeal which pro-
vides sensations but not values, and which allows for instinctive
gratification rather than the development of taste. In any case.
we can say, these manifestations have already shown themselves
in our young West Indian Society, but if some however small,
means of publication are available, then some attempt may be
made to combat these tendencies by returning to the original
function of art as a means of informing a society of its nature and
of the truth of the world we live in.
We in the West Indies who are moving toward nationhood
suffer from a certain lack of public emotion. In countries wherE
there has been a struggle for political independence there has been
also a mounting of public emotion which has buoyed up literary
endeavour and the writer has had a ready audience because he was
their spokesman. In the conditions which obtain in the West Indies,
many West Indian writers have gone abroad and so impoverished
the literary quality in the region, even though they have acted
as ambassadors abroad. The further result of this vacuum is that
there is less interplay of creative influences and more statements,
such as this one, of trends.
The most valuable asset of the writer is his independence. It
is true that he is socially conditioned in the unconscious springs
of his being, but no attempt should be made to make him toe a
party line in literature. For instance, no one should tell the writer
that he should not repeat other literary traditions and no one
should impute it as a fault to him that he seems to be infected,
say with Romanticism, because that manifested itself in Europe
Sone or two centuries ago. The writer writes as best he can and
he is grateful that he can write at all.
This then is one attempt to look ahead at our West Indian
community of the future and see s',me of the ways in which the
West Indian writer can help his young community. Their dreams
and their failures are his and whether he knows it or not, he bears
a great responsibility in history.-A.J.S.
AIME CESAIRE (Martinique)
translated by Miriam Koshland.
Sun serpent's eye fascinating my eye
and the ocean filthy from islands snapping with the fingers of roses
flaming spear and my body unharmed by lightning
water mounts the dead bodies of light lost in the pompless halls
whirlwinds of icicles crown the heart reeking of crows
this is the voice of tamed lightning turning upon their
hinges of cracks
transmission of anolis in the landscapes of cut glass
these are the vampire flowers climbing to the relief of orchids
elixir of the central fire
righteous fire of the mango tree in a night covered with bees
my desire a hazard of tigers surprised at the brimstones
but alarm golden the childish strata
and my pebble body eating fish eating
doves and sleep
the sweetness of the word Brazil at the bottom of the swamp.
GEORGES DESPORTES (Martinique)
translated by Miriam Koshland
We have Abandoned
We have abandoned the rabble, the unfrocked
We have stripped us of our European clothes
Magnificent and barbarous brutes we are;
And we have danced altogether nude
Altogether nude around the high flames
Altogether nude under the red sun of America,
Altogether nude under the bamboos and the palmettos
of the islands
Altogether nude like savages, altogether nude like Negroes
And we shout our joy of being free
We sing our deliverance and our liberation
Under the luminous sun of the tropical Caribbean;
And the torrn-tom re-echoes our joy......
On our bright faces, generous and relaxed,
The black joy mocks with great flashes of white teeth !
Macerated in the alcohol of our African joy
we rime a new music
To the blows of muffled rolling in drum's cadence
To the dry beaten blows, vibration of drumsticks
And we hurl against the world our primitive challenge
Our prognathious challenge !
Altogether nude under the rpd sun of America
Altogether nude around the great wood-pile of joy
Altogether nude under the palms, nude under the bamboos
We shout under the sky of the Tropics;
To the sound of powerful jazz from the Caribbean islands
The pride of being black
The glory of being Negroes.
ETIENNE LERO (Martinique)
Translated by Miriam Koshland
He left Today
He left today when the grieving forest poured out its flowers in
in 2 great rhythm of injured things....
his memory floats, liquid and capricious on the golden steamer
that the jealous soul of old deers
forgets in the forest of their dreaming youth.
whistled a song that was never heard again
And the lost bell
of goats in the mountains
like the prayer of the wind on the slope....
LEOPOLD SEDAR-SENGHOR (Senegal)
Translated by Miriam Koshland (For Khalam)
And we shall Bathe
And we shall bathe, my friend, in an African presence
Furnishings from Guinea and the Congo ponderous and polished
sombre and serene
Masks primitive and pure on distant walls yet so near!
Tabourets of honour for the hereditary hosts from the princes of
Of wild and haughty perfumes, thick tresses of silence,
Cushions of shadow and of leisure, the noise of a quiet well,
Classical words and in the distance the alternating chants like the
loincloths of Sudan.
And then friendly light, your blue blindness will soften the
obsession of this presence-
Black white and red, oh. red like the soil of Africa.
Khalamr: a tetrachord guitar. Used as accompaniment for the
recital of an ode or an elegy.
(born 1913 Martinique)
Is Professor for Literature at Schelcher College in Fort-de-France.
He is also Mayor of this city and a Martinique Delegate to the French
Parliament. (He spends part of the year in Paris).
His first important poem was the 28 page long "Cahier pour un retour 4
au Pays Natal". He was "discovered" by Andre Breton on his trip to
Martinique. Breton wrote a long foreword to this poem and says: "Cesaire
is a Negro who has a command of the French language as no one, no white
poet has, he is not only a Negro but ALL men."
In'his surrealistic poems Cesaire tries to combine dreams and reality.
His poetry is not only highly personal, it is also a racial poetry, yet in a
way, as he himself writes, poetry of love, love for his own race as well
as for all men.
'born 1925 Martinique).
G.D. is a close friend of Lucien Degras. They went to school together
and Desportes was also working for the magazine "Caravelle". They are
both living in Martinique. Both studied with Cesaire.
born 1909 in Lamentin (IMartinique).
died 1939 in Paris (France).
Lero received his education, as most of the Martinique intellectuals,
at Schoelcher College, then went to Paris to take his degree in English,
French and Philosophy. Could not finish his studies as he fell seriously
Sill and died at the age of 30. He was the founder of "Ioegitime Defense,"
in Paris, a cultural movement of the West Indies. This group discovered
in the inhabitants of the W.I. the descendants of Negro-African slaves,
kept for about 300 centuries in proletarian conditions. Lero and his
friends thought that only surealism could free them from their taboos.
Besides poetry he wrote Short Stories and an essay on the "Bourgeous
Family in Balzac's novels."
Leopold S.S. went to school in Dakar, later continued his studies at
the Sorbonne, Paris. He taught several years in Tours and in Paris.
Since 1945 he has been Professor at the Ecole Nationale de la Franrce
d'outre Mer, in Paris, where he teaches Negro-African languages and
Sociology. Besides he is a member of the French Parliament as Deput6
from and for Se&ngal.
His poetry contrasts, in an interesting way, with that of Cesaire. If
SL&opold S6dar-Senghor likes his accents resounding to the "tam-tam
voile" and the motherly tenderness of the night, Cesaire prefers to exalt
under the intense heat of a belligerent sun. S6dar-Senghor is compared
at times to the sensibility of a Navalis and Cesaire to Rimbaud.
These poems were translated from the French by Miriam Koshland
and have been reprinted here with the permission of Mr. L6opold Sedar-
SSenegal, editor of the "Anthologie de la Poesie Negre et Malgache."
Miriam Koshland who kindly provided these notes on the poets has
prepared an anthology of African poetry in several languages.
WEST INDIAN PEN PORTRAIT
C. L. R. James
By Canon J. D. Ramkeeson
I have just been given the exciting information that C. L. R. James,
brother of Eric James, our dynamic football organiser, may soon be visiting
the West Indies on a lecture tour. He has come into his own in the
United States, where he has been living and writing for the past 14 years,
and where the vicissitudes of the literary life in a country where authen-
tic ability alone can succeed, have tempered his talents, that today he is
an artist with something unusual to say to his contemporaries.
Billed by publicity agents as "the distinguished British author and
lecturer", he is now engaged in delivering a series of lectures from coast
to coast, from California to New York, on three subjects Herman
Melville, the American author, whose book, "Moby Dick", published a
century ago, is now considered one of the greatest achievements in Ameri-
can literature; "Hollywood Movies and American Movie-Goers"; and
"The American Negro: Touchstone of American Civilisation."
Born in Trinidad 51 years ago, C. L. R. James is the son of Mr.
Robert James, retired Government headmaster, outstanding member of
the old brigade of teachers, and one of the few teacher-holders of the
Imperial Service Medal. His mother, the late Mrs. Bessie James, was a
woman of charm and strong Christian character. From his father's school
at North Trace, he was an exhibitioner at the record age of nine. After
his education at Q.R.C., he acted for several years as a master there,
and later joined the staff of the Government Training College as a
lecturer in English and History.
Perpetually preoccupied with literature and conscious of his endow-
ments (most gifted men are), he steadily rejected the conventional task
of reading for an external degree, which he could easily have gained,
with a view to becoming a permanent college master. Presumably the
uneventful life of the average anonymous citizen was not for him.
For he had set his heart on other things. He could not resist the
impulse to write. If ever there was one born and dedicated to authorship,
it was he. From early he had planned for himself a career with his pen
and toiled unremittingly towards that end. His relatives and friends
thought him a visionary and wrote him off as a talented but unpractical
potentiality. Some even considered him an inspired failure.
However, he did not mind, because he cared little for public opinion.
Even then he was an insurgent in constant and overt rebillion against
the humbug of pretence and the strait-jacket of rigid social custom. I
knew him intimately, for we have been close friends from boyhood. He
talked incessantly of books and characters, of the broad subject of life and
the narrow topic of local people. He conversed with a gift for words
and ideas amazing in one so young, and with an enthusiasm and con-
viction that converted opponents and drew the admiration of his hearers.
He was indeed a brilliant conversationalist-the most engaging I have
An avid and swift reader, he had while at school read nearly every-
thing of Scott, Dickens, Thackeray and most of the other great novelists,
and later addressed himself seriously to Arnold Bennett, Wells, Shaw and
Aldous Huxley, Voltaire and Anatole France, as well as to the Russian
masters, Tolstoi, Tchekov and Dostoievsky. He pursued the art of
writing with the devotion of a bewitched lover, immersing himself as
well in the most solid of English literary critics, George Saintsbury. If
his reading was ecumenical and tireless, so was his habit of annotating
what he read. But he did all this not as a dull duty but as a joyous
adventure into the realm of letters.
Before he left for England in 1932 he had already written short
stories which gave promise of literary talent far above the ordinary. "La
Divina Pastora", dealing with the statue at the Siparia Roman Catholic
Church, perhaps his best known story, had the distinction of being
included in the Best British Short Stories of 1928.
His other publications include a life of Captain Cipriani, which did
much to popularise the patriot's name and work; "Minty Alley," a novel,
described by the "London Observer" as a strange, passionate, sincere
book about coloured people in the West Indies: "Toussaint L'Overture,"
a play produced in London's famous Westminster Theatre in 1936; and
"The Black Jacobins," dealing with the revolutionaries of Haiti, a search-
ing historical analysis, finely conceived and executed, profound and
exciting-according to the appreciation in the "New York Herald Tribune".
This last was published in London in 1938, in America in 1939, and a
SFrench edition in Paris in 1949.
"Moby Dick", the subject of one of his American lectures, concerns
the mad captain of a ship of savage harpooners and its heathen crew of
renegades and castaways, whose baffling story of the sea has fascinated
readers of this day. To mark the centenary of Melville's masterpiece,
James, who incidentally is now writing a book on him, seems to be aston-
fishing audiences everywhere in the States by the depth of his critical
analysis and the eloquence with which he presents it.
The title he gives to his lecture is-"The Prophetic Riddle of Herman
Melville-Preview of the Modern Crisis." One hundred years ago
Melville evidently posed everything that we face in the critical present
-the world of totalitarianism, the intellectual and psycho-analysis, and
Sthe problem of backward peoples. In his lecture he succeeds in trans-
mitting Melville's warm insight into the august dignity of men at work,
their confidences and meditations, their horseplay and fellowship in the
midst of wearisome labours.
Further, he joins issue with the modern psycho-analytic school of 1
Melville's critics, but at the same time paints a graphic picture of the
lonely intellectual. His bold but considered assertion is that "Moby
Dick" is the greatest single piece of imaginative literature in the English "
language after "Hamlet" and "Lear", and he makes the claim that
Melville is America's Shakespeare.
Perhaps the finest tribute to his lecture on Melville comes from
Professor Upton, of Whittier College, California, who writes thus -
"I wish the nation could hear him on the subject of Melville and
'Moby Dick'. We need someone to expound the mystery of that vast
allegory; someone 'who speaks with the authority of personal vision and
not as the scribes and pedagogues. I know there are other minds that
appreciate the greatness of Melville's art and its timeliness, but I have
yet to hear one speak with such strange power to stir the imagination
and excite the interest of the normal unliterary student."
In "Moby Dick" there are three untamea harpooners, very vivid
figures, who James believes mean more than the critics in the past have
realized. They are only savages, but they have magnificent capabilities
and tremendous energies, because they do not suffer from what modern
man suffers. And modern man must find again this spontaneity and
freedom in order to live a satisfactory, harmonious life using all the
powers Western civilisation has developed in him.
But it is better to hear James himself on the subject, and I give
two quotations to convey something" of the art of his approach and
"Ahab, the sea captain, is a prototype of the Hitler's and Stalins we
Know today. He is stirred by a sense of chaos and disorder. He thinks
himself perfectly justified to use all means to create a new order. He
destroys all human values, principles, and ideas by which men have
striven to live in the past. And in the end the results are worse than
the conditions he tried to correct." And -
"Melville lived in a time of great crisis prior to the Civil War. He
described characters and types of behaviour characteristic of a period of
turmoil. These disappeared for two generations after the Civil War,
only to reappear with the stress of World War I and since. As the crisis
grows, so does the interest in this great writer."
With this lecture at the Institute of Arts and Sciences of Columbia
University he made such an impression that by popular request he was
invited back to speak on an un-literary subject, but one to which he had
given much study and one that poses a difficult problem in American
democracy. The subject -of this lecture was, "Negro American: Touch-
stone of American Civilisation."
His thesis is that no one is more American than the Negro American,
and it is a myth to look upon him as a member of the Negro race outside
the main stream of American life. His very segregation intensifies his
Americanism. Like the great body of Americans, the Negro needs free-
dom, not only to live with others, but because without it he can no longer
live with himself. Such is his theme on the provocative subject.
Some eminent educationists who heard him acclaimed his effort as
an exceptional achievement without the slightest trace of prejudice, and
one that gave immense help to the understanding of a thorny pro-
S blenm of American life. They regarded his lecture as an instrument
for the improvement of race relations in a country where the issue excites
traditional interest and resounding controversy.
In his treatment of American movies, he explores the origins of the
evil woman, the crazy criminal and the ruthless private eye. He probes
the frenzy of the publicity mill and the clamour for the star. He con-
tends that since 1945 the brutality of American films can no longer be
regarded with complacency. They are the most popular in the world,
but in his view they show violence and are proof of a widespread
It only remains to hope that this noteworthy son of the Caribbean
will pay an early visit to the land and people that suckled him, to
thrill us with his eloauence, delight us with his cosmopolitan charm,
and instruct and inspire us by the art and culture with which the study
and practice of letters have equipped and qualified him.
Reprinted with the author's permission with acknowledgements to
the "Trinidad Guardian".
WEST INDIAN PEN PORTRAIT
Edgar Mittelholzer was recently awarded a John Simon Guggenheim
Memorial Fellowship which he will take up on September 1 this year,
and his novel Shadows Move Among Them is being dramatized by one
of the leading American playwrights for its premiere in New York this
autumn. These two events set the seal of literary success upon the
career of a Guianese writer, whose distinguishing characteristics have
been energy and persistence.
From his boyhood days in Coburg Street. New Amsterdam, Edgar
Mittelholzer was writing stories. Some of his contemporaries tell of the
bloodthirsty-murder stories Edgar, better known as "Barno", would read
aloud to them in Sunday instalments from an exercise book. Some readers
liked them,, others did not, but Edgar kept on writing.
I spent about a year of my Civil Service life in the thirties as Super
intendent of Sorters in the Mails Branch of the Post Office. Sometimes
the night trains from New Amsterdam would include in their mail large
registered packages of manuscripts addressed to publishers in the United
Kingdom and posted by one Edgar Mittelholzer. The outward stream was
balanced by the inward stream, almost exactly so far as I know. But
Edgar kept on writing.
When he came down to live for a while in Georgetown, one morning
L visited him where he was staying in a house immediately over the
"Labour Advocate" in Hadfield Street, and watched him while he was
at work on a novel. Writing in pencil, still in an exercise book, he would
begin every morning by re-reading and retouching the work he had
written the day before, erasing here and there, and re-casting sentences
and paragraphs and so re-capturing the mood of the section on which
he happened to be working at the time.
Edgar kept on writing and writing. He wrote all kinds of stories.
I remember one most horribly fascinating story he 'wrote (I have never
seen it published) about the last 36 hours in the life of a man who was
going mad. It was all cleverly done, with blue flame seeming to flicker
over his skin
Edgar has been ceaselessly engaged in fiction, writing novels and
short stories, but his range as an artist includes painting, poetry and
criticism, a many-sided practice of the arts which enriches his fiction. I
can only mention here his "Colonial Artist in Wartime" published in 1941
by the Chronicle, and the vignette "Last Dance" at the back of his
"Creole Chips" is worthy of reproduction as a classic of the "bram" in
1937. For the benefit of 'would-be collectors I may mention that these
two out-of-print pamphlets were 8 cents and 4 cents respectively.
There must be many unpublished Mittelholzer books. One I look
forward to reading 'with amusement is an account originally named "His
Majesty's Serfs" which retails his experiences on H.M.S. Benbow as a
naval seaman before his very unorthodox discharge. Perhaps Edgar is
preserving and reserving that for his autobiography.
The Mittelholzer gallery of fiction characters is still open, but one
day we may have an article on the characters Edgar has already created.
Curiously I remember Jagabir and Kattiee but Olivia is my choice. And
crowding over their shoulders are the others who first peopled his imagin-
ation and then passed on to the pages of his books. I cannot spend time
in the Mittelholzer world which the novels project and there is so much I
hope of Edgar Mittelholzer's life in front of him that it would be fool-
hardy at this stage to try and discern a pattern in his writing. For all
we know, he may be entering upon an "English phase" with the new
novel "The Weather in Middenshot" which should be published in mid-
October this year and there is always the possibility of his embarking
upon a chronicle of the social scene in Canada, where he proposes to
settle. But as he said once in a letter, sex and religion are his "themes"
as a writer; he holds strong views on them and in everything he writes,
they will be there, as a main emphasis or as background accompaniment.
His "religion" includes the supernatural and also descriptions of
psychological states of mind one has only to think of the doppies in
"Corentyne Thunder" and the queer disconcerting appearances and visi-
tations of spirits to the volatile, passionate Olivia in Shadows Move Among
Them (incidentally the best piece of writing to date, in my opinion, from
his pen). And even in a short story like Tacama one can see how he
piles up detail after detail in the effective exploration of a character's
psychological mood with an unusual economy of means a fine example
of what is to me Mittelholzer's particular genius.
And the Sex? Sex is always there. Even in the social document -
"A Morning at the Office" (as he called it "the grand tract nicely
dressed up to debunk the fallacy held by people in northern regions that
the people in the West Indies are a backward, half-civilised people") sex
is the force that makes the world go round.
.0 Only two features remain to be mentioned here the fact that Edgar,
apart from the Trinidad setting in "Morning at the Office", has been des-
cribing the sights and sounds of the County of Berbice, and secondly his
Sown "philosophy" of endeavour.
Here is a novelist who has painted life on the Corentyne and in
settlements along the banks of the Berbice River. If a would-be novelist
ever wanted confirmation that he should look around him at the possibly-
despised physical environment that lies to hand ("after ajl, we live in
a colony, you know"), he can turn to Edgars work and see how by skill
in provocative narrative, a writer can make alien geography acceptable
to the most sophisticated cosmopolitan reader.
Part of the reason for its success possibly lies in the fact that "Shadows
Move Among .Them gave timely expression to an European yearning to
leave the broken cities and go back to the life of the pioneer and the
noble savage of Rousseau and to abandon orthodox religion, held partly
responsible for the mess in which the world finds itself. But another
reason is the compelling writing which made alive the cross-relationships
of human beings and history and nature, and so constructed an imaginative
So the writer can start from anywhere if he writes well enough.
The final point to be made in this very short appreciation concerns
Edgar's energy and the persistence with which for years and years, he
kept on improving his style and his knowledge of human nature, writing
novel after novel. Some of his main characters are invested with this very
energy; Gerald Harmston has it, Olivia too, and in the "Children of
Kaywana" (that picture showing how slavery pulls down the morals both
of owner and slave in a way that is as bitter as anything in the pages
of Eric Williams) the characters keep saying that courage is the great
quality, better die than give in, never be daunted by what people think
and say, go right on.
Edgar has gone on writing intent on his own purpose in very much
the same way that Christopher Colcmbus had, simply had, to fbllow
the dream which led to the discovery of America. A.J.S.
Lino-cut by E. R. Burrowes.
Literary Criticism and the
By Edgar Mittelholzer
This-I have good reason to believe-will be mainly about literary
criticism and its benefit, or lack of benefit, to the creative writer. It
will probably be a bit garrulous and rambling, for that happens to be
my mood of the moment. I like indulging my moods. By way of illus-
tration, it will be necessary for me to refer to one or two of my own
literary experiences, though it is a necessity I abhor, for I have always
Preferred, and still prefer, the detached, impersonal treatment. I am
of the strict belief, however, that it is chiefly through one's own exper-
iences that the soundest judgments are arrived at. I might even go so
far as to say that I consider it a good thing to be self-opinionated, to be
more influenced by one's own individual summings-up on people and
things than by the findings of others.
SI recall-not maliciously but with smiles made kindly and indul-
gent through the mellowing of time-a certain journalist with whom I
often came to literary grips in the early days in New Amsterdam. He
was a gentleman forever in fear of offending, who loved doing homage
to those in high places, who preferred to praise rather than administer
a salutary drubbing, and who dreaded standing alone in expressing
an opinion. His favourite phrase was "It is the consensus of opinion".
Indeed, he wrote as though he had carried out .a private Gallup Poll
on every occasion before taking up his pen.
I remember, too-in Trinidad this time-another gentleman, a sub-
editor, who suffered from a somewhat different type of malady. His
took the form of over-cautiousness-an over-cautiousness verging on
neurosis. This is the sort of thing that often happened: I would sub-
mit an article which, provided it was not too vitriolic-it often was-
he would accept. But before it was published he would summon me
to his office for "a friendly chat", in the course of which he would (with
a continuous friendly smile) point out where one or two "minor amend-
ments" might not be amiss. Would I object, he would suggest, if he
inserted "a little phrase" here or "just a word" there? Not wishing
to have my article turned down (it was bringing me in five dollars), I
would protest but agree. The result of these conferences was as follows.
Let us, for the sake of argument, say that I had written in my article
something like this: "Mr. Jones is an ass. Mr. Brown is a renowned
idiot, and Mrs. Green a nincompoop." Profound truths, incidentally, of
which the public ought to be made aware. Anyway, this is how my
statements (after sub-editing) would read in print: "Mr. Jones, it might
appear, is an ass. Mr. Brown, it would seem, is a renowned idiot, and
Mrs. Green, it could be said, a nincompoop."
The point I am trying to make is that I consider such writing bogus,
and I am not concerned here with bogus writing or the writers who
produce it. I am addressing this to writers of integrity-creative writ-
ers who really want to produce creations that are honest and free of
polite or hypocritical evasions and sham language. I am addressing the
writer who feels that the poem or short story or novel he is bringing
to life is emphatically his own and not a pastiche of half-veiled crib-
bings from the works of other writers, not a collection of cautious cliches
-ar even sensational cliches-intended to impress but, in actuality,
drab or unconvincing. I am not addressing the writer who believes in
expressing "the consensus of opinion." I am speaking to the writer
who loves his own ideas, who respects his own opinions, and is deter-
mined, if the heavens cave in, to say what, deep in his heart-or in his
reason-he feels to be the truth about people and things.
And now for the question I want to pose. Forgetting the aesthetic
aspect of the subject and forgetting the profound and involved-and
often obscure-opinions adduced by such people as Mr. T. S. Eliot and
Mr. D. S. Savage (in The Withered Branch, an excellent book, incident-
ally), what, from a strictly down-to-earth, practical point of view, is
the use of criticism to any creative artist and, more especially, the lit-
erary artist? Without criticism, I readily admit, the artist would be like
a man sealed up in a glass case and left severely to himself in the mid-
dle of a public park; even assuming that he could arrange for the requi-
site ventilation and other means of keeping alive, and even assuming
he were satisfied to be stationary indefinitely, observing what went on
outside his prison with the keenest interest, he would eventually be
overcome by the utter silence, the lack of stimulating commentary from
without. So egotistic is the species that without the stimulus of criti-
cism, be it favourable or adverse, the human spirit would wither. Yet,
apart from mere stimulus, where is the actual gain to the artist?
To simplify the matter somewhat. Here is a poem, here a short
story, here a novel, produced by a man or woman of Door, middling or
high talent. And here come our critic who takes it to bits and tells us
where it flops and where it succeeds. Mr. Smith's poem is poor in
imagery, is lacking in depth of feeling and universality of spirit. Mr.
Jones's short story reveals a talent for characterization but is faulty in
construction. Miss Brown's novel is a penetrating study in human
relations, but her dialogue is a little stilted and unnatural. These are
the views of Mr. I. M. A. Nabob in Bim or the Observer, and Mr. Nabob
ought to know what he is talking about, for he is among the Top Five
Critics in the country.
The following week, however, we read in Caribbean Quarterly or
The Sunday Times that Mr. Smith's poem is a masterpiece of imagery,
profundity and universality of spirit. Mr. Jones's short story is delight-
fully constructed but is poor in characterization, while Miss Brown's
novel is noteworthy for its sparkling dialogue though rather flat as a
study of human relations. And these are the findings of Mr. B. I. G.
Panjandurum, also of the Top Five.
Now, where does our creator stand ? How do Smith and Jones feel ?
And Miss Brown ? How should they feel ? What must Mr. Smith think
when he reflects upon the respective remarks of Messrs. Nabob and
Panjandrum ? Is his poem a failure or a masterpiece ? Should he toss
a coin to decide it? Heads-Nabob! Tails Panjandru.m! How is
Mr. Jones to make up his mind whether he is good at characterization
and bad at construction, or the reverse ? If his characterization is poor,
then he ought to do something about it. But there it is, Mr. Nabob
thought he has a talent for characterization. If his construction is faulty,
then he must strive to do better in this respect. But didn't Mr. Pan-
jandrum say that his story is delightfully constructed ?
What complicates matters still more is that Messrs. Nabob and Pan-
jandrum though I may seem to be poking fun at them really do know
something about literature. They are both sound critics. No reputable
journal will employ a critic who lacks a thorough knowledge of his
subject, at least not in England and America and Europe (and, I would
like to hope, not in British Guiana or the West Indies). This being the
case, then, the creative writer cannot afford to reject out of hand what
has been said about his work. Unless he is a producer of popular tripe
and writes solely to make a living, being entirely insensible to aesthetic
values, the views of the critics are bound to make some impression upon
him, and if he happens .to be a very sensitive individual he may even
feel that he Fhould take to heart what has been said with, perhaps,
damaging results. Indeed, since the best of the critics insist on express-
ing such completely conflicting views, what effect can their pronounce-
ments have on the creator but to confuse him ?
Added to the critics who actually appear on the stage, so to speak,
there are the backstage critics the publishers' readers and literary
advisers, the pundits in editorial offices, the editors of literary reviews -
the men -who give "advice" to creative writers and those business it is
to sift the not-so-good from Ithe very-good, and, accordingly, decide
whether the would-be writer makes his bow or remains in backstage
obscurity. Very important gentlemen, these, but, like their brothers in
the limelight, they are human, each with his particular likes and dislikes.
They differ just as fiercely as the public critics. What one may consider
venom another may deem the choicest vension.
A Morning at the Office was turned down by seven of the most
reputable London publishers, one of whom said in a brief note to me :
"Our feeling is that the material has not been worked into a novel, quite
successfully". Yet, shortly after, the editor of a well known literary
review said this in a letter : "I found it most absorbing and a consider-
able technical achievement." In America the MS. was rejected by two
of the leading publishing houses. One said : "It was a worthy attempt
and an interesting one, but I don't believe that the results can be called
entirely satisfactory. There are too many loose threads in your tapestry,
too much disproportion of effect and an insistence on the theme of social
inequality that is out of all proportion with its |conclusiveness and
Very well. Suppose I were the "very sensitive" kind of individual
referred to above. Suppose I had not been the nasty, self-opinionated
ogre I am, what would have happened ? I should have decided that the
whole thing was beyond me, just too baffling for words, and I should
probably have taken the MS. and given it a nice, quiet decent cremation.
Not, I admit, that this would have constituted a major loss to the world
of literature, but remembering the hysterical praise that hailed the book's
appearance in print, what could I feel about the seven publishers who
had turned it down? What faith could I put in the opinions of the
editors and publishers readers who had pronounced against it ? Indeed,
wouldn't I be justified in thumbing my nose even at the critics who
were so lavish in their eulogy ?
Shadows Move Among Them, despite the overwhelming |critical
success it won in both England and America, was turned away by two
of the most distinguished London publishers and two old-established
American firms; the editor of one of the latter would have accepted it
if I had agreed to alter the work and give it a sweet, neat, slick Holly-
wood ending (of course, I wouldn't agree !). Mr. Leonard Woolf, one
evening in December, 1950, shook his head dismally at me, between
cocktails, and said: "No, I really think you've gone off the rails this
time." And some months later, Miss Marghanita Laski was saying in
the Observer: "A novel of unexceptionable merit". And Mr. C. P.
Snow in The Sunday Times: "It is a bad book".
How does all this, then, reflect on literary criticism as a whole ?
Had Mr. Jones or Mr. Smith or Miss Brown been subjected to my ex-
periences what conclusions would he or she have come to ? Must the
creative writer take the critic seriously ? Must he look upon critics as
people whose opinions deserve careful and constructive consideration ?
And if so, which group of critics should he heed? The ones that state
him, or the ones that praise him ? How is he to decide which are giving
him good and useful advice and which misleading him ? Since critics
are really just ordinary human beings with temperaments that vary,
with individual idiosyncrasies, how is the creative writer to know that
the remarks directed at his work are the result of calm and detached
judgment and not of personal taste -or distaste?
It would be easy for me to end by saying to Messrs Smith and
Jones: Take my advice and write as you please. Enjoy yourself with
words, expressing what ideas you want to express, and how you want
to express them, and treat the critics as academic entertainers to divert
rather than edify you. But that would be to set myself up as an arbiter
of the creative writer's outlook. I should be guilty of just what I am
quarrelling with the critics for doing. Therefore my final word must be:
Ignore me I
,The Question of......
Form and Realism in the West
by WILSON HARRIS
The situation being as it is today, it is extremely important that
certain bold assessments be made fearlessly by West Indian writers. I
do not think one should be afraid to pursue a conscientious though pain-
ful road if one feels one is making some contribution to an original
conception of values. What is the position that the West Indian artist
occupies? He lives in a comparatively bare world mountains, jungles,
rivers where the monumental architecture of the old world is the
exception rather than the rule. Yet the values of that very old world
have still imposed themselves most evidently on his culture patterns and
economic way of life. Therefore despite bareness he lives most certainly
in an architectural age masses and materials on one hand and values
on the other.
There is the theme of annihilation (earthquakes, atomic power, tidal
disasters, the psychological and cosmic peril to which man is subject):
there is the theme of origins (anthropology, geomorphology, the genius of
man and the strength of matter which comprise the starting point of
The concern with annihilation brings out sharply the masses and
materials of the world piled into overwhelming structures. What sort
of art is the outcome of this environment? The art of the skeleton or
cell, the lonely, diminished structure of man. In the old world that cell
is the very mass under which the passerby is squeezed. So that he is
locked away in an eternal negative position.
In the West Indies that cell is a paradox: lack of room, over-
population in spite of wide areas uninhabited in British Guiana, un-
inhabitable under present conditions. But the very bareness of the West
Indian world reveals the necessity to examine closely the starting point
of human societies. The diminution of man is not entirely accomplished
and a relationship between man and the paradoxes of his world becomes
evident as a relationship which can still have momentous consequences.
The West Indian artist therefore has a central theme or symbol, and
that symbol is man, the human person, as opposed to the European artist
whose symbol is masses and materials. In order to develop his theme
the West Indian must concern himself with the several levels of his world;
he has in short most significantly to influence the architectural problem
of his time, since though he may work principally in terms of values in
his bare world, the effects will be felt soon or late in terms of masses
and structural organisation.
If one accepts the motive in the West Indian as the "human", what
next? Is it possible to outline a development? Each one of us, I
believe, has to expose his personal method, to challenge the originality
of other minds.
Now, it is not an easy matter to see the human being today. So
many walls fall between us and our fellows. Money, myth, and numerous
obsessions. Yet when we look at the human we must be prepared not
to overlook these obsessions but to work them into the structure of art
so that all these levels of man are present. It is the only way we can
come close to the real power of man, by showing the interaction of all
the levels of his life, thereby not only baring his conflict, but the rhythms
within the welter of his existence. These rhythms being after all the
source of man's generation of energy yesterday and today, are also the
source of man's energy tomorrow. The real hope for man lies not in
promises of splendour or in virtuosity but in the revelation of original
and authentic rhythms within the gloomy paradox of a world.
Bear in mind we have to be true both to the diminished man in
the old world (that is. we must bring him into focus) and we have to
be true to the urgent realisation that man is still an original creation
(that is, we have to move that diminished creature through our work
in a manner that is disturbing, so disturbing that vitality and power are
realized as a very strong possibility). We look then for a symbol that
is both above and below, final and yet unplumbed in significance. We
might juxtapose "heaven" with "roots" or "jungles". TROPIC OF
HEAVEN (therein lieq the explanation behind the name given to a
poem). And throughout the poem, I (the writer) tried to bring into
sharp focus the disturbance created by opposed conditions. Such as
freedom and imprisonment the bursting of bonds -
networks turn to spasms
Such as man's utilisation of the energies in space and the paradox of
his oppression and unfulfilment -
hungers indent electricity
Such as the jungle in civilisation -
the footfall of a tiger
the feet of a hungry boy
Such as the frailty and unknown texture of man, who builds a world
that mocks him -
turning shoulders of a face in shadow
when the lights go out slowly
Such as the paradox of man's energy
rocking in roots of pain and gaiety
Such as the overpowering realisation of cosmic relationships
human and unhuman
Finally the main symbol "heaven" is stressed in the particular feature
of a crow, that scavenger and agent of cleanliness and uncleanliness,
the primitive juxtaposition of the unclean with the frenzied individual
which has so sobering an effect on the initiate into human society -
half moon of shadow
on heaven's flats and heaven's tall somersaulting
The intention throughout of the writer (myself) was to work from one
symbol "heaven" and to utilise the indirect suggestions that issued
from that conception. These indirect suggestions -were strengthened
sometimes into patterns over and against the original and central theme.
This great problem of opposite tendencies, the man of the museum
and the real man has for us a striking meaning. To follow it to its
Real conclusion means to begin from the beginning or to go back as far
as possible in the history of the Americas. Immigration from Asia
produced the American Indian. He built an amazing civilization but
his gods failed him. Perhaps gods will always fail men. The failure
of these primitive, gods, who were rooted in real conditions, in forests
or river, in birth and death, in fertility and agriculture, points the way
to the necessity for new human values after the fetish. Man will never
' pass beyond pre-historic conditions until all his gods have failed, and
their failure which puts him on the rack, opens up the necessity for
self-knowledge and for the scientific understanding of his environment.
This early failure of man's gods was a failure in values-values
being a complex relationship of bewildering levels of existence. The
Great civilisation of the American Indian, which was based on an agri-
cultural norm, is a vivid example of an architecture of values made
manifest from original conditions devoid of illusory masses or materials.
Matter truly bore the imprint of genius, not the dead stamp of indus-
trialisation or the taboo of spirituality removed from sensuous direction.
This was an assertion of human greatness truly epic in dimension. To
realise it, is to be aware of the diminutive man of the cities of the
world today and the tragic ancestry of his gods which failed him with
th( rising tide of individualism that exploited those gods, thereby
exposing an early deception whose intrinsic hollowness once followed
Communal patterns and was thereby able to wear the mask of man's
self-torture and fear without failing under the strain.
Individualism has unmasked the original hollowness, and in that
disillusionment the real rhythms of the human being are innately
strengthened and discovered, the complexity of value is shown to be
--flesh and blood, not spirit and stone.
Certain important questions suggested by Mr. A. J. Seymour have
arisen and I shall do my best to deal with them as briefly as possible.
What is the quality possessed by rhythms as sources of energy for
our civilisation ? I would point to the exploitment of rhythm as a
means of discovering the secrets of the universe. The precision instru-
ments of .modern times are means of controlling and assessing disturb-
ances in the environment. Life, it would appear, realises itself in
potentiality and peril with the appearance of rhythm. In the "cumulative
force of rhythm" primitive peoples sought to dance "the sprouting corn
up out of the earth" or "to constrain the white cumulus clouds that
are slowly piling up the sky on a desert afternoon."
The distinction, that Ruth Benedict makes, in her analysis of our
social structure as related to primitive civilisations (Patterns of Culture),
between Apollonian and Dionysian tendencies, signifies only the end to
which rhythms were put and the kind of civilisation that developed.
That distinction in itself does not attempt to posit a ore-conception before
rhythm but points to the kind of insight of the world that came after.
The basic rhythm therefore as time went on took unto itself many levels
and insights and illusions, altering into fresh patterns in order to cope
with each accretion in material and insight. However overwhelming
the problem for society the persistence or discovery of new or original
rhythms justified the hope for a change or a solution since the creative
powers of man still continued intact.
George Vaillant to whom we owe the fullest authoritative account
of the people of pre-Coiumbian Mexico states:-
"Nature operates in series of recurrences 'which give the effect of
rhythms. Thus to discover what those rhythms were and follow their
complicated but regular beat would, in Aztec philosophy, ensure happy
survival of the community."
He gives an illuminating anecdote of the coincidence of four rhythms
on one occasion-a Venus count, a solar count, a 52 year cycle, and
the celebration of a dateless day.
"That four mystical rhythms, affecting such diverse aspects of the
universe and the gods that dwelt therein, could meet must have pro-
duced great satisfaction and occasioned the utmost rejoicing among
people for whom pattern and form had such great significance."
Of course we all know that Aztec civilisation failed. Its failure was
accelerated by contact with the individualism of an alien power. The
failure of the gods of the American Indian is not simply the failure of
"tribal" gods. There are many significant meeting points between
present-day deities and American Indian deities, so that if the latter
gods were "tribal" ours too become "tribal".
"Tonantzin (Our Mother), which may have been an aspect of
Cihuacoatl (Snake Woman), had a temple at Tepeyac, now the site of
the shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe, and her cult was transferred
to the Virgin by the early missionaries......"
The priests of the Aztecs sacrificed living hearts torn out of the
breast of human beings. This horrible contradiction was the result of
man becoming the toy of his religion. A contradiction developed be-
tween man who built a world, and the world he built which made him
When the toy-man, the exploited man, becomes aware of original
rhythms within the oppression of his world. contradictions are bared in
a manner terrifying and yet containing the secret of change. It has
been said of Dostoyevsky that he portrayed humanity stripped of all
its attractive graces.
The heart-searching rhythms born of North American Negro music
have been described as "raucous". The Trinidad steel band has been
deemed "not respectable". These instances could be multiplied but the
point is made, the structural potential and peril of the world, the
structural understanding or growth of the world is related intimately to
the human being. That to my mind is the situation of the West Indian
artist, the situation he has to express, the architectural problem that
Who or what is the creator of man, the human being ? Here is
posed in a question the great insecurity about origins that troubles
modern man. This question contains another question of "interior-
Scosmic and exterior-cosmic". Man is frequently overwhelmed by the
immense and alien power of the universe. But within that immense
and alien power the frail heart-beat of man is the never-ending fact of
creation. Man's survival is a continual tension and release of energy
that approaches self-destruction, but is aware of self-discovery. This
contradiction has its identity that comes into form or being and goes
out of form or being. It is a cosmic frailty and is our dim participation
in creation, all we know at present. Yet this cosmic frailty (which is
man) brings a terrifying authority into human affairs, into the structure
of civilisation, in terms of understanding and protection, or in terms of
anguish and exposure, depending on the kind of world we build, the
kind of living substance we realise and cherish, or the kind of dominating
spirit or god we set up to chastise us.
POEMS OF PRISON
Bare Night Without Comfort
In a bare night with out comfort
Stood like an infant hearing a drum:
Shadows and green grass spinning
But clutched at a world without nearing.
Like dark ball rising from nothing
Hurling curse at me and full of scorn:
Bare night without comfort
Stood like an infant hearing a drum.
Who Walks A Pavement
Iron gate, the terrible hands of a clock
A calendar with days scratched off and buried,
Slant roof of slate black as the floor of tight cell
Is not a prison, nor a convict shelter.
A prison is go back, go back, go back,
Lash of two things, shell which is the heart
And heart which is the shell-the hollow tear;
The man of time whose look can stain a sky
Who walks a pavement, walks and disappears.
You Are Involved
This I have learnt:
Today a speck
Tomorrow a hero
Hero or monster
You are involved !
You are consumed !
Like a jig
Shakes the loomr;
Like a web
Is spun the pattern
All are involved!
All are consumed !
0 Where To Hide
These lumps of hardened air
Invisible drums are beating at my head:
I hear drum drum drum
Loud drops of wax falling from time's black candle.
O drum beat drum beat terrifying night air -
O drum beat drum beat let me tear away;
O drum beat! dark night! stamp foot!
O God the face of earth is moving I
O where to hide ? O where to hide? O where to hide?
The Kind Eagle
I make my dance right here !
Right here on the wall of a prison I dance !
This world's hope is a blade of fury
And we, who are sweepers of an ancient sky,
Discoverers of new planet sudden stars
We are the world's hone -
And so therefore, I rise again, I rise again
Freedom is a white road with green grass like love.
Out of my time I carve a monument.
Out of a jagged block of convict years I carve it.
The sharp knife of dawn glitters in my hand
But how bare is everything tall tall tree
Infinite air, the unrelaxing tension of the world
And only hope, hope only, the kind eagle soars and
wheels in flight.
I dance on the wall of prison!
It is not easy to be free and bold !
It is not easy to be poised and bound!
It is not easy to endure the spike !
So river flood, drown not my pillar feet!
So river flood, collapse to estuary !
Only the heart's life, the kind eagle soars and wheel in flight.
All of a Man
O strike kind eagle, strike !
Grip at this prison and this prison wall!
Scream and accuse the guilty cage of heaven
Hurling me here, hurling me here.
O strike kind eagle, strike
All of a man is heart is hope
All of a men can fly like a bird
0 strike kind eagle, strike -
0 Human Guide
In the burnt earth of these years
I dip my hand, I dip my hand:
I plunge it in the furies of this world.
I find the lake whose source leaks from a river.
I splash the pool that feeds my painful flowers
So near so near the rampart spiked with pain
so near so near the sharp stone and the flint.
The eager window looking from a prison' -
The guilty heaven promising a star.
O beauty of air like a glad woman !
O fringe of grass always so ever green -
O sloping ocean, sloping bed of love !
O trophy of my search O human guide
Each day I ride a wild black horse of terror
but every night I lock him in my bosom......
The Discovery of Companion
This tower of movement bending on the world
is shocked to motion
crumbling knee and face
in the strange sands of discovery.
a gasp of fear is the first farewell to death
the first wave of a hand, the first heart beat.
But the return of arrival is merciless
is a pool of dark water, a terrible mirror.
To bend on a planet of misery
is revelation like apocalypse.
No longer the trunk of a palm, the trunk of a tree
but pillar of endurance.
Yes, to be born again, astonished and made bare
is awareness of companion.
While the blue swords of lightning kill
knowledge is intense and scorching fire.
And only when a man is clad in flame
can he be made to know companion.
This is his first companion valuable fear
a beacon on the sea, a lane of light.
This matron of the trembling loin of man
becomes companion at the precipice.
His human hands are brittle and will crack
like the wall of his heart.
In the ladder from the cave the rungs of time
bend like the working roots that eat the soil.
But fear of losing all is strong like life
losing but not lost.
Fear of inhuman movement is the curse
or the blessing, guide of traveller.
While time is measured in the stretch of years
night can be measureless.
The veinless womb of darkness breeds a bird,
the flying child of fear or curse or blessing
to soar in the blue gables of the world's imprisonment.
And this too is companion
mother of life and motion.
The stranded cables loosen bit by bit
and sink in the flood of a river.
The brittle heart expands a moistened flower.
And the kind eagle soars again
but in the tension of his wing and shadow
moves a man.
Now this is the completion of discovery
the life of the world.
So man is wrapped or clad in gowns of fire
each human clutches at companion
in an original sequence, no desire of death.
The arrival in the camp of broken glass
is full of wounding points.
And the streets of life are set about with knives
to cut the travelling feet.
Merciless and bare the moving world revolves
like a circling star.
Only men of fire will survive
all else will move to ashes and to air.
Latin Caribbean Culture
By W. ADOLPHE ROBERTS
A Cuban poet of the early nineteenth century, Jos& Maria de Here-
dia, is an accepted classic. Last year Dulce Maria Loynaz, long
regarded as the best woman poet in the language, was given an ovation
in Spain. Midway chronologically Jose Marti wrote with such power
both in prose and verse that Cubans say that their greatest political
leader was also their greatest man of letters. Cecilia Valdis, by Cirilo
Villaverde, has the status of a national novel and is admired throughout
the region. And these constitute but a part of Cuba's literary wealth.
In Eugenio Maria de Hostos (1839-1903), educator and versatile
writer, little Puerto Rico produced one of the most influential cultural
minds of Spanish America. He left behind him some fifty volumrnes.
There was the poet Jos& de Diego, the quality of 'whose output was
excellent and its quantity held down only by his absorption in public
tasks. The literature of the Dominican Republic is in the same tradition,
though it does not chance to have names that have become known abroad.
Turning to Haiti we find that Negro intellectuals have used the
French tongue with great distinction, while some of them have employed
the peasants' patois. Oswald Durand (1840-1906) wrote in both mediums
and was the uncrowned poet laureate of his country, whose favourite
pieces are widely remembered. The list of his contemporaries and
successors is long. Today it includes writers who have branched out
from poetry to fiction and whose novels have been internationally
The above preliminary remarks are designed to establish at once
that the free Latin countries of the Caribbean have a much more vital
and solid literature than the English-speaking colonies can show. .The
number of inhabitants is a factor. Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Dominican
Republic and Haiti have a combined population of about 13,175,000, as
against 3,150,000 in the British territories. Bu after proportional allow-
ances have been made, our Latin Caribbean neighbours continue to loom
above us. Why should that be so? Chiefly because they have shaken off
the colonial mentality.
It is possible to formulate a law: In the degree that a people is
satisfied to be ruled as a colony its culture will be imitative and meagre.
The opposite, of course, is not necessarily true. Some peoples have little
instinct for culture, and mere self-assertiveness will not give it to them.
But the impulse is strong throughout the West Indies. We can lean
a great deal by studying the expression it has found at our doors.
Not one of the four island states produced writing of better than
sentimental value until the aspiration toward nationhood became definite.
In the case of Haiti, which was founded by slaves ninety-five per cent
illiterate, the delay lasted until the second generation under the Republic.
The others had a tradition from which to diverge, and that meant a good
start. A people of colonial origin does not repudiate the culture in which
it was reared; it stops being humble about it and seeks variations. Once
independence has been won, the old culture is loved as never before'
Jose Maria de Heredia, a native of Santiago de Cuba, was involved
as a young man in the earliest revolutionary movement against Spain.
It did not get very far, and he was forced to spend the rest of his life
in exile. Heredia's poetry is full of 'passion for his country and the tropic
- scene generally. Note La Tempestad, a marvelous description of a hurri-
cane. The first tendency of a regional literature is to emphasize physical
setting, and so it was with Heredia and those who followed him, in the
other islands as well as Cuba. If his best-known and perhaps finest poem
is Niagara, translated into English by William Cullen Bryant, it remains
, arguable that he was big enough to write it because themes rooted in his
native soil had previously given him the power.
S In Heredia's tracks there came a host. I have space to mention only
a few of them. The mulatto moralist PlAcido and the delicate lyric poet
Juan Clemente Zenea died before Spanish firing squads, the one in the
1840's and the other in the 1870's. I am far from saving that only martyr-
doms of this kind can create a literature, but they add poignancy to the
effort. In the meantime Gertrudis Gomez de Avellaneda triumphed as
Spoetess and dramatist, and Cirilo Villaverde completed his impressive
SCecilia Valdes in New York while serving as secretary of a committee
that worked from abroad to free Cuba. Villaverde's novel is a three-
dimensional picture of life in colonial Havana.
Then Jos& Marti arrived on the stage, the leader who spent years
I organising the successful War of Independence and who gave his life in
his first skirmish. His complete writings have been collected and pub-
lished by the State in two volumes on India paper totalling 4,225 pages.
He used every literary form. I offer my own translation of his Two
Fatherlands, written shortly before he joined the forces under arms:
I have two fatherlands, Cuba and the night.
Or are the two one? The sun has not fully withdrawn
Its majesty, when with deep veils
And a carnation in her hand, silent,
Like a sad widow, Cuba appears to me.
I know what that bloodied carnation is,
That quivers in her hand. My breast is empty.
Shattered it is and empty,
There where my heart once was. This is the hollr
To begin to die. The night is good
For saying farewells. Light impedes.
And so do human words. The Universe
Speaks better than man.
Like a flag
That summons to battle, the red flame
Of the candle glows. I ooen the windows,
Already punctual within myself. Mute,
Plucking the petals of the carnation -
Like a cloud that obscures the sky -
Cuba, the widow, passes.
There are many good contemporary writers. I have mentioned
Dulee M~ria Loynaz. More familiar to British West Indians, because
some of his work has been translated and included in anthologies, is
Nicolas Guillen, the founder of the so-called Afro-Caribbean school of
verse. He has an ear for basic rhythms and is a strong, often acrid,
commentator on the ironies of existence.
Since Cuba became a republic in 1902 there has been immense*
activity in historical research. This is one of the sure fruits of national
consciousness. An apathetic colony ignores its history, a restless one
begins to study it, and a newly autonomous country is eager to learn
all about its past. Backed by the National Academy of Cuba and sub-
sidiary societies, a hundred volumes of first-rank importance have been
published on the subject. I especially commend Jorge Manach's Marti
the Apostle, issued in New York in English.
Puerto Rico is not a republic; on the other hand it is not now a
colony. The United States took it from Spain in 1898, made early
concessions as to self-government, and this year has permitted the island
to write a constitution which gives it almost "ihe free relationship
to the United States that a dominion has in the British Common-
wealth of Nations. There had been a Puerto Rican nationalist move-
ment under the Spaniards. Eugenio Maria de Hostos and Jose de Diego
had supported it. Hostos was driven into exile. He lived in a number
of New World countries, including the Dominican Republic, the school
system of which he reorganized.
In modern times the most quoted Puerto Rican poet is doubtless
Luis Pal&s Matos, an interpreter of Negro themes. Luis Munoz Marin,
the first elected native governor and architect of the industrial develop-
ment of the island, is no mean poet himself. He wrote the following
strong lines :
I have broken the rainbow
As one breaks a useless sword against a knee......
I am the pamphleteer of God,
And I go with the mob of stars and hungry men
Towards the great dawn.
Singularly unfavourable circumstances, due to invasions and the
ascendancy of a series of crude militarists, held back the Dominican
Republic during its struggles for independence. This caused it to fall
behind Cuba and Puerto Rico from a literary standpoint. Fabio Fiallo,
a jaunty lyrist who took part in the revolutions and is said to have
written most of his poems on horseback, is the Dominican writer the
outside world would understand best. Only a few of his pieces have
been translated into English.
Independent Haiti was in the strange position of having a citizenry
of African origin which hated its former French rulers, but by necessity
used their language as the common means of communication. When
culture developed, it was French culture with a Caribbean accent, and
which steadily grew more national.
Oswald Durand was the first important Haitian writer, and he
Remains the chief poet of the people. At the age of two he lost his
Smother and many of his relations in the earthquake that wrecked Cap
Haitien, his native city. He was taken to a small town and brought
up by his maternal grandmother. In his late teens he followed the trade
of tinsmith, then became a teacher and began to publish verse. He
landed in prison as a result of his liberal political ideas and was to
have been deported. But President Salomon had him released and made
him a sort of favourite of the Administration.
Durand was elected in 1885 to the House of Representatives, over
which he presided in 1888. He was re-elected in 1891 and several times
thereafter. But his political activities did not impair his career as a
writer. He was a Bohemian by nature and consistently lived as one.
On his death he was given a state funeral.
Probably Oswald Durand's mnst popular piece is Choucoune, a sad
little tale in verse of thwarted love. It was composed in the patois, and
has been translated into French and other languages. Durand was a
pure Romantic, an approach which was ideal for the interpretation of
his country's rich emotionalism. 'The generation that followed was
strongly Parnassian, and that was a gain for Haitian poetry, because the
Parnassian visualises his subject and portrays it in words after the
manner of the painter who uses lines and colour to transfer a scene to
canvas. Haitians now began to describe their country and its heroes
with a vividness that had not been known before. Edmond Laforest,
Etzer Vilaire and Charles Moravia the dramatist were among the out-
standing members of the new school. Here is my translation of Lafo-
rest's sonnet Toussaint Louverture:
The streams of Africa with virile jet
Gave life to Saint-Domingue. The planter-lord
Perceived one day across his vision set
A tree too strong and high to be ignored.
SDarkly it rose; its noble summit bored
Above green harmonies where, bubbling wet,
An ardent blood broke into sudden fret
And stabbed the blue like an avenging sword.
Disturbing with her breath the fields once calm,
Liberty grew beneath the sheltering palm.
Then Bonaparte, small at the giant's base,
And powerless to touch the roots unseen,
Planted a worm that crumbled it apace:
The sap of Toussaint nourished Dessalmes !
Writers of the present century range from the sophisticated, very
Gallic Emile Roumer to a flo:k of young talents who have been swayed
by the Afro-Caribbean movement of the Cuban Nicolas Guillen, by the
Puerto Rican Luis Pales Matos, and the North American Langston
Hughes. Negro racism has had a vogue. I think it an unfortunate in-
fluence. The nation is the cultural unit. Haiti is a literary force not
because the majority of its citizens are of black African descent, but
because an amalgam of bloods and inspirations have produced an
extremely individualistic people in that island of the Caribbean Sea.
The work in prose of the brothers Philippe and Pierre Thoby-Marcellin
illustrates my point. Their romance Canapk Vert won in 1944 the prize
offered by a New York publisher for the best new Latin American novel
submitted. This and their subsequent tales were essentially Haitian
rather than Negro.
Painting, sculpture, music and the dance have had their greatest
regional development in Cuba, especially the two first mentioned. Much
is owed to the San Alejandro school, founded in Havana in 1818 and
directed for its first sixty years by French, Italian and Spanish clas-
sicists. Finally a Cuban, Miguel Melero, was appointed director. He
opened the classes to women. A magnificent example was offered by
Leopoldo Romanach, who died in 1951 when he was almost ninety, the
acknowledged master of Cuban painting. Able contemporaries are Este-
ban Valderrama, Gerardo Tejedor, Manuel Mesa, and the versatile Arman-
do Maribona who is also a professor at San Alejandro, an author of
books and an active journalist. Native sculpture begins with Jose de
Vilalta Saavedra, who died early in the present century, and culminates,
so far, with the talented Juan Jose Sicre.
Cuban musical composers whose work is grounded in local themes
have been numerous, from the mulatto Jose Silvestre White who died
at eighty-two in 1918, to Ernesto Lecuona, a modern well known in the
Americas and Europe. The dance enjoys an ardent following. In Alicia
Alonso, Cuba has produced a ballet star of international fame.
Haiti has recently stepped to the lore with paintings that have fas-
cinated the outside world. I saw a respectable exhibition of canvasses
and sculpture in the Dominican Republic when I was last there. Puerto
Rico, stimulated by the manifold activities of its University, is proving
fertile in the plastic arts as well as in literature.
National sentiment gives a sustaining and guiding strength. The
fruits exist in the Latin Caribbean countries for us to observe. Havana's
public squares are rich with statues manifesting pride in the accomplish-
ments of great Cubans, and a goodly share of them are by native sculp-
tors. Even the capital of the relatively backward Dominican Republic
has more monuments of the sort than are to be found in all the British,
French and Dutch colonies in the West Indies put together. The
governments of the island states publish meritorious local books and buy
works of art which might not have a commercial appeal. This in turn
stimulates creation. The atmosphere is dynamic. We should know
more about it.
The Study of the Family in the
British West Indies
by RAYMOND T. SMITH
The "problem" of the West Indian family is one which has engaged
the attention of well-meaning persons for more than a century, and each
new issue of the reports of the Registrars General in the various terri-
tories creates new concern over the high "illegitimacy" rates'. The
churches, voluntary welfare agencies, and more recently, official govern-
ment welfare agencies, have all made it their business to work towards
promoting change in the pattern of family living, taking as their criterion
Sof desirability the nuclear family of man, woman and children held
together by a Christian marriage. That their efforts have niot met with
the success that might have been expected leads one to the conclusion
that perhaps some inherent factor or factors of West Indian social organiza-
tion have been overlooked or ignored. To attribute the situation to the
"wickedness" or "perversion" of the West Indian peoples is too often a
result of frustrated efforts, and is as unrealistic as to attempt to solve
the problem by resorting to the expediency of "mass weddings."
To the sociologist or anthropologist the problems involved in a study
of family structure are of a quite different order. He is not primarily
concerned with bringing about changes in the system, with condemning,
or, what is equally important, with justifying it. His aim is to under-
stand it as part of a complex social system. My aim in this short article
will be to indicate some of the ways in which such students approach
the question, and the conclusions they draw from their investigations.
The best known published work aiming at an analysis of family
patterns in the West Indies is biassed in favour of historical explanations
to account for the present system. Professor Herskovits I has sought to
demonstrate the fact that there are definite and traceable connections
between the customs of Negro communities in the New World and those
of the African societies from which the ancestors of the New World
Negroes were forcibly drawn. He has repeatedly stated that despite all
the changes in the environment of the New World Negro, patterns of
mating, modified to fit in with European monogamic values, have persisted,
and that in the dual system of legal marriage and "keeper' unions we
have a "translation, in terms of the monogamic pattern of European
mating, of basic West African forms that operate within a polygynous
frame." 2 In other aspects of culture, such as folk-lore and music, Pro-
fessor Herskovits has shown clearly the differential degree of retention
of African custom in various areas of the New World, and it must be
recognized that he does rot go so far as to say that the family system.
of the West Indies can be equated with that of any African society, but
I think it fair to say that he has demonstrated a particular interest in
trying to show how even elements of culture of so fundamental a nature
as those connected with mating and family structure can persist inr a
modified or reinterpreted form. This has been hit primary interest, and
his conclusions have been in accordance with it.
On the other hand Fernando Henriques 3 has decided that the struc-
tural form of the West Indian Negro family can be explained in terms
of plantation life during slavery times, where the unit of a woman and
her children assumed primary importance and resulted in the continued
domination of the maternal-centred family-grouping so common in the
West Indies today.
It would do neither writer justice to imply that these conclusions
were not based upon careful field study of contemporary West Indian
communities,4 but so far as I am able to gather Herskovits is definitely
orientated towards a study of the progress of change in cultures and
takes- as his primary postulate the fact of historical connection between
Africa and the New World, so that his work is selective in that it stresses
the persistence of "Africanisms" in West Indian culture. Henriques is at
greater pains to categorize various patterns of family organization s but
is none the less definite in his resort to a search for origins as the causal
factor in explaining contemporary family life. He contends that the
economic fabric of society controls and supports this historically-
determined pattern, but that is as far as he will go.&
Both these writers are pursuing legitimate lines of study and they
are the pioneers of work of this kind in the British West Indies. However,
whilst it remains true that every social institution has a history and that
events in the past may have been decisive in determining the lines along
which that institution would develop, it is also true that every social
system has some sort of consistency as a functioning whole at each point
in its development, and there are many scholars who contend that it is
the task of the sociologist and anthropologist to analyse this structure.
In other parts of the world, and particularly in those societies lacking
any written' historical records, anthropologists have concentrated upon
the analysis of social systems as they exist at one point in time, trying
to discover the relationship which exists between various institutions or
customary forms of behaviour in a total workingg arrangement. It is a
self evident fact that no system of family life exists without a close
dependence upon religious values, economic life, legal and moral sanctions,
and even physical environment. This is not to say that the pattern is
determined by any one of these factors, but we would expect some definite
correspondence between them resulting in a more ,or less harmonious
working whole. The assumption that this is so is the starting point, and
the harmony or disharmony in the system becomes a matter of degree
which does not invalidate the original assumption. It is only by regarding
contemporary social life as a whole that we can determine the exact
nature of the family system and its functions, and it is along these lines
that at least some future studies will be carried out. This approach
implies the intensive study of different groups, or communities, and it is
likely that variations between different territories, and even between
I different groups within the same territory will be found to be significant.
It is obviously fallacious to speak of "West Indian" family 'organization,
unless the considerable East Indian communities, as well as other ethnic
Groups are accounted for, and even then the variations in patterns of
family living between various classes, and between urban and rural com-
munities cannot be ignored. Until we know much more about Wesit
Indian social organization at the level of day-to-day relationships it will
be impossible to speak with authority on the nature of the family except
by comparing obvious facts with the previously accepted ideal of a system
based upon Christian marriage. So far as the social reformer (or the
-scial engineer" as it is becoming popular to call him in some quarters),
is concerned, it is much more valuable to know that labour migration,
for example, is a factor contributing to the instability of marriage, than
to know that slavery conditions may have something to do with it.
The establishment of the Institute of Social and Economic Research
at' the University College of the West Indies has given new impetus to
studies of social questions. As an institution co-ordinating and planning
research in all branches of the social sciences we should expect it
" to have available a large body of information on such questions in
a few years time, which will of course be available to academic students,
and those concerned with administration and planning, alike. The annual
reports of the Institute already indicate at least three projects concerned
with family structure in different parts of the British Caribbean, and the
publ-ation of some of the results should not be long delayed.
The problem of changing family structure is the problem of changing,
to a greater or lesser degree, the whole social system of which it is a
part. ,Now that the forces of government and popular opinion are increas-
ingly Jbeing brought to bear upon the business of reorganizing West Indian
society through social welfare agencies, economic reform, new and more
adaptable legislation, programmes of adult education, etc., it is vital that
,a more adequate knowledge should be available of those very forces which
Sit is "intended to change or modify. Without a full'understanding of
West' Indian family life (in all sections of the population), there is always
the danger of destroying the unique and worthwhile along with the un-
Sdesirable elements in West Indian life. Whilst the work of the academic
student of society is concerned primarily with the attempt to understand
all societies at all times, his regional studies cannot fail to be of interest
to those who would understand their own societies better, and who look
forward to the emergence of a uniquely West Indian culture rooted in
a harmoniously functioning social system of which an acceptance of
Common social values will be the symbol of success.
1. Melville J. & Frances S. Herskovits, 'Trinidad Village
(New York: Alfred A. Knopf. 1947)
2. Ibid., p. 2Z3.
3. Fernando Henriques, American Journal Of Sociology, Vol. LV (West Indian
4. Herskovits in Trinidad, Surinam and Haiti, and Henriques in Jamaica.
5. Especially in his unpublished Ph.D. thesis The Social Structure of Jamaica.
6.: Henriques, Op, cit.
Olivia (from Shadows Move Among Them)
(Lino-Cut by E. R. Burrowes)
Art in British Guiana
By F. R. BURROWES
Before we can follow the progress of Art in British Guiana, I have
first of all to make a brief reference to art development in Europe during
the latter part of the nineteenth century and the first half of the twen-
The revolutionary changes brought about in European Art during
the 19th century can, to a great extent, be traced back to the work of
three British Artists, Turner, Constable and Bonnington, especially the
The first impact came with the spread of the school of Impressionists:
then came the powerful upsurge of the Fauvistes followed by the preach-
ing of the Gospel according to Roger Fry which caused the spread of
Post-Impressionism, and the galaxy of movements to which it gave birth.
Symbolic and monumental form together with sensuous line' and
colouring in flat pattern, showing influences of African. S&upture and
Eastern colour prints were the main factors in the new fornis of expred-
json and interpretation.
For my present purpose I should like to refer to two popular move-
ments which crossed the Channel from France to England, namely, the
Cubist movement derived from Picasso and Braque with their, abstrac-
tions from natural appearances and the Constructionist movement of Klee
and Kandinsky with their non-figurative, non-representational interpre-
tations. Influenced by these modern masters. some of theyounger British
Artists like Ivon Hitchens, Peter Lanyon, Keith Vaughn, Robert Colqu-
houn and Robert Mac Bryde, although 'hey differ in style have been
successful in communicating the sensations they experience through visual
Another movement and one which is essentially British is the Cubist
variation which is known as Vorticism. Vorticism was founded by
Wyndham Lewis. Lewis created a new .metallic World peopled by robot-
like figures. This movemennt is a brilliant satire on Industrialism and
Nationalism and all the various forms of Red. Tape aid Regimentation
from which our moprn yofld suffers. Denis Williams' famous painting
"This Human Worldt' i'ah' outstanding example of this movement.
There is a certain parallel with the history and development of art
in Great Britain and art in British Guiana. There is neither sophistry
nor conceit in this statement, for with the exception of Francis Hillyard
the Elizabethan painter of Miniatures, England had no truly native art.
Before Hogarth, the artist who worked in England during Tudor times
was a German, Hans Holbein and later on in the Stuart Period there
were the Flemish painters Peter Paul Rubens, Anthony Van D'yck, Peter
Lely and Godfrey Kneller. But beginning with Hogarth. England's art
found a place which not only equalled the continent but also through
Constable, Turner and Bonnington greatly influenced the French school
and became the foundation-stone for all the modern movements.
In British Guiana from the latter part of the 19th century to the
first quarter of the 20th century, art was merely the dilettante way of
escape from boredom practised by a few Europeans who were domiciled
for more or less brief periods in the Colony. The formation of the British
Guiana Arts and Crafts Society in 1930 and the stimulus given it by the
energetic and invaluable control of Mrs. Goldie White implemented and
set for local artists the vision of new horizons.
The birth of a definitely British Guiana Art can be traced back to
the year 1934 when the British Guiana Arts and Crafts Society held its
Fourth Annual Exhibition at th, Carnegie Building. This Exhibition
unlike the three previous ones provoked much argument among our art
critics. The most controversial of the paintings were Gui Sharpies'
illustration of a stanza from the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayam. Hubert
Moshett's portrait of his two sons, Reggie Phang's self portrait and my
symbolic study of a Chinese girl entitled "Child of Destiny". But the
movement towards this new outlook did not gain momentum, as most
of us were at that time still concerned with the necessity of selling our
work and so the old uninspired forms of naturalism continued with
sometimes a flare of Guianese modernism from the brush of Moshett,
Phang or myself.
Our Guianese form of expression, which must of necessity, be based
on the extremely mixed and cosmopolitan nature of the inhabitants of
this country, is best exemplified in the work of Donald Locke, Basil
Walcott, Rex Walcott, Patrick Barrington, Emerson Samuels and the rest
of our young and promising artists who are making good use of the
heritage they received from the older artists. Their excellent progress
was seen in the Third Art Exhibition of the Working People's Art Class
in April, 1952. Their works are not imitations of any style, either Euro-
pean or African but original expressions of the basic subjectivity of our
mixed origin and cultural aspects.
There is of course, as is natural, some traces in our work of the
influences of Constable, Van Gogh, Picasso, Matisse, Georges Braque and
Augustus John. but we are not singular in this respect for all ,over the
world artists have found themselves carried away by,the immense power
of these Modern Masters. These influences do not in any way tend to
lead us away from a Guianese form of expression; on the contrary, if
you analyse the origins of their inspiration, you will find that they are
also the origins of our mixed population. For in Van Gogh we have
the Dutch influence, in Picasso, Matisse and Braque we have the French
influence and in Constable and Augustus John we have the English
influence. All of these nationalities have played their part in the not
very distant past in the production of our British Guianese people. The
most important factor is, that African Art is itself the strongest influence
in Modern Art in Europe and of course the African strain is the strongest
among our artists here. So, we find ourselves in the favourable position
of being able to indulcate all the outside influences of modern art and
yet find ourselves back to our strongest primitive origins having gone
It has not been easy to erect a Guianese style and manner. For
instance the artists of Haiti have been able to establish a vigorous man-
ner through their symbolic pattern, impassioned colour and esoteric
imagery, an imagery based on the close link between their Voodoo cult
and their lurid history. Our history as a country is a mild Sunday-school
sort of history and even our past struggles for liberty were extremely
tame, milk and water affairs. So, our artists have to draw upon our
subjective sensibilities far more than our West Indian contemporaries,
and therefore, our salvation lies in our power to create mainly from our
imagination and philosophic insight.
Very often we hear this very much overworked cliche, "I know
nothing of Art, but I know what I like." This is nothing more than
saying that some people do not know what to like and are ashamed to
admit it. But to know, requires a mind of an imaginative alertness and
a true understanding of the quality of beauty. We have to be in affinity
with what Dr. John Donne describes as "A knowing joy"; which accord-
ing to Sir Francis Meynell is based on analysis or comparison and on
an infinitely complex pattern of experience. This experience should
begin with a personal analysis of the visual world. Plato asserts that
"Beauty belongs to the world of final Truths." But that which is a
final truth for one observer might hardly be accepted as a final truth
for another; so each has to arrive at his own conclusion. There is one
inexorable law which should control our emotional urges and that is,
that the objects which arouse them must be in direct relation to hu-
manity. The final truth as far as the layman is concerned is a distinctly
personal experience. For the artist, the final truth is correctly described
by Leonardo da Vinci as "That Divine Power which lies in the knowledge
of the painter and transforms his mind into the likeness of the Divine
To express this likeness the artist must have recourse to his skill
and craftsmanship. Two of the three weeks I spent going through the
British Museum were devoted to studying the superb and incomparable
Skill represented by the Elgin Marbles and the Assyrian sculptures and
reliefs. I was fill'=d with admiration ffbr the Frieze from the Elgiin
Marbles. This represents a ceremonial procession of ancient Greeks and
the lifelike quality with which the sculptors were able to imbue the
inanimate stone is marvellous. But it is hardly more than clever craft-
manship and as such it has its immortal place in the world of visual
beauty. It relived for me the classic grandeur of the glory that was
Greece. About four months after studying the Frieze I had the pleasure
of seeing Barbara Hepworth's "Female Torso" from the collection of the
Earl of Sandwich and her "Pelagos" from the collection of Mrs. Duncan
MacDonald, at a show of contemporary art held at the Tate Gallery,
Millbank, under the auspices of the Contemporary Arts Society. The
emotional and aesthetic impact of Miss Hepworth's delightfully satisfying
interpretation of structural form remains with me as "A knowing joy".
For, here was the craftsmanship of the Elgin Marbles translated into
the poetry and philosophy of an enlightened twentieth century where
theory and practice were happily blended in the uninhibited freedom
The technical skill of Edward Burne Jones in his Mediaeval Essays
for example, "King Cophetua and the beggar Maid" are mere chocolate
box sentimentalities when compared with the dignified Mediaevalism of
On entering the Georges Roualt section of the Modern Museum of
Art in Paris, you are at once transported from this work-a-day world
into the incense-scented precincts of an old world Cathedral. Roualt
paintings with their heavy lines dividing flat planes of evidescent colour,.
glow with the effulgence of sunbeams passing through the stained glass
windows of an old Gothic Church. These paintings fulfil the function
Inq sauor aujnr jo JIoM aqp se S.e aumes aql ui d1iuemsumusea poog Jo
where the latter has succeeded in being cloyingly sentimental, Roualt
has been able to accomplish creations of passion and force entirely
devoid of all banalty.
The Landscapes of Richard Wilson are realistic documents of nature; .
but the landscapes of Ivon Hichens are poetical sensations built up
into an architecture of abstract forms.
Now how does all this help to cultivate a taste for a British Gui-
anese form of modern art. The theory I have offered with regard to
our cosmopolitan origins should give my readers a pathway of approach.
But we have another and very important truth to digest and that is,
the Art of a country derives much of its practical style from the physi-
cal structure of the land.
Guiana is the land of many waters so our basic forms must be fluid.
Guiana is the land of the flamboyant and the orchid so our colours
must sing a melody of reds and purples and yellows and greens. We
can no longer express ourselves in the strict idiom of naturalism because
we have evolved from being mere purveyors of merchandise which
people wish to buy because they are the representations of objects
and scenes with which they are already too familiar.. We wish rather
to interpret a new way of life which we have discovered to be more
sincere and satisfying, since it represents a present refuge from the
futilities and disillusionments, the falsities and the unrest of modern
The Alliance Francaise
By C. M. BERNARD
The Alliance Francaise was founded in 1883 with the object ot
organising French education in Tunisia. A year later it had several
branches in all the provinces of France, and foreign branches in London,
Barcelona, Tangiers, Fez, Tunis, Tokyo, Constantinople and Mexico. It
now has nearly a 1,000 foreign branches, which receive through the Head
Office in Paris not only direct grants from the Ministry of Cultural Re-
C nations, but indirect help in the form of books, gramophone records, maga-
zines, paintings, and so on.
In the Caribbean area the French Consul in Trinidad serves as the
link between Paris and the branches of the Alliance. It is he who sends
them their grants, distributes films and records, and in general sees that
every branch in the Caribbean gets as much benefit as possible from
Sthe material sent from Paris.
The Georgetown Branch of the Alliance was started in 1950, on the
initiative of Miss Teresa Bone, French Mistress at the Bishops' High
School. It is composed of Life Members, Ordinary Members and Student
Members, who now amount to 120 in all.
In an age when standardisation threatens to destroy individual
tastes, it is important that every thinking person should preserve his
freedom of choice, in politics, aesthetics, ethics, or any other field of
activity. He cannot do this unless his community derives its cultural
stimulus from many different sources. Moreover, a country that is
still forming its own traditions must keep an eye on the outside world;
it must seek to be receptive to foreign influences, to maintain its own
freedom of choice in the sources of its inspiration. Even for these reasons
alone, British Guiana would stand to benefit from the work of the
But there are other reasons why the Alliance can be of special bene-
fit to a country such as this. There are ancient links that connect Guiana
to France; words such as bateau and crapaud have become part of its
language; names like Jeune, Boyer and La Roche show that French set-
tlers had a share in its development; places called Versailles, Nimes,
SPlaisance and La Belle Alliance, are memorials to their work.
In neighboring countries the memorials of France's contribution to
Caribbean history are even clearer. Part of Guiana is now a Depart-
ment of France; so are Martinique and Guadeloupe. Haiti, although
independent for a century and a half, has preserved its French culture
among its surrounding Spanish-speaking neighbours. It is therefore a
mistake to think that because Metropolitan France is far away, the study
of French culture here can only be theoretical. France is not far away
-she is in the Caribbean, and can be found and studied there at first-
hand. The Guianese who wishes to give practical effect to his French
studies can do so in his own Caribbean region; and the Alliance, by
encouraging him in his French studies, can help him to a better know-
ledge and understanding of his own neighbours.
But these benefits come from accidents of history and geography.
Much more important is the profit to be drawn from a knowledge of
French values, and from the continuous influence of French civilisation I
upon the world's development; particular advantages are not to be
despised, but it is the universal character of a culture that makes it
valuable to the foreigner, and it is not only the physical beauties of
France that have led people to say: 'Tout homme civilis6 a deux pays.
le sien et puis la France'.
As the Roman Empire crumbled away, France became a prime in-
heritor of the Latin tradition. On her soil the formalism of classical
Rome became fused with native Celtic fire. Sometimes one, sometimes
the other of these two influences has been the stronger: the gap between
Racine and Claudel is the same as that between Vergil and Yeats -
whatever the forms used, the essential difference lies in emphasis, in
approach, in the predominance of the Latin or the Celtic outlook.
In social organisation the same opposing tendencies are visible. On C
the one hand, government in all its aspects is strongly .centralised; Paris
is the national centre in every way-political, educational, intellectual.
But as Paris is constantly renewed and refreshed by new blood from the
provinces, and yet they maintain their own separate traditions, so the
rigidity of centralised government is softened by sensitiveness to the free-
dom of the individual. This freedom is one of France's special contribu-
tions to the growth of our civilisation. In art, literature and philosophy,
as well as politics, the French tradition has been to allow the individual
full scope to express himself in whatever way he chooses. The indivi-
dual will choose ultimately what is best; and if enough individuals choose
the best, society accepts it.
But to ensure that the best is discovered, a million explorations must
le made, and only one of them, or perhaps not even that, will lead to
a valuable discovery. The spurious, the superficial, the careless will be
rejected; ready-made creeds will not be accepted 'without question; the
sens critique which leads the individual to refuse automatic acceptance
of current standards, will also lead society to refuse his innovations if
they are unworthy. This insistence on the private freedoms of the mind
has helped to make France a forcing-house of innovation, in some sense
the Athens of the modern world. Voltaire, Manet, Debussy, Sartre-you
can pick names at random up and down the centuries, and find always
i search for the new approach, the new method, the new interpretation,
the new form, the new word: and always, too, there is society in the
background, rejecting some of the new discoveries, putting others aside
for consideration, and accepting a few immediately.
The centralist tradition in French life prevents a sudden diversion
of the main stream; but that stream's replenishment by many different
tributaries equally prevents its character fron: becoming fixed. To
change the metaphor, French tradition has become a catalyst, under
whose influence many diverse elements can be merged together per-
manently. Time and time- again the work of many innovators has
become synthesised in the final result.
The love of invention implies every man's right, even duty, to pr3-
claim his discoveries, and has been one of the strongest influences on
the development of our civilisation. From Euripides to Victor Hugo men
have suffered exile for its sake; others have died for it.
The traditional capacity for assimilation works in various ways; out-
side influences are absorbed as well as native innovations. Lully, Offen-
bach, Van Gogh, Sisley, Picasso, Heredia, Julian Green, Troyat, all have
been partly or wholly non-French in origin. So, of course, was Buona-
parte. But spiritually they became absorbed into the French life around
them. For centuries Breton, Flemish, German, Italian, Provencal and
Basque have been spoken in France; but the centralising influence of
Paris has absorbed their cultures into the unity of the whole.
This ability to absorb outside influences without being becoming
dominated by them has been a valuable safeguard against stagnation.
Here too is an important lesson for any country that has still to develop
its own traditions.
In many ways, therefore, the culture of France can have a bene-
ficial influence on a country such as this; partly for the lessons it has
to teach, partly because its very existence as a distant entity makes it
worthy of study as a source of new inspirations.
The object of the Alliance Francaise in British Guiana is to maintain
and develop a love and understanding of the French language and civi-
lisation. The means of attaining this object are various. Since it began
to function two years ago, the Alliance has shown French filrs on many
subjects: mountain-climbing, the early history of the cinema, the life of
Van Gogh, the art of Watteau, the architecture of French cathedrals,
the adventures of a little Arab boy and his donkey, and the life of St.
Vincent de Paul.
It has organised exhibitions of French paintings and book-production,
and arranged talks on books and French writers, and artists. In con-
junction with the University College of the West Indies it sponsors classes
in the French language and French literature; it has a library of French
books and recorded music, boht serious and light, and it has distributed
books in schools throughout British Guiana as prizes.
Moreover, in successive years it has enabled two of its members to
'win French Essay prizes consisting of visits to neighboring French
Finally, it brings together many people, with many different back-
V grounds, who for one reason or another find a common interest in its
activities, and who otherwise might not come to know each other; and
it provides an opportunity for young people to give voluntary service,
often in the background, and thus learn the first duty of' good citenzenship.
The Alliance Francaise in British Guiana is still young; its growing
pains are still, some of them, before it. But so long as its members
can truthfully say 'damus petimusque vicissim', then the Alliance, like
the other argosy, the one on the escutcheon of the City of Paris, fluctuatet
(prologues of creation)
The fabulous well
is the life of the world: sparkling sun
or gentler shadow dresses the clear stream
from earth, the marvellous gloom
of the world translucent like a pearl.
rings on the pavement
the eloquent accompaniment to barefoot
man and woman
whose footfall is silent at the well.
Who brings the water
from the deep interior of earth
is magical with the science
is the godlike being of the well.
Who bears the water away
from the well
death and drought
is the mortal being of the well.
has its witness and leaves
its record :
fashions stone and flesh
into no idle adornment for love.
So love chooses a glorious meeting:
the days divide slumber from waking,
but slumber is light
and genius turns
in the bowels of earth.
Before day cleans, the sharp sculpture of a brow
is the bucket that greets the well: metallic, ringing footfall
mixes with a warm splash and musical gurgle in a liquid throat.
The well is a stone in darkness
that marks the calendar: each niche the gleam of daylight.
and the ritual of subsistence, thirsty folds
and intestinal awareness. high-lights paler
than star or crown on naked arm or naked brow.
Noon has its deep well
under the soles of a boot. The sun
is blazing sky-clouds and pale heaven, the wind
is in the trees
cool and memorably green
texture of varying colour, wild or exposed
like root. Noon confirms the test
of strength and passion
in a blaze of presentiment
like the haze or the heart of indestructible
space. The exposure is adamant
makes the old hag of the past
laugh at youth's rags
and burrow deep in the well of time
for shadow :
no more to deride the poverty or flower
only marking surrender to the sleep truth that fills
The hum of traffic
wells from time and space. The road streams
in the morning sun. Pigs and poultry, a boy sinks
with a bucket on his arm. A beautiful maid sails to the well
with pouting breasts, a little girl is brave with water-can.
And the famished heart floats
sky-high with bags of grain. Tte strange pathos
of time seeking the creation of fulfillment
is eternity. Each spell
thirsts for strength
or relinquishes vision The sordid shop still
lays out its wares. And the stranded innocence of passion
is drawn to the counter
bargaining each purchase, turns to the map
of fashion. Selects its pitiful sum
of finery for love. And turns with a well of tears for life
who may still sell here or there, beauty or ugliness.
Though one must lose and one must gain
this earthen flower, this well
which has its original currency between life and death, science
and drought, joy and compassion.
It is stained with metallic
rust, brown and wet. Its fluid stem is clear,
hovering in air, until settlement is discerned in the future,
new brown-ness, real earth. The solid and dark
flower of the well promises illumination of its
roots, promises the flavour of its earth, promises the brown vision
of its god. Strong and deep is its relationship
with the labour of time.
The world drinks fulfillment
from its bowels
and is part of the unfolding of its flower, its purpose,
The speed of earth meets the particles of ancient dust
blown like cloud from past hollows
in the momentum of growth, the early configuration
of man, his spirit, his flesh, his guts, his heart, his anguish,
his thirst, his being, his death, his poverty
these illusions of separateness
once stained the stream of life and marked the horizon
of innocence. Yet though transparent no entity
was able to escape but became the blue of space : the stream
on the walls of time
and left a deep stain of cosmos and necessity.
The Mute at the Well
(recreation of the senses)
has his hearing
formed to rhythms of life.
The wheels of each heavy star
are running on a smooth carpet! Ominous yet charged with
the universe speaks in soft yet heavy guttural accents
geared to speed and power. The mute listener knows vibration.
to be the pure sensation of dialogue
even when sounds fail, and soundless the wheels of the world.
Time has its own speech intermingled with the speech
of space : crying aloud with every child's
voice, or laughing with every deep laugh
that is thoughtless. Space has its own lullaby
intimately hushed like a dream.
Children on the way to school
respond to the voices of time and space like the mute.
The sensation of their participation in this conversation
is the sensation of being moved by a creation alive.
The mute stands by the well
learning to understand what life says. A rounded
voice issues from the deep well of sound
in words of dancing pleasure, like the raw scintillating
hush of passion, the consolation of strength.
The Vision at the Well
now open to the beauty of life. Life achieves contours
of vision. The raw material takes shape
and creation : pure sensation of vision
wells into light, a new yet intoxicating fullness
which comprehends the world. Earth blossoms into a planet.
Green tenderness changes into a deep promise of seeing life.
The sun is a cruel yet intoxicating paradise. The fresh
rainfall is light, spendthrift of pleasure or fullness.
So beauty is sustained at the well of time. Her arms part of
pleasure, the enigmatic
role of woman Her feet bare, hardly seeing the ground
yet leaving indelible impressions. The cast of her features
simple and profound, responsive to feeling, deeply moved
to offer signs of composed innocence and passion.
Touched by vision
the light fingertips of rain pass softly
to change the stone and burden of her perfection
into rapt walls that house joy and pain and living imperfection.
Her cheeks are the dark glow of blood
beneath the frail temper of spa:e and eternity, the history
of her flesh and blood is strange and new.
The Taste of the Well
The strange solidity or stature of earth and heaven is the depth
of interior life marrying the transparency of space,
depositing a metallic taste, a weightiness. a livingness
to flavour understanding. The creation of the senses
is the miracle of substance : the awareness of taste
is a flowering in recreation. From earthiness space learns
to be born to the recognition of toil. To be born to the source
and shape of beauty. To be born to the universal taste of life.
So the procession of empty water-carriers
to and from the deep well of time
seeks the never-to-be-forgotten senses of earth.
Each toiler endures the hollowness of labour in prehistory
to test its meaning or frailty for all time.
In torn dress and with exposed flesh
beauty is found at the well tasting the future.
A cool fluid moistens parched lips
and under the vast space of sky
the dark rhythm of realisation
and brims each human vessel
(Epilogue to the senses : The heart)
Bold outlines are drawn to encompass
the history of the world: crude but naked emphasis
rests on each figure of the past
wherein the golden sunlight burns raw and unsophisticated.
Fires of brightness are sheltered
to burn the fallen limbs of men: the green
spirit of leaves like smoke
rises to mark the barrow of earth
and dwindles to perfection. The stars
m space and time, the fury of fire
that blackens the limbs of each god who falls:
spendthrift creation. The stable dew-drop is flame.
The sun burnishes each star in preparation for every
Time lies uneasy between the paintless houses
weather-beaten and dark.
The Negro once leaned on his spade
breathing the smoke of his labour,
the arch of his body banked to shelter or tame
nis slow burning heart
like a glittering diamond:
or else like charcoal to grain
the world, lines of a passionate intention.
the beacon of homecoming : the dark night is illuminated
in a split second. Thunder rolls
like a breaker of magnitude
in space, the trees stand
caught in the tensions of instantaneous tumult: the crowded
world knows the violent confines of storm to be over
or not yet begun.
So full of stark memory.
it is blinded by the lightning storm of time: like a king, majesty
of action stumbles over a trivial pebble.
the road of homecoming
is dark as night, doom lit up like dayhght,
all armour ineffectual.
The swift lightning of reason and unreason
shed uneasiness over the truce of god, the implacable warrior,
whose station is life or death. Each flash lengthens to brief
or shortens to noon, individual and separate,
leaving the recollection and murmur of violence. The trees
more captive in the photography of storm
than each ominous warrior, whose brightness looks
One remains in the darkness alive
to count the gain or loss, the vestige of victory or defeat,
from a blinding revelation of peril in the lightning-flash.
is the glory of that noble king ?
must he always stand at the well of time
flashing still the stream or murmur of violence as an omen
of war fulfilled ?
his strength no more than his peers who are substanceless
with the shadows
of the dead: his features featureless and enduring
like the storm warning:
Or must he go to his journey's end
to the other timeless well, must he go ?
where home is both time and timeless, height and depth,
Home is a mysterious whisper, the strong winds voice faith or
the conspiracy of faith or of love, of lovers: yet the storm out
heart has its own faint secret and no breath of warning may
Silent lies the way home, the road of the spirit, the aftermath
of victory. When war is over, the silent flashing beacon faces
home and eternity like a dream recaptured
a dream of conflict ended, a dream of tranquillity.
The memory of homeland, the eternal sky, the green
leaf and the cordial of life, the certainty
of days that pass under easy clouds
without long shadows to divide stream from substance !
Each living definition of beauty
is smothered in the murky heart of space when it overpowers
and drenches the constancy of earth: but the stream darkens
only to flash again. Home is the clarity of the soul
in the certainty of destruction.
The purpose or the destiny of a king-to endure lightning of
must render august and memorable
the home of man wherever it be. the startling recovery of time
through the murky feud that deforms constancy.
So life darkens under branches of home
into murder and death
covering friend and foe alike.
But the truce of god still endures
when lightning flash and point to the wounds of the world
in one instant of perception for all:
this fateful flash the promise or well of a king.
(further prologues of creation)
Grains of rice
white and plentiful
cooked for nature's 'wedding: the image
of security, the strength and the perfection
shaped by dark blood and toiling humanity:
The bridegroom comes
straight from the plough of existence
from the faraway space of land and sky. He was born
for desire despite the well of flood or fire,
the seasons of drowning or destruction. His skill
to save time
was the tremor and passion of heart and mood
inured to hardship
surviving to culture the substance and marrow,
to dip into concealed layers of mind: the seed
of his genius culled to green and golden love.
The sun is his dense foliage, bright and baffling
clarity, shimmer at noon. The dark flood
is overgrown beside the fields, still beneath the banks that contain
the plant of existence. And space is an indifferent
humour, like glimpses of cloud, blueness and remoteness.
Each grain is a parade of memory
smooth and polished, the universe that moves
in the colours of creation. Yet uncreated
since the grain reflects only an iota of complexion, sun
darkening the ground
and shading harvest: or water rousing
the grain of space into tenderest light. How fair is the world
and how black is beauty: How sculptured
the shadow of humanity
the substance of a grain of fine purpose
the sowing and reaping, the harvest of a season.
It started in some obscure condition
of contrasting pools, green grass, lakes prilowing
the sky. And the still unstartled water.
No one came for a while, the drowned world
only graining the bitter edge of strength
i experienced in the white and distant marrow of cloud
with the flesh of a mirrorless gumption. To draw
all things into a captivating spirit the fires
of space warmed the winds into suckling the grain
of existence, the pre-condition of meaning.
An extension of longing like the heart of man
spread and searched the world: the contrasting
pools were drained and consumed like flesh and blood
from a grain of movement across the carpet
losing distinction in the growing channel of passion.
down through time, lonely and fierce
content to spare its power. Or to be spent and to tire
in galloping senses driven to violent
lust: confused by the limits of vision
to fall low in the deep fields for protection.
So sleep parted the streams of the world
into darkness and light and the waving grain arose.
Correspondence on the Calypso in
Dear A. J. Seymour,
Since our recent talks on "Correspondence on the Calypso," I have
read over the exchange of letters between you and W. H. L. Allsopp
which appeared under that caption in the 1951 year-end issue of "Kyk-
Over-Al." My interest in the subject became more active on Thursday,
January 17 last, when I heard Ran Bennett's All-Star band in a lively
interpretation of a B.G. "Bargee Minor" over "Berbice Calling", "The
Bargee" as you know is fundamentally Guianese folk music which camp
out of the people nobody knows how very many years ago. That
led me to ponder over the classification of West Indian Folk music,
espIecially in view of your question to Alsopp. "What is the difference
between a calypso and a folk song?"
The same question was raised since about 1945 or 46 when Clyde
Hoyte and I discussed by correspondence in the "Guiana Graphic" certain
aspects of the West Indian Calypso. Hoyte, a former Journalist of this
colony who was then resident in Jamaica traced the origin of the word
'Calypso' to the Spanish influences in Trinidad and he felt that the term
was confined to those rhythms which were products of those influences.
He further explained that apart from the Calypso there were other totally
different forms of folk music in Trinidad itself. In Jamaica he said,
there was folk music, just being collected by a social welfare body and
he was not prepared to call them calypsoes.
It was very strong argument indeed, against which I stressed the
importance of usage. I pointed out that the term calypso had been
established in the field of commerce to represent recorded West Indian
Folk Music. Any complete collection of recorded West Indian Calypsoes
would bear me out on this point. It is significant that though there are
differences in these calypsoes to be easily noticed and no one should
want to condemn them to the monotonous any one is easily identified
in any set of music by its special stamp of atavism.
Our own Bill Rogers whose recorded efforts in New York were based
on the 'Bargee Minor" was regarded in his time as a foremost B.G. Calypso
artist. His songs, included "The Bargee", "The Weed Song", Jimmy
Blackpudding", and "Camp Street on Saturday Night", all peculiar to
Allsopp in his letter does not help much on the question of classify-
ing the Calypso. He merely offers a half-hearted disagreement with you
that "Matilda" and "Sly Mongoose" are more folk songs than calypsoes.
At first he would not venture on the musical aspect which is in fact
leaving the subject alone. But later he decided that the question of
music was most important for classifying into categories.
It is the music that really makes a calypso. The words are merely
passengers that give an indication of the moral, social or intellectual
stations by which the calypso waggon passed. The calypso can live with-
out words and by its compelling rhythms alone. If the words set to the
tune of the calypsoes "Norah" and "Kitch" would spoil a "classic" then
let us have them without words, or will someone accept the challenge to
change the words.
This brings me to what I consider quite a different subject one of
"Calypso Words" which is an art in its own right just as the composition
of poetry is an art distinct and apart from the composition of, music
though the two are usually blended into immortal songs. It is therefore
easy to appreciate the tendency most people have of branding calypsoes
according to the accompanying words. But one cannot ignore the danger
of having the whole art form condemned because of a few lewd lines
in the lyrics.
Some measure of praise is due to the Vesta Lowe Choir which brought
out some special Guianese folk music for a presentation early in 1947.
Arranged by their leader and conductor, Mrs. Vesta Lowe-Prescod, the
songs depicted river scenes and life on the sugar plantations and the
savannahs. The words included many old proverbs which dated the
period but the music remained fresh as the morning. Like you and
Allsopp, Hoyte and I have agreed that Sly Mongoose was a type song.
Hoyte was convinced that it is a song peculiar to the whole Caribbean
area with a levelling influence and no Colony seemed to have undisputed
claim to it.
It is by now generally agreed that Calypsoes are West Indian Folk
songs. But whether West Indian Folk songs on the whole should be
called "Calypsoes:" or should that name be confined to a special type
is a point at issue.
I think well should be left alone and since the term Calypso so
appropriately fits those West Indian Rhythms that express the same
atavistic tendencies all West Indian Folk songs should be called Calypsoes .'
SCENE FROM A PLAY
Not to be Reconciled
Simon: Look, John, look. St. Alicks
Preens in the Sun like a great green flower
Ringed with the flowing sea, hurrying
To South America.
The town on the hill
Sleeps lazily in the sunlight
With the stone houses turning empty eyes
Blind Homer eyes for windows and doors.
The estates are plotted and bright with the waving hair
Of the ubiquitous cane,
And parting the tresses run the little loads
Moving men and emotions under the compass
And all, a little complete world
Like you and me, John, restless
To move out of our essential natures
Seeking what we do not know
Blind in our passionate urges.
You would'nt dream John
How much passion lies in me and you
And this silently-ordering island
Until the wind wakes nature and man
And the town into riots and angers
And blind hurricanes.
John: Brave, brave. Like a page in a play.
Yes. The ubiquitous, the iniquitous cane.
But Simon, you forget to say
There is no hint of her incapacity to take
Leadership of the Caribbean
To fling a torch at the world's heart.
The passion is there all right but the direction
Where is it?
Simon: Oh yes, I'll say that too but later,
Keep your metaphysics out of poetry now
Look, let the physical touch your heart to beauty
You have no soul, I know, I'll borrow your heart -
Look, look at her curved and rising reaches of green
This is our land, John, our land.
We are her clay to mould.
John: Oh, you may borrow the heart
But not the land. The land
Belongs to the cane buried in its bosom
And to its lock-outs and to its owners.
For beauty, I lend her shapeliness in the Sun
But there are lovelier roads dropping,
Dropping down by car in sweeping leafy curves
From the delight of Mandeville and I have seen
More rounded, like maiden's breasts,
Brown, water-hungry hills bared m Antigua.
Simon, you are incurable. I can match
Your peaking romantic mood. But as a worker
I ask you, see this land
As a lazy lascivious body where the rich
Prey on the poor, and the handsome sun
Draws beads of weakness on the forehead
Of the ignorant worker, blind to his strength
Of poets, playwrights and musicians
To make us great and give us a soul.
To take the scales of blindness from the eyes
Of the lumbering, hungry worker.
You will change the inside
I the real world of hunger
You transform the heart and I the head.
Let's make a compact. You say
The land is ours, let it be really ours.
Simon: I 'wish it was as simple as you say.
Head and heart are uneasy in their union. Your cold head
Would have us put the heart in prison.
You are the masculine principle bent on power
You are science, plans, the heart retreats
Before your probing knife, dehumanising,
While the heart is warm, eternal dynamic
Of love for mother, wife and child and the basis of kindness.
John: And soapy sentiment. Well then, Simon
Let it be war -
Simon: As now indeed it is and ever shall be.
We are friends, but what we stand for
Exclusive and not to be reconciled. There is the trouble
But come, let's leave this idea war.
Walk down the slopes with me and talk of books.
-A. J. S.
From "Rivers of His Night" to be published
shortly in the United Kingdom.
by Jan Carew
I walked home from classes at Mid-Western University in a snowfall
that evening. It was five o'clock, but darkness had set in. The snr,w
fell heavily, and against a background of street lights gambolled chaoti-
cally with the wind. Massed flakes fell with soundless persistence,
piling themselves up over the grime and soot, and dirt, the grim uniform
of an industrial city.
Gusts of wind blew from the lake, and with every new gust the
snow flakes collided and swirled around like particles of dust caught in
shafts of light. I walked with my back to the wind and I felt its icy
pressure leaning against me. Sharp, thorned flakes pricked the back of
my neck and my ears, and ice-lipped winds kissed my cheeks.
Hushed and silent everything lay sprawled around me under this,
deluge of wind and snow. Silence, silence, everywhere: the voice of
the city was hushed. A snowfall had challenged the wild frantic will
to rush that dominates a mechanical civilisation. The world had gone
back to a primeval slowness, an elemental silence. Footsteps embedded
themselves into soft pillows of snow and the edge of rushing was taken
away from them, so that pedestrians seemed to be walking in slow
motion. Gone was the sharp contact of leather soles and clicking heels
on smooth pavements.
Silence, silence, everywhere, and men conceived in a silent womb,
looked askance at silence. Drivers peering through crescent discs cleared
by windscreen wipers, thumbed their horns impatiently, and the muffled
honking reached me like a peevish baying.
It was pleasant to wrap a mantle of snow around me, just as I often
did with a mantle of darkness, a mantle of fog, a mantle of midL Man
needed mantles at times to blot out the vistas of the world's wastelands:
night or fog, or mist, or fear, or imagination, or dreams, or snow:' hug
one of these for a moment of living, and the jagged fringes of the un-
known became unreal.
I hugged the petalled deluge of snow around my being as I walked
through that strange city, far from my native village a strange, hos-
tile city that grew stranger and more hostile with every passing year.
I ploughed through the snow bending slightly forward, driven on by the
gusts of wind behind me and the dark thoughts that possessed my mind.
The world around me was bounded by shadows that loomed beyond
snow-veils. Street lights impaled the snow-flakes for brief instants and
they became moths caught in flame. Patterns of wind-blown snow-
flakes shaped themselves around and around trumpet-shaped in auto-
mobile lights, disc-shaped in street lights; at times undulating like wheat
fields in the wind, at others still for breathless moments.
I walked up Euclid Avenue. The side-walks and the avenue were
merged under a carpet of snow. Cars crawled along the avenue like
white-backed beetles feeling for a safe path with their antennae of light.
The falling snow standardised the entire aspect of the city. White
snow-paint sprayed at random from the skies. It whitened the citty!
judiciously, meting out the same impartial treatment to the tall sky-
scrapers and to the shacks in the slums: it accumulated in thick masses
on roofs, rounding off sharp edges; it retouched window-sills deftly with
snowy mounds flanked by icicles; the bare backs of tree trunks and the
naked arms of branches. Everything was mantled in ermine.
If the snow showed any favouritism, then it did so in the slums.
The ugly scars of slum houses were healed and caressed. Like white
hair, snow flakes bequeath a standardised dignity.
I turned off at right angles from Euclid Avenue into the narrow,
tree-lined Cornell Street. As I walked along the silence was oiten
broken by the thud of accumulated snow falling from rooftops or the
branches of trees. Cornell Street started from Euclid Avenue in a fairly
decent residential district near the University and ended acioess tihe
railroad tracks amidst a cluster of workers' shacks clinging to a terrace
on the hillside. From across the valley their insecurity was heightened
by the contrast of solid mansions on the hilltop.
As I crossed the bridge spanning the valley, I looked over the rails.
Most of the tracks criss-crossing below in line" of steel had disappeared.
A few were visible where trains had passed recently, black wounds torn
across a desert of Aryan whiteness.
Romeo's Corner Bar was doing a lively business as I walked past.
This was the sort of night when men liked to huddle around bars and
enjoy the warm comfort of drinks; to spin yarns and to forget the thought
of going home. The neon sign outside Romeo's was blinking painfully
and only spelled "-OMEO'S" with its brightest blink.
Fear and hatred and tensions lurked in this cluttered slum. On my
way to and from school I had to walk through gauntlets of hostile eyes:
The taunting, surly eyes of loafers on street corners, the hostile eyes of
children playing on the street, of people sitting on front porches or peer-
ing through windows eyes, malignant eyes, baleful eyes. I was a black
intruder facing the hostility of a people who also felt themselves intrud-
ers in America. The sharp edge of this feeling rankled and chafed the
raw fibres of their souls as it did mine. They lived in a world of hum-
ming machines, and a structure of frustration and prejudice hung around
their necks like a halter. A tangled skein of oppressions was woven inte
their lives, and to allay their bitterness they could only strike blindly at
others with a hate exploding in physical hostility.
Italians, Poles, Czechs and an endless list of nationalities: the human
sacrifice thrown into the hungry maw of industrial America, where
machines mushroomed like vines and creepers in the jungles during the
season of rains.
Czech, Polish and a sprinkling of Italian workers lived in this neigh-
bourhood, first and second generation immigrants. A year ago I had
first walked through this district, and hate-warped voices had shouted
after me. The memory of those voices still rankled.
It was a Spring afternoon and I was strolling towards the student
house with Ros Bryan, a pretty blonde student from New Jersey. Spring
sunshine always holds a miraculous quality. It pours like light rains
upon the earth, heightening, retouching, shading the canvas of the spting-
world. That afternoon I was enjoying the tingling warmth of this sun-
shine and looking at the miracle of colours around me, and felt gay and
excited, animated. I chatted disjointedly about a number of unimportant
things the prospect of tennis, the Political Science professor, whom I
suspected of being a racist, final examinations, the coming Friday night
party. My gaiety was contagious and Ros's eyes were brimming with
laughter. I was holding her hand as we walked along and it was warm,
and alive in mine.
Crossing the bridge that spanned the valley we paused to look at a
goods-train polluting the Spring air with dark smoke.
"It's a pity", she remarked, looking at the smoke veils thin them-
"Should do something about those trains!"
"Yes, should filter the smoke or get Diesels or something." And having
solved this Problem, we walked on again, over the bridge, and past
We had almost reached the end of Cornell Street, when a stone
whizzed past my head. Some instinct had warned me of danger and I
had turned any head just in time. The stone fell on the asphalted street
with a loud clatter. I started to run, pulling Ros along with me.
Looking back I saw three men standing in the middle of the street out-
side Romeo's. One was throwing stones at us and the other two were
shouting: "Hi, Nigger! Hi, Nigger- Nigger! Nigger! Nigger !" and in
between: "White Trash! White Trash."
The voices were almost inarticulate with hate. Another of the men
started throwing stones. One hit me on the right shoulder, a heavy
blow that staggered me for a moment.
"Are you hurt, Michael ?" I did not answer Ros's question. I just
kept on running, pulling her along with me. Once we reached the top
of the hill we would be safe. The rock that struck me was sharp-edged
and it must have cut, because there was a stinging pain in my shoulder.
We turned off from Cornell into Overlook and kept on running until we
reached the hilltop.
The three men did not follow us up the hill; they stood at the
corner of Cornell and Overlook, shouting in a chorus now:
"Nigger Nigger Nigger !"
"Are you all right ?" Ros asked again.
"Yes, I'm all right." I could not keep a note of hostility out of my
voice. My shoulder was aching, but I did not examine the wound. My
heart was pounding so hard, that I had to press my hand against my
breast. A strange feeling of anger, of shame, of futility suffused my
being. I looked back at the three men and they seemed small and
grotesque. "Nigger Nigger Nigger !" the voices were full of hate and
frustration. Wild impulses flooded my mind. I wanted to rush back
and silence those voices for ever; to run away, further and further,
until a swiftly spanned distance made me immune to the sound of their
hate. The pounding of my heart was so loud that when I spoke my
voice sounded like a whisper, the cry of a bird against a volcanic
"I think my shoulder is hurt," I said to Ros, trying to make my
hushed voice sound normal.
I took off my coat. There were blood stains on my shirt sleeve.
The rock had struck me on the deltoids, bruising off some skin.
"Can wait until we get home", I said to Ros when she tried to
staunch the bleeding with her handkerchief. Those voices were like
knives that severed the bonds between us. The blonde girl at my side
had suddenly become a white stranger. Even when we walked beyond
the range of the voices I remained profoundly disturbed.
"That's the voice of your America", I taunted. Ros was silent and
she did not look at me. "The home of the brave and the land of the
free" Labels, lots of labels-'nigger', 'kike', 'Dago'-a label for every-
body who is not white, aryan, protestant-a label to deprive one of the
Right of being a. human person"!
"Why don't you leave ?"
"Would that solve anything? Besides I don't have any money".
"I know I shouldn't have asked you that, but you keeping on accus-
ing ME; I too feel hurt, more hurt than if a brick had struck. me."
Her voice broke off abruply. When I looked at her there were tears
Sin her eyes. We walked on in silence.
I never walked through this district again except in the daytime,
with a group of students. Now here in the snowfall I could risk it,
because the streets were deserted and curtains of snow protected me.
(Mural at Sandbach Parker by an Antigua artist).
---_--wit akhda~nient s to--h i~.t._ _ard il
E. Mc. G. KEANE
Soon I shall watch
My last mountains queue up
For their share of horizon.
Soon make fast my eyes to a star
And no longer pretend
Not to have heard
The voice of the ocean's curled horn:
Book a wave for the world
A wave ....
For the world, only a wave.
Whoso taketh wings to fly dieth a little.
Oh when all I have tried to prove
Shall have become but a dry geometry of bones,
When they have laid me out cold
In a deep groove
And thrown dust in my eyes,
Will it ever be remembered
That once one who stood with his heels firm
On a firmly shifting deck,
Looked back at a host of waving eyes
And begged not for tears
But for prayers,
And wept at one world that proffered
Not an arrow, but a quiver of targets?
For the world, only a wave ......
Strange that the ship moving anywhere
Shall seem to move nowhere.
Pet#aps I shall stand idly by the rails
And look down into the deep cities of the sea,
Into the brown bulbous halls
Where blue freemasonries of whales move and mumble.
At night I shall lose my eyes
In the stark jungle of stars.
Shall wonder of home,
Beneath how many moulds of change
Will they bury my last memory,
Whoso taketh wings ....
Tonight, walking along the darkness
Where the sea's lips
Brush the wide smile of the bay lightly
And lightly again,
I think of the twenty-five tears the years have wept me,
Of the twenty-five meek errands I have run for time.
And oh strange that the ship moving anywhere
Shall seem to move nowhere ....
My God, I would take wings of gladness
And die unto all worlds where no ships lie waiting,
Would grapple eyes to a star
And look where no mountains share the still horizon.
Yet mostly I shall remember my darkness
And the wide lips of the bay
Where the seas come lightly smiling,
And again lightly smiling.
(August 11, 1952).
R. L. C McFARLANE
And Sometimes Quite Unsought
the Memories Come
And sometimes auite unsought the memories come
Of passions that so suddenly came to leaf,
The amazement and the anger and the great :
Stark revelations that still leave me numb.
Again I see the expensive fruit that gleamed
Within ambiguous leaves; the ecstatic breath
Prompting the soul be quick; the stride of truth
That came between us and the thing we seemed.
So freakish and so short! But what a blend
We were! What could she really have in mind -
Nature I mean, when unforewarned she assigned
-Us these impromptu parts? Their inglorious end
Still lingers in my memory and attires
The thinnest wisp of fancy with the sheen
Of leaves tumultuous, whispers, the drawn screen,
The blaze that burns intensely then expires.
R. L. C. Mc FARLANE
0 Girl, How Should I Tell
O girl, how should I tell you how
You shatter all philosophy,
And melt the hardened theory,
And lay the walls of reason low?
For so I yield within an hour
The strength that I had wrought with pain,
And am become a fool again
Colonial to an alien power;
Seeking the furtherance of my being
Within another's happiness,
Enwombed in utter helplessness
Blank days that jump the time for freeing.
No, stand apart and keep your state
Free of my tribute lest we prove
How in the curious knot of love
The mind conceals a knife of hate.
Streets of Eternity
Precise and ordered
mapped the world:
were a black river's span
from a nest of maragage to the brown seas;
a man whose passions spun green vines
to probe the world before he died.
He walked across the green grass to meet the dawn
and his 'wake was the echo of marching feet
and the everlasting singing of songless drums.
who saw the miniature portraits of white tiger orchids,
decor, to bleed the heart of tall dark trees
abandoned green Gethsemanes
of slave facendas
where golden arrows from earthy and lascivious roots
wore plumes to adorn the wanton canefields.
He greeted dawn
and life was the sharp blades of envy
that pointed green spears to the sky
over the bloom of yellow daisies:
and factories of sun
forged heat to flower and blaze the 'world.
The minuscule points that were his eyes
flashed red blossoms of pain,
his face wore dark clouds of thunder
wnerr the heart must bleed a deluge of rain.
He greeted dawn on the green grass
where flecked stains of flambeau blossoms
were omen and augury
for the oracle of songless drums that sing everlastingly:
the atom of his heart
consoled or inconsolable
lived eternal chains of ceaseless vibrations
down green streets of eternity,
where memory alone escapes
m condor-winged speeds of the heart's chariot
and passion passing the toll gates .of human hates
knows the serenity of chaos or tranquillity.
He crossed the rutted roads
and bare feet flashed the wet dew:
white orchids disdained the earth
from the pulpits of tall trees,
man had no roots in earth save death and birth,
life was an ivory bower in heaven
where delicate tendrils cling ruthlessly
to the heart of a dark tree.
White orchids must bleed lite to live,
but death imperceptibly
stalks passion in cells of the interior heart
and* only the shells stay intact in heaven.
For who is slave and who is tree
when order of green anarchy is the world ?
Who transgresses barricades
of sugar factories
and the wailing of children in slave corrals
watches the sea of golden sunsets on the lees of wide savannahs.
The gnarled heart knotted inflexibly
is the pulse of white orcnias,
Flame or storm or torrent-flood
or these three bursting symphonies of silence
transmute green veins of patience
to explosions of pain or hate or compassion,
and uproots the heedless tree
the heart that bleeds to unseeing serenity of white orchids.
He met noon where the trees
were simmering haze of green thresholds to savannahs
white cranes stood still
ignoring inane chatterings of spur-wings.
He crossed the hazy threshold of trees
and plunged across the wide savannahs,
the fitful breeze fingered the rapier of palm leaves uneasily.
His wafted dreams embraced Guango
he lived the hell of trauma
that spanned green continents:
he came and went
up and down strange seas,
merchandise that would release
a world of kings and empires and priests,
a world of spurious serenity in which he measured pain
matching the punctual ebb and flow of a river
on a treadmill.
The fires of life, of love, ot hate,
of single dream encompassing his lite -
return to Guango and the long cool evenings
where songless drums sing everlastingly
and the maidens and the fighting men chant poem-hymns:
fires of life were patience and they glowed remotely
in treadmills, sugar factories, raw whios of an overseer's shouting
green Gethsemanes of canetields;
steps to a pinnacle of pain
stoking life fires to a burst of glowering:
eternity the stoker bends arcs of heaven
that timeless destiny might bear no stamp of stillness
He met the sunset
in the midst of water lilies
that bloomed irises of golden laughter:
the sun was golden boulevard to eternity
reflected on water that inundates savannahs.
Surfs of darkness flooded the world
and turned red blossoms of his eyes
the abyss of his heart, his soul
dark pouches posed enigmas of life
to mock the inward searching of his eyes -
the breadth of his imaginings
the jungle of unconscious forms twisted in catatonic gestures
of slow pain,
passed and remained the dancing beams of spectrumed life.
Dark surfs of night rolled over his sleeping heart
sleeping and sleepless in eddies of uncertainty.
Dawn came again
the songless drums sang no more
white orchids garlanded his life with wreaths of death:
blind panic was his life like bats surprised in light
prostrate the atom of his heart lay at the feet of white orchid
A tameless heart spat laughter
and broke the supine spell of his prostration,
scorn was the laughter from a tameless heart
to pass the gates of stockades at Dageraad
and reverberate the spaces of green anarchies.
Raw whips of overseer were his shame,
slowly he rose
the echoes of songless drums beat their singing again.
Tortures of slow flame were his last dawn,
he saw the sunlight crucified on arms of trees
hollow seared blossoms were the points of his eyes
and atom of his heart beat ceaseless chains of vibration
down the long streets of eternity.
CLEVELAND W. HAMILTON
Thoughts on Crossing the Atlantic
These waters seem to have no end -
Like some immodest harlot loosely clad,
Lay baring her anatomy
Challenging men to waive their chastity.
Their courses touch oblivion;
Their sources lie, incomprehensibly beyond Man's inquisition.
Their destiny's Eternity itself
Frightful and inconceivable.
Lying sometimes like palsied beasts of muted power
Teasing th' unwary to provoke their might......
Sometimes they gurgle angrily,
Warring among themselves
Like troubled dinosaurs........
Who can contain their wratl ?
Not man with all his vaunted cunning,
Wars cannot silence them -
Wars are too frail....
They will outlive Earth's wars
And Time itself -
Time who's a fragment ot Eternity.
They take their orders trom oblivion
Which is their source and aestmy....
They gulp man's rude vainglory
Warning him they are themselves
Man cannot ambush them
They're omnipresent, strong.
They are chameleon.
Sometimes they're green like Heaven's jealousy
Sometimes they're black
Who fashioned them -
These shapeless, leering, champmg beasts ?
Commingled with the everlasting tears of chastened gods
They are the wrath of Cosmos '
Who will destroy them ?
Time mrust co-opt Eternity,
And set them all a-fire with
Prophecy (March 1952)
I see these islands washed by a creed
That is not alien to their aged frustration.
They roll on green waves
And beneath the lush-green coating
Lie machines packed with thunder.
All is love
and harmonied beauty.
But I see portentious flashes of red, twixtt green overcoat.
Red with the flow of revolution, shatter and thunder
For after we've done with our snobbings.
Our hurts, our thrusts upon the sensitive poor,
After we've seen the meteor of our mastery
Wage a long golden flash of selfish brilliance
Across the sky of our pride
then we shall regret.
There is thunder waiting to crash on our unwilling ears
There is dust ready to soil our vanity;
For sweat and toil will rise in anger
And finery will burn in flames of retribution.
Since morning on the bright brass of the bay
They stuck in groups, moulded in clusters there,
Tackle and cable caught taut by the masts,
All twiny and wiry entangled
They might have stood for twenty or more years.
Each splash is a white, green, or blue answer
From sky or sun and the leaf-painted cape,
And stuck still, set in flashing and sparkle
Were nearly all the ships like sisters here,
And the drizzle
Of shadow falling on water between.
Sleek as birds, fine and delicate as dames
"Angela", "Gardenia", and "Lady Dove",
Schooner "May Olive", sloops tidy, at ease,
Coy little yachts, shy at each boy-chuckle
Of the breeze,
All at anchor, all shapely and slender.
And at evening, these tall virgins are there
Assembled for prayer in the goldlight,
Or meditation where sea is catcher
For tints, or cares softly for noteless shape
Until night comes and each should bear her lamp.
Stir comes quickly in the quietest of places.
The dozing girl is soon awake;
So on the sea the sudden wail
Of drawn anchor, twine and tackle
Cuts the still dream; and the sly sail
Creeps slowly skywards with the song
Of sailormen, and the motion,
Soft as a sweetheart's parting, for the ocean,
For islands and calm bays all in the same round sea,
South, with the wind and hundred bags
Of traffickers' sweet fruit and yam,
Northwards, for rich salt and timber
Willing and lithe in the firm arm
Of the urgent air; or slothful
And sad in great windless spaces
On the solid sea's calm places
The liner crosses with smoking, and in the haze
Far off is a ghost of the sea
Fleeing in the white blown sheet,
Or still as sentinel of wastes
Crowding the moment like a fleet
Omen, frightening, come and gone;
Or fluttering as a joy away,
White sail grained in the far mist grey.
After long knifing the spray and untired wave,
Battling the wilful drift of tides,
Passing green islets on the way,
Wheeling, finding a path again,
Tacking, churning the foam and spray,
Tracing long lines white across capes,
Ship comes home to port, sails flapping,
Glad as drum-joy after fighting.
So we, blustering through hours
Must leave multiple track-lines in the dark
In our close hunt for the minute respite
Before next voyages.
Gold is false, fallen
As yellow leaves for rotting,
As ripe fruit torn by bandit birds;
And the immortelle too soon flings
Her yellow coin in petals for the wind.
Comes lover sun
Feeling for secrets,
Kissing away tears,
Tears sneaking down hills,
Down the cheek of the land in streams.
Only the palm is tall,
Only the palm talks with the wind,
Wind stealing the palm's secrets
And telling the sea of its boasting.
Laughter peal breaks on the sand,
Sea laughs in each wave at the land.
Here house and tree clutter the valley,
Houses or hovels scrambling crazily
Uphill between trees.
Shadows haunt them,
Shades that never cease
Striving to build something with dimension.
Here are ghosts after a fiction
Of substance, and never rest
Even long after ghost-clocks tolling the end of day
Frighten the sun shuddering away.
Behind capes at nightfall.
Documents on B.W.I. History"
Compiled and Edited by Eric Williams
An aunt of mine, now deceased, who had a memory of steel, told
me once that in 1803 her great grandmother, a slave, came by boat from
Essequibo to Georgetown to "tread the mill" at the Georgetown Jail, with
the child of the sugar estate manager inside of her.
That story with variations is the beginning of the family tree of the
majority of the people in tl e British Caribbeai:' There are some statistics
in the recently published and valuable "Docume'nts onBi ifish West Indian
History, 1807-1833" compiled and edited by, Dr. Eric, Williams, which
clearly show the facts of the lise in numbers of .the mulattoes and the
people of colour. In Demerara in 181 there were 57,383 inhabitants:
whites 1,314 men, 424 women and 370 children; free-coloured 310
men, 849 women-and 1,064 children; and slaves -- 23,02L men, 16,089
women and 13,945 children.
On the whole, -the history of the British West-Indies is still a rela-
tively unknown fie'd for the general reader and more unknown for
secondary school .children. A sense of our historical heritage is very
much stronger today, than it was before the 1939.West Indian Royal
Commission, thanks principally to Eric Williams, but still anyone wanting
to know how his society began.and the forces that activated it, has to
turn mainly to specialist and expert studies,, in the fields of economic
and political analysis carried out generally by scholars-who do not belong
to the region and who therefore cannot have our attitud*'i he book to
which I have referred is valuable because here are some of the documents
themselves on which previous analyses have been made, so that we who
live in the region can place our own interpretation upon them. It is true
that facts sometimes carry their own judgments with them and that in
the history of the British Caribbean, the determining forces have been,
broadly speaking, the economics of sugar and slavery imposed upon the
region. But a people must be considered to be more than the pawn of
economic forces and at present labour is asserting itself as a social force,
and the emphasis is passing from the employers to the employed.
There are innumerable political studies of the region displaying the
see-saw struggle of the European nations to command these strategic
islands; there are economic studies of the rise and fall in prices and the
growth of these territories into vast plantations; but very little exists to
show the day-to-day life of the slaves. Of course, even in these books
we can catch sometimes a tantalising glimpse of the social life and con-
ditions of the free people of colour and the general populace. In Higham's
study of the Leeward Islands. in the second half of the seventeenth
century, we learn of the conditions of the indentured servants who were
malefactors or political prisoners treated nearly as badly or well as slaves.
The issues are also clearcut with the French in iSt. Kitts, that key island
in the struggle between French and English, and Sir William Stapledon's
failure in relationships between as he called them "civilized and lower
races" (meaning the Amerindians).
A century later in her frank and delightful "Journal of a Lady, of
Quality", Janet Schaw tells us of the flowers and dishes in Antigua and
St. Kitts, and how on first sight she mistook the black children in St.
John's for monkeys when she landed there in December 1774. When
diaries and newspapers have been studied more thoroughly, more and
more we will learn of the history of the people themselves.
The Social history of the B.W.I. becomes more alive to the reader of
these "Documents on B.W.I. History 1807-1833", They are select docu-
ments from the Public Record Office in London, relating to Barbados,
British Guiana, Jamaica and Trinidad, and issued by the Historical Society
of Trinidad and Tobago in collaboration with the Social Science Re-
search Centre, University of Puerto Rico. These extracts were collected
by Eric Williams in 1938 when he was engaged on research for his
doctoral thesis on "The Economic Aspect of the Abolition of the West
Indian Slave Trade and Slavery".
The documents are in themselves very valuable and this reviewer
hopes that the information contained in them and the knowledge of the
attitudes they exemplify will pass in due course into the consciousness
of West Indians. Let us lay the scene for the drama of the Emancipation
Immediately after the abolition of the Slave Trade in 1807, the British
Government guided by the good genius of its Permanent Under ,Secretary
of States, James Stephen, (incidentally one of the ancestors of Virginia
Woolf) found itself holding the balance between the slaves and the
planters. The Crown legislated by Order in Council and the local
assemblies were relegated to a subordinate position. The Government
announced its policy of better conditions for the slaves and of bridging
the gap between slavery and freedom. Reform measures were forwarded
by the British Government to the colonies but they proved difficult to
implement because of the sympathy of the executive officers (who were
themselves allowed to own slaves) for the plantocracy. Governor Wood-
ford in Trinidad became virtually the self-constituted spokesman of the
planters. So Stephen saw that the solution of the problem lay in the
enlargement of popular rights and the admission to public office of free
people of colour.
The planters raised every constitutional issue they could devise.
Barbados asked was slavery compatible with democratic forms, a nomin-
ated member in Trinidad stated his duty to defend "interests". The
Registry Bill was successfully opposed and there was also opposition tb
the abolition of the whip and the flogging of female slaves and regulation
of the hours of labour of the slaves. The Jamaica Assembly spoke of
secession and virtually declared the island's independence.
Then there were the slaves, waiting, watching, sullen, misunderstand-
ing each speech in Parliament, misinterpreting every move and demanding
their freedom. In British Guiana in 1823, the slaves asserted "God had
made them of the same flesh and blood as the whites and that they
were tired of being slaves to them". When he heard of the 1823 British
Guiana revolt, Governor Warde of Barbados said "now the ball has begun
to roll, nobody can say when or where it is to stop".
Meanwhile from a third quarter came an attack on the institution
of slavery, from the rapidly growing free people of colour, who were
often men of property and wealth but segregated, hindered in their
professional advancement, and excluded from civil office. They made
overtures to the whites, who were alarmed at the increase in their
numbers and rejected their advances. No, they said, the evidence
of free people of colour was not to be admitted in court, nor were they
to serve on iuries. So the free people of colour turned to the British
Government, which wavered between' two points of views. It was
James Stephen who threw his weight and influence on the side of the
free people of colour.
Then there was the Church. The planters felt that religious
instruction of the slaves was a cloak for plotting against the existing
order, but the British Government was adamant on the principle of
religious toleration, and firm on the issue of religious instruction. The
colonial governors took the side of the planters and called the missionaries
And so the drama swayed...... Anyone who wants a sequel can
find it in the pages of W. L. Burn's "Emancipation and Apprenticeship in
the B.W.I." 1833-1838, where again James Stephen played a leading role.
The second part of the documents gives extracts of correspondence
on some W.I. Economic problems the labour problem, diversified
economy, the ordeal of free labour and open or restricted trade.
This book is highly recommended.
Challenge to the British
(by Lord Listowel. Dr. Rita Hinden, Rawle Farley and Colin Hughes
(Fabian Colonial Bureau 2/-)
The purpose of this 37-page pamphlet is to state the Raace Federation
proposals on the one hand and, on the other, the disagreements about
the principal conditions of immediate federation expressed by these
Caribbean Colonies. Of the authors, two are born in the area and the
other two examine W.I. affairs from a background of British political life.
The pamphlet deals with the small size of the islands, the inadequate
communications, low standard of living, p6Dulation pressures, under-
employment and the economic vulnerability of the relatively undiversi-
fied economy based on sugar. There are also the social legacies of
slavery-the instability of family life, the identification of class with
race, and the disunity among sections of the Caribbean community. The
authors argue that the central authority of Federation is the only answer
to overall planning of the communications, trade, population problems
and will give the institutional framework within which the present
creative and cultural upsurge will find full and national expansion.
The same applies to economic development. Clash and waste from
different territories setting up the same new industries, the difficulties
and catch-as-catch-can principle of securing capital loans on an indivi-
dual territorial basis-these will be best avoided by a central authority.
Racial harmony will be best achieved say the authors, and the "in-
tolerable psychological burden of the colonial system" will be most easily
thrown off, if territories do not stand in isolation. They point out that
education in Brazil and America has been used successfully as an
assimilating instrument under central direction.
This summary of the main arguments of the study does not do full
justice to its careful statement and development from the crucial facts
of population economics and the social background, through the begin-
nings of self-government, the present economic development, the weak-
nesses of the new Constitutions the limitations of the economic advance
so far achieved, the federation proposals, summaries of the discussions
of the Rance Report in the various legislatures and finally to a summary
of the main arguments advanced against federation.
The authors find the arguments against federation are principally
concerned with details of the Rance proposals but there are also hints
at "jealousies and fears which seem incredibly petty in the face of the
tremendous issues at stake."
One of the merits of the study is that it brings all the main factors
into perspective and so shows up the important part played by external
agencies in lifting the British Caribbean as far as it has been lifted-
sugar guarantees, that Gog and Magog of the area,: C.D.W. and the
C.D.C. (which really took over the D in D and W) and the inflow of
capital and technical skill. More cannot be done because although the
principle of the welfare state is as valid in the Caribbean as it is in the
British Isles, recurrent expenditure on social services cannot be higher
than a territory can afford and 103/4 million have been spent on Carib-
bean development between April 1946 and March 1950.
The reason why Federation has not yet come is perhaps the fact
that both official and local resources and initiative have been too weak
and too slow. The centre of the British Caribbean, the family, is weak
and needs strengthening. The present situation is partly the outcome of
social conditions, and if the community can improve the quality of its
family cell, it will thereby improve its leadership, and success must
follow when the social factors are pitted against the economic problems.
The political aspects are secondary to the social and it is heartening
to note that as political advance continues some of the social bitterness
disappears. But the energy of bitterness is negative and has to be con-
verted into constructive action, and this takes time.
Only the Rance proposals have come before the Caribbean Legislatures
and they have rejected its strategy and its pace as being too rapid for
their social growth. As they consolidate their individual political advances,
they will tackle the regional problem.
Christ for Jamaica
During 1951 the entire Protestant Communty of Jamaica through the
instrumentality of the Jamaica Christian Council, co-operated in an All
Island Evangelistic Campaign, in connection with this "Christ for Jamaica
Campaign" as it was called. The book under review, identical in
name with the campaign was published with the idea of supplying
appropriate and necessary information.
Attractively paper-bound and sold at the very moderate price of 2/-.
It should find a place in the library of every Christian-Ministerial and
The book is a collection of articles written by representatives of
the various Member-bodies of the Council and is very well illustrated.
Each article stands on its own, and the various contributors have been
literally able to pack a great deal into two or three pages. It falls con-
veniently into three parts, (1) a history in very brief outline of the
various Member-bodies of the Jamaica Christian Council. (2) a collection
of articles on various subjects, the emphasis being laid on the Church
in the twentieth Century. (3) a resume in part of the All-Island Evan-
gelistic Campaign. This is followed by an appendix with questions for
The' Preface gives a very comprehensive picture of the constitution
and accomplishments of the Jamaica Christian Council leading up to the
"Christ for Jamaica Campaign". It is a valuable introduction to the
Every article in Part (ii) is carefully written and invites thorough
study. H. J. Cook in his article "Worship and Fellowship in the Church"
captures the imagination of all West Indian readers with his timely
quotation from the Negro Spirituals. "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" is to
him the gentleness of a cradle-song,-the longing for deliverance from
hardship and sorrow, upon which :worship once fed.
"Christianity in the Modern World" by the Editor, Rev. J. A. Crabbe
M.A., is straightforward in every statement. It is broad in its scope
and calls for definite action on the part of all Christian people. His
paragraph-"The Challenge to the Laity" is profound. As he says to
the Laity is "given the responsibility of translating your Christian faith
into every day life".
Every person interested in Church Union would read with added
interest "The Historic Church and the Sects"-the contribution of the
Suffragan Bishop of Kingston, Rt. Rev. P. W. Gibson. It is written by
a great son of the Church of Jamaica. It is void of any personal dis-
likes and preferences. The element of sacerdotalism is absent. The New
Testament and not dogma is the basis of the article. One is immediately
reminded of Bishop Rawlinson's "Problems of Reunion". No Christian,
Anglican or Non-Conformist can find quarrel in the article. "If God's
purpose for the world is to be accomplished through the Church, the
Church must close her ranks and present a united front to an unbelieving
world", but before this can be effected "we must go down on bended
knee and ask forgiveness for our pride, our selfishness and our bigotry
and luke-warmness". Wasn't that the principle and spirit adopted, on
a narrower front, in the "Christ for Jamaica" Campaign ?
R. S. P.
The Capture of Jamaica
S. A. G. TAYLOR
Puritanism came into power in England in 1653, and Cromwell
spent his energies in achieving reform of manners and morals at home.
However, on the continent he found himself faced with a war between
France and Spain, both of whom were somewhat exhausted after many
years of fighting. Cromwell's "New Model Army" was the pawn. Only
on condition that Spain should open the trade in the West Indies to
Britain, would Cromwell ally with her. Naturally Spain refused; and
without declaring war Cromwell despatched an expedition under Admiral
Penn and General Venables to attack Hispaniola in 1655. The attack
failed-and so the British turned next to Jamaica.
Such is the setting of Mr. Taylor's historical novel "The Capture of
Jamaica". This book gives a delightful account of the Conquest as
experienced by a soldier in this expedition.
The novel gives an accurate account of the conquest of the island
together with a charming romantic story; but above all, it gives us the
atmosphere of an age different from our own-one in which religious
zeal as well as economic greed, was the motive force behind
Tales of old Jamaica
"To begin with, these tales are not folk tales; although folk-ljore in-
evitably obtrudes itself; nor fictional stones, yet it is difficult entirely
to avoid fiction. They are true stories, for the most part", writes Mr.
It is important to add that these stories are not pure fact either -
they are a mixture of history and legend. When this is realized then
can the book be appreciated for its true value which is to stimulate
interest in Jamaica's vast and perhaps inspire others to enquire further
into the legends and authenticity of local stories.
This book is a pleasant collection of somewhat unconnected stories
which are easy and give interesting reading matter, of general if not
The stories are varied and range from that of "Mad Master of Edin-
burgh Castle" which tells of the homicidal maniac, Lewis Hutchinson,
lusting for blood and luring his victims to their doom; to "Counterfeit
Dublooms', a mixture of legend and fact, in which the young curate is
driven by desperation to coin counterfeit money to buy the beautiful.
mulatto girl whom he loves and who is to bear his child. Further contrast
is shown by "The Women Pirates", a racy story concerning two unusual
women; bringing back the days of piracy and duelling; and "Three Fin-
gered Jack" the terror of Jamaica a story at times tense with revenge,
cruelty and superstition. Mr. Clinton Black recalls the slave owning
days in "The Mistress of Rose Hall"--the story of a perverted plan-
tation owner who rejoices in the sound of the driver's whip, mysteriously
kills her lovers when she tires of them, but who finally is murdered
herself. However not all the stories are of this dramatic nature. Of
more sober and realistic nature is "The Golden Table" the story of a
mans lust for riches and gold.
At times the stories seem sketchy and disjointed and their content
deals with the extraordinary rather than the ordinary. However, Mr.
Clinton Black does revive the atmosphere of the past--the atmosphere
of the slave run plantation echoing with the sound of the whip and
the autocratic nature of society, but above all the profound belief in
superstition and obeah; the lust for gold, adventure and piracy; and the
low price put on the value of human life.
Mr. Clinton Black does not claim that this little book is a classic;
its aim is to stimulate interest in Jamaica's past, and in this it succeeds.
-O. B. S.
"A Brighter Sun"
by SAMUEL SELVON
Large East Indian communities can be round in the British Caribbean
in Trinidad and British Guiana, and their emotional and artistic reactions
are obviously important to the rest of the inhabitants. So this novel by
'Samuel Selvon is doubly important, as an addition to the growing list
of West Indian books and also as a novel written "from the, inside" of the
East Indian tradition.
Earliest in the canon is A. R. F. Webber's "Those that be in Bondage"
written in 1917 in Webber's large and free style, and dealing with the
English idealistic overseer who marries the daughter of an immigrant
from India. Long discussions on the ethical basis of the immigration
system disturb the flow of the narrative but with this book the East Indian
has come into the main stream of West Indian literature.
Literature generally follows society and in Edgar Mittelholzer's
"Corentyne Thunder", 1941, we can follow the East Indian after he has
left the estate and has begun to live in village communities. An East
Indian cow-minder and milk seller lives on the Corentyne Savannah with
his two daughters and he keeps the shillings from his sales in hundred-
coin bundles in a canister in the mud hut. His heart fails and his life
ends when he discovers the canister empty,
Before we turn to Selvon's novel and watch the East Indian as he
moves from the village into the life of the town and grows up into the
world, we should notice that in 1934, there is the first evidence of Indians
contributing to th. English-speaking heritage in the Caribbean, in. an
"Anthology of local Indian verse" edited by C. E. J. Ramcharitar-Lalla.
Plainly do we see the Indian sensitiveness to the delicate touches of
beauty in common things, the passion to realise the divine and the
longing to be caught up in the realms of everlasting peace.
Selvon's novel is about life in Trinidad, and Tiger, an Indian boy,
who is married to an Indian girl while they are both early in their teens,
grows up into maturity at the time of the last war. Tiger was ambitious
and learnt to read because of his desire to know more of the great world
around him. He and his wife live in Barataria, a housing settlement
a few miles out from Port-of-Spain. The Chinese grocer, the Portuguese
neighbours, the African materfamilias, the East Indian old man vwho
drank more than was good for him, but who with Tiger shares the reader's
sympathy, all these characters are simply but clearly drawn. The
evidence of colour prejudice, and criticism of the administration and of
the social system take their place naturally in the story. With the coming
of the Americans and the decision to build the Churchill-Roosevelt high-