Front Cover
 Table of Contents
 Memorial to Roger Mais
 Philip Pilgrim's legend of...
 Rogue male
 The sun (fourteen poems in...
 Two periods in the work of a West...
 "Is there a West Indian way of...
 Book review

Title: Kyk-over-Al
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00080046/00013
 Material Information
Title: Kyk-over-Al
Uniform Title: Bim
Alternate Title: Kyk over Al
Physical Description: v. : ; 23 cm.
Language: English
Creator: British Guiana Writers' Association
Kykoveral (Guyana)
Publisher: s.n.
Place of Publication: Georgetown Guyana
Publication Date: -2000
Frequency: two no. a year
Subject: Guyanese literature -- Periodicals   ( lcsh )
Caribbean literature (English) -- Periodicals   ( lcsh )
Genre: review   ( marcgt )
periodical   ( marcgt )
Spatial Coverage: Guyana
Dates or Sequential Designation: Began in 1945?
Dates or Sequential Designation: -49/50 (June 2000).
Numbering Peculiarities: Publication suspended, 19 -1983.
Issuing Body: Issued by: British Guiana Writers' Association, 1945-19 ; Kykoveral, 1985-
General Note: Vol. for Apr. 1986 called also golden edition that includes anthology of selections from nos. 1-28 (1945-1961).
General Note: Description based on: No. 30 (Dec. 1984); title from cover.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00080046
Volume ID: VID00013
Source Institution: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: oclc - 12755014
lccn - 86649830
issn - 1012-5094

Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Front Cover
        Advertising 1
        Advertising 2
        Advertising 3
        Advertising 4
        Advertising 5
        Advertising 6
        Advertising 7
        Advertising 8
        Advertising 9
        Advertising 10
        Advertising 11
    Table of Contents
        Page 133
        Page 134
        Page 135
        Page 136
        Page 137
        Page 138
        Page 139
        Page 140
        Page 141
        Page 142
        Page 143
        Page 144
        Page 145
        Page 146
    Memorial to Roger Mais
        Page 147
        Page 148
        Page 149
        Page 150
        Page 151
        Page 152
        Page 153
        Page 154
        Page 155
        Page 156
        Page 157
        Page 158
        Page 159
        Page 160
        Page 161
        Page 162
        Page 163
        Page 164
        Page 165
        Page 166
        Page 167
        Page 168
        Page 169
        Page 170
    Philip Pilgrim's legend of Kaieteur
        Page 171
        Page 172
    Rogue male
        Page 173
        Page 174
    The sun (fourteen poems in a cycle)
        Page 175
        Page 176
        Page 177
        Page 178
        Page 179
        Page 180
        Page 181
        Page 182
    Two periods in the work of a West Indian artist
        Page 183
        Page 184
        Page 185
        Page 186
        Page 187
    "Is there a West Indian way of life?"
        Page 188
        Page 189
        Page 190
        Page 191
        Page 192
        Page 193
        Page 194
        Page 195
        Page 196
        Page 197
        Page 198
        Page 199
        Page 200
        Page 201
        Page 202
    Book review
        Page 203
        Page 204
        Page 205
        Page 206
        Page 207
        Page 208
        Page 209
        Page 210
        Page 211
        Page 212
        Page 213
        Page 214
        Page 215
        Page 216
Full Text
Mid-Year, 1955

KY -

,v c l '004

-The Life and

-The Paintings

Writings of Roger Mais
-A Memorial

of Denis Williams
-Wilson Harris

-"Is there a West Indian Way of Life ?"
-A Symposium of Views

- Writers featured include Edgar Mittelholzer,
Derek Walcott, John Figueroa.


Vol. 6 No 20.
X ."

Try this test and see!

Watch each member of your family read the Guiana
Graphic. You may be surprised. For you'll find
Junior scanning general news as well as comics,
your wife reading sports as well as the women's
page, and you may turn to the gossip column. Yes,
there's lots of cross over" reading in every
family, and this means planning and editing your
Guiana Graphic to please everyone. Every story, on
Page 12 as well as page one, must be easily
understood, accurate and interesting. The Guiana
Graphic knows this. That's why it's the paper
that is written to be under-
Make the stood by everybody.

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Edited by


Vol. 6 No. 20

Mid Year, 1955.

48 Cents


.A. J. S.



Three Poems ..

Three Poems of Shape and Motion-
A Sequence

Oedipus at Colonus

Translation from Horace

Tq Pyrrha

If I Could Speak


Memorial to Roger Mais

Derek Walcott

.Martin Carter .. 141

.. John Figueroa .. 144

.. John Figueroa .. 144

.. John Figueroa .. 145

.Ivan G. Van Sertima 145

.. Jacqueline deWeever 146


"A Green Blade in Triumph"....

Contributors:-A. J. Seymour: Basil McFarlane, N. O.

Linton; Joy Allsopp; Neville Dawes: V.

Reid; George Campbell; Edgar Mittelholzer;

Fred Wilrnot


.. 135


Philip Pilgrim's Legend of Kaieleur

Rogue Male

The Sun (Fourteen Poems in a Cycle)

Two Periods in the Work of a West
Indian Artist

.. Basil McFarlane

.. Wilson Harris

.Wilson Harris

"Is There a West Indian Way of Life?" .

Contributors:-Dr. Frank Williams, H. M. E. Cholmondeley;

Martin Carter: Ruby Samlallsingh: P. H.

Daly: Edgar Mittelholzer: Rev. E. S. M.


Book Review

The Harrowi


ng of Hubeitus .. .. Edgar Mittelholzer .. 203

.Leo I. Austin .. 205

Contributions and all letters should be sent to the Editor "Kyk-
Over-Al", 23, North Road, Bourda, Georgetown, British Guiana.




. 175

. 183

S188 )



In this issue Kyk-Over-Al considers itself fortunate to be
able to pay tribute to the work of an outstanding West Indian
novelist on the occasion of his death. We have devoted a section
of our magazine to the literary work and life of Roger Mais who
died in Jamaica late in June.
Ten years ago, just before Kyk-Over-Al was first published,
another fine West Indian artist died, but there was no opportunity
for such a memorial.
Philip Pilgrim, the composer was hardly known outside Brit-
ish Guiana, because writers and musicians in the Caribbean were
hardly known outside their small island or bit of territory. We
bring this back to mind because last year the B.B.C. noted the
10th anniversary of the performance of the Legend of Kaieteur
(the music of which was composed by Philip Pilgrim), which took
place in July 1944 in the Assembly Rooms, Georgetown, and we
have included an article based on that anniversary programme.
So on his death in 1944, there was grief in Guiana alone. Today
it is different; each territory finds itself more and more akin and
knowledgeable about the other, and there is growing up a national
feeling among West Indians. Without doubt we stand on the
threshold of a new era and we present in this issue a symposium
of Guianese views on the question "Is there a West Indian Way of
Life?", in order to feel the pulse of this part of the region in the
matter of our common nationhood and ideals.
Under the guise of an article on Denis Williams by Wilson
Harris we look at the development of art over the last ten years,
and the position of the West Indian artist in the world. There
are three new poems by Derek Walcott, some lovely translations
from Horace by John Figueroa of the Education Institute of the
University College of the West Indies, and a cycle of poems on
the sun by Wilson Harris.

This issue, Kyk-Over-Al N
period of publication. We pul
comparison with the internatio

,. 20, marks the end of a 10-year
blish twice a year, so there is no
>nally famous magazine, Horizon,


which ran from 1940 to 1950 and then folded up after the 120th
issue. But ten years is a considerable span in the life of a little
review, especially in a region like the British Caribbean, and it
is right to pause and look back.
Ten years ago the world was recovering from the effects of
a catastrophic war, and at the same time the peoples in the Brit-
ish Caribbean were beginning to see the dawn of a future better
than had ever appeared before the eyes of their forefathers. It
was in this light of hope and dawn of nationhood that Kyk-Over-Al
was born, sponsored partly by the B.G. Union of Cultural Clubs
and the direct offspring of the B.G. Writers Association. Timidly,
and as we look back over the pages, we see how hesitantly, the
people who were interested in cultural and intellectual ideals
strove to create an organ which would allow them to express their
growing ideas, and to celebrate events which would promote wel-
fare and happiness in this region. Very timidly, very hesitantly,
we began to raise our standards and to insist on work of better
quality; gradually we began to think of the West Indies as an
organic region; then more perceptibly we began to link hands
across the seas with writers in Trinidad, Barbados and Jamaica;
until with growing assurance we began to mark the points of
view of the region's nationhood.

Kyk-Over-Al styles itself a literary and cultural journal. In
1945 there were few works of literature for us to be exclusively
literary, so we began to carry the flag for excellence in every
branch of art. It is heartening to look back from the vantage
point of ten years further on, and to see how the tone grew
surer, how the stammer disappeared, and how the voice began
to speak clearly, reaching across to the writers listening on in the
In the history of Kyk-Over-Al there are three special numbers,
that we must mention. There is the Survey of West Indian
Writing, embracing the short story, the novel, the little reviews,
the poetry produced by writers in these sun-drenched young ter-
ritories, which appeared in April, 1950. That year the editor
travelled through some of the islands on a lecture tour, and he
could feel the appreciation which the issue evoked wherever he
went. Then in mid-year, 1952 Kyk-Over-Al was devoted to an
anthology of West Indian poetry. It isn't often that the editor
of a little review can testify to a complete issue rapidly taken up
but this was a quick sell-out, At the end of 1954 a special issue


was again devoted to an anthology of Guianese poetry, and that
is steadily selling.

In the ten years since Kyk-Over-Al first saw the light, a great
change has come over the spirit of the Caribbean. In 1944 there
was only one Mittelholzer novel, "Corentyne Thunder", but there
was no Lamming, no Walcott, and although a number of West
Indian writers had begun to put their thoughts on record, very
few had reached the publication stage. There was no "New
Day". In Jamaica in 1943, Edna Manley had published her Focus
collection of Jamaican poetry and prose but the greater part of
the West Indian cupboard was bare.

In this decade of years over which we are looking back, a
group of three of us began the ambitious aim of publishing regu-
larly some of our poems. At the same time there was conceived
the idea of publishing the Miniature Poets, a series of 16-page
booklets published in very limited editions and sold to subscribers
at one shilling a copy. The poet whose work was being published
generally undertook to pay for some copies and generally the
remainder was taken up month after month by friends and well-
wishers, teachers, civil servants, ministers of religion.

This is the place to complete the record of these brave little
"Leaves from the tree" A. J. Seymour.
"Musings" Jas. W. Harper Smith.
"Fetish" Kona Waruk (Wilson Harris).
"The Hill of fire glows red" Martin Carter.
"Canes by the Roadside" A. N. Forde (of Grenada).
"Moments of Leisure" Frank E. Dalzell.
"Jacob and the Angel" Basil McFarlane (of Jamaica).
"And the Pouis Sing" C. L. Herbert (of Trinidad).
"Twelve West Indian Poems for Children".
"Ixion" E. McG. Keane (of St. Vincent).
"A Dozen short poems" Frank A. Collymore (of Barbados).
"Ten poems" Philip Sherlock (of Jamaica).
"Islands of memory" Miriam Koshland (of U.S.A.).
"Scarlet" Harold M. Telemaque (of Trinidad).
"Fourteen Guianese Poei s for Children".


Apart from the Miniature Poets there were other publications
by the group "Eternity to Season (I)" and "The Well and the
Land" (Wilson Harris) "To a dead slave", "The Kind Eagle" and
"The Hidden Man" (Martin Carter); "Water and Blood" and "The
Poetry of Basil McFarlane an introduction" (A. J. Seymour);
"Streets of Eternity" (Jan Carew).
To complete the record, we must remember the collection of
essays and plays by N. E. Cameron "Thoughts on Life and
Literature" and "Three Immortals"; and a study by P. H. Daly,
"West Indian Freedom and West Indian Literature".
Thus the record at home in British Guiana. But in the West
Indies and the English literary world, the ten years which have
passed since Kyk-Over-Al was launched, have seen the bursting
dawn of our British Caribbean literature and the evidences of
our growing nationhood.

Derek Walcott


Though suns burn still, remembering pyres,
Whose swifts like cinders fly,
Write how dark man lies deep who cries
The tongue goes out in wind.

A bird that is the evening's acolyte,
Is but a moth to such consuming fires,
Under the mapless grave a man must fight
With his last flame, the mind.

Though he and all he make lie all one ember,
The lily white bone crumbling in his eye,
What the mind truly makes, time will remember,
He dies, and will not die.

Men must go down in ashes, the red
Veined tree burn out with the heart's rose,
But from his rest, dead
Tongues proclaim his height,
Like stars on hill graves,
His death the shadow of another light.

Derek Walcott


When I dreamed I found
Passion limited
To a patch of ground;
Weeping now I fled,
From my morning bed,
But I had been bound
By a golden fire;
Then when love lay dead,
Hair knew heart from head,
Head knew heart from hand,


Manacled, I raged,
Like a seer gone blind,
To destroy what hurt
The crimson tree that aged,
Or that anguish bled,
Back to common dirt.
Chained in mills of the mind,
I know love is dead,
Which lives by content,
And an evil thing
In imprisonment.

Derek Walcott


He who fears the scattered seed
Sows devils of necessity.
Who denies the body's need,
Hides in the bushes of complexity.

Fear is the harlot of desire,
And her cunning virtue gives
Heaven a countenance of fire,
And a stranger to your wives.

In the desert of cowardice,
Where the hermit howls alone,
Virtue hides the roots of vice,
And the fruit of guilt is grown.

But where two make three desire
Sows the dews of weeping eyes,
And the ring of golden fire,
Saves by mutual sacrifice,

Martin Carter

Three Poems of Shape and Motion

-- A Sequence

Number One.

I was wondering if I could shape this passion
just as I wanted in solid fire.
I was wondering if the strange combustion of my days
the tension of the world inside of me
and the strength of my heart were enough.

I was wondering if I could as tall
while the tide of the sea rose and fell
If the sky would recede as I went
or the earth would emerge as I came
to the door of morning locked against the sun.

I was wondering if I could make myself
nothing but fire, pure and incorruptible.
If the wound of the wind on my face
would be healed by the work of my life
Or the growth of the pain in my sleep
would be stopped in the strife of my days.

I was wondering if the agony of years
could be traced to the seed of an hour.
If the roots that spread out in the swamp
ran boo deep for the issuing flower.

I was wondering if I could find myself
all that I am in all I could be.
If all the population of stars
would be less than the things I could utter
And the challenge of space in my soul
be filled by the shape I become.

Number Two.

Pull off yuh shirt and throw 'way yuh hat
Kick off yuh shoe and stamp down the spot
Tear off yuh dress and open yuhself
And dance like you mad
F _r far,


Oh left foot, right foot, left Ah boy!
Right foot, left foot, right Ah boy!
Run down the road
Run up the sky
But run like you mad
Far far.

Jump off the ground
Pull down a star
Burn till you bleed
Far far.

Oh right foot, left foot, right Ah boy!
Left foot, right foot, left Ah boy!
Oh right foot, right foot
Left foot, left foot
Dance like you mad
Far far.

Number Three.

I walk slowly in the wind
watching myself in things I did not make
in jumping shadows and in limping cripples
dust on the earth and houses tight with sickness
deep constant pain, the dream without the sleep.

I walk slowly in the wind
hearing myself in the loneliness of a child
in woman's grief which is not understood
in coughing dogs when midnight lingers long
on stones, on streets and then on echoing stars.
that burn all night and suddenly go out.

I walk slowly in the wind
knowing myself in every moving thing
in years and days and words that mean so much
strong hands that shake, long roads that walk and deeds that do
and all this world and all these lives to live.

I walk slowly in the wind
remembering scorn and naked men in darkness
and huts of iron rivetted to earth.

Cold huts of iron stand upon this earth
like rusting prisons.
Each wall is marked and each wide roof is spread
like some dark wing
casting a shadow or a living curse.

I walk slowly in the wind
to lifted sunset red and gold and dim
a long brown river slanting to an ocean
a fishing boat, a man who cannot drown.

I walk slowly in the wind
remembering me amid the surging river
amid the drought and all the merciless flood
and all the growth and all the life of man.


I walk slowly in the wind.
and birds are swift, the sky is blue like silk.

From the big sweeping ocean of water
an iron ship rusted and brown anchors itself.
And the long river runs like a snake
silent and smooth.

I walk slowly in the wind.
I hear my footsteps echoing down the tide
echoing like a wave on the sand or a wing on the wind
echoing echoing
a voice in the soul, a laugh in the funny silence.


I walk slowly in the wind
I walk because I cannot crawl or fly.


John Figueroa

Oedipus at Colonus

I come to these mountains
I Oedipus though blind
Can see the tops gently
Touched with white the dawn blue
As clean as my purged self
I come at dawn to wait for dusk.
When the life-giver has warmed
Away the silver lace of dew
And warmed this sacred grove
After noon he will withdraw
Beneath the crisp whiteness
Of the round mountain in the west there.
The cooling grove shall darken
And grow secret
I shall follow him into the dusk
Below the peak.
Daughters when the sun and thy father
Leave thee in saffron shadows
Consider my life's day-tramp here
Seek not yet to know what night brings.

John Figueroa


Dismal Cocytos
Wandering, faintly flowing,
And the notorious race of Danaus,
And Sisyphus condemned to endless labour,
You must visit.
You must leave your soil, your home
Your ever pleasing wife,
Your tended trees, no not one of them
Save the hated cypress
Will follow you, their brief master.
Your worthy heir will drink up the Caecuban
Guarded now by a hundred keys, tainting
The titles with that proud wine,
At more than priestly feasts.

John Figueroa

To Pyrrha;
(After Horace's "Quis Multa. gracilis te puer")

Who is the green-horn with you now
Pyrrha, in the long grass by the garden wall?
Is he urgent in his tweeds as he presses
His cheek on the "natural tint" of your golden hair?
When his green gods fade, on some
Dark sea he will weep
And wonder at the black winds
And bitter waves, whose faith
Now teaches him that you are always golden
Always green spring and lovable.
Oh the poor men who think you so fresh!
My shipwreck was nearly fatal,
But the gods who saved me
Have received on their temple walls
My soaking tweeds for a thanksgiving.

Ivan G. Van Sertima

If I Could Speak
(Lines written in a beautiful garden)

Fain would I blend my spirit with the ether
And foist my wild emotions on the breeze
And power a million voices with my passion
To give this dumb, tumultuous rapture ease.
If I could speak, O God, if I could speak
Of all the beauties that besiege me here
The very birds would cease their tuneful mouthings
And swoon at symphonies beyond compare.
If I could use the zephyr as my trumpet
And murmur forth my musings in the trees
The leaves would twist and moan in anguished sweetness
And flutter down in dying ecstasies.
If I could speak, O God, if I could speak
With all the tongues in this arcadian green
My heart would burst into a peal of glory
As wondrous in its magic as the scene.
Fain would I know why in my darkest hour,
Why at the nadir of my bitterness,
I looked upon the world as full of horror
And felt fore'er cut off from earthly bliss.


How could I dream that suffering was all,
That God had made a crude and ugly thing,
When from beyond the happy warblers call
To tell me man can know eternal spring.
If I could speak, O God,, if I could speak
And burst into a hurricane of phrase
My voice would leap beyond this dark mausoleum
And breathe its pulsings in the murmurous maze:
And all the earth would tremble at its thunder,
And all the world a new awareness know,
And none would weep in unabated torment
For beauty numbs and mitigates man's woe.

Jacqueline deWeever


You came;
and the world woke
to flowering
and nature grew
to music
and my heart knew
its first pain
because you came.
And my heart knew
its first pain
for love and joy were brought to birth;
a great, new loveliness of earth
was instantly alive.
And nature grew
to music
the cassias were a golden melody
glad lilting lyrics were the leaves on every tree
I am become like them, free suddenly,
because you came.
You came;
and the world woke
to flowering ......
and my heart knew
a flowering too,
because you came.

A Green Blade in Triumph

An idea held by such a man does not end with his death
His life bleeding away goes down
Into the earth; and they grow like seed
The idea that is not lost with the waste of a single life
Like seed springing up a multitude.......
* to burst its husk under the ground
And cleanse a path and press upward
And thrust a green blade in triumph at the Sun....
(from "Men of Ideas" in Focus, 1948)

This is probably a proper wreath to lay on the memory of Roger Mais
who did "thrust a green blade in triumph at the Sun."
Roger Mais died on Monday, June. 20th, 1955. some weeks before his
50th birthday on August 11, and in honour of this distinguished novelist
we have devoted part of Kyk-Over-Al No. '20 to his life and work to let
us praise famous men. For Roger Mais, too, gave counsel by his under-
standing and found out musical tunes and recited verses in writing.
I had the good fortune to see Roger Mais seven days before he died.
I was taken to his sister's home in one of the attractive suburbs outside
Kingston, Jamaica, on my request by Odilia Campbell, George Campbell's
wife. It was rather early in the morning to enter the Dayes' household.
I remember how apologetic I was to Mrs. Dayes for the intrusion; as a
matter of fact, it was only on Odilia's insistence that it would be all right
that we rapped on the door. But I was glad I went to pay my respects
to a fine West Indian novelist on his death-bed.
Roger was lying in bed looking like the shadow of the robust self I
had met at lunch in 1950 in Edna Manley's house. All of a sudden he was
little and the fire was going out. I had been told that he didn't have long
before him and that sometimes he had bad days when he hardly spoke.
But that morning' of Tuesday June 14, with the sun bright upon the
leaves outside, it was one of his good days, and we had light bright
I remember how he broke a lance with Odilia and suggested that she
should turn on as his secretary. He had many things to write he said and
she could help him. And of course she was only too glad to be of help;
how soon could she come and help write his many letters? I had a few
words to say on the lighter side. I looked at the new novel "Black
Lightning," which had been specially sent out by air mail from London.
I agreed with him that I couldn't really ask him to lend me that special

118 KYK-OVti-AL

advance copy and of a sudden, I was stricken again with the sense that
really it was too early in the morning for the call. So we rose and left.
On the walls of the rooms in the house some of his paintings were
hanging. I could see they were Roger's work as they were all of a piece
with the cover designs of his novels. There was a vacant place on one
particular wall and Mrs. Dayes she had a live expressive face told
Odilia that some painting they both knew of hadn't come back yet.
Then we had to bid farewell and outside the sun was bright on the
Inside the house we had left, a West Indian novelist lay dying.
I was grateful to Odilia for taking me to see Roger, and glad that I
had paid my respects.

BASIL McFARLANE (from Public Opinion, Jamaica).

He was born, August 11, 1905, in Kingston. Not long after his birth
the family, who were in business in the city, moved to .St. Thomas and
devoted themselves to farming. It was doubtless to this experience that 4
we owe many of those impressions of the Jamaican countryside recorded
in the early short stories and poems. Here too, perhaps, originated that
passion for the rearing of plants and flowers that manifested itself at
various stages of his later life.

From Calabar High School, where he received his formal education,
Roger Mais entered the Civil Service. It is noted that he found this
occupation uncongenial; and from the time of his quitting the Service
must be dated the restless search for a mode of life that could more
readily be fitted into his main design; namely, to become a writer; and
to whidh his genial, exparwive temperament could more easily be
adapted. He became a reporter on the old, now long defunct "Jamaica
Mail". He enjoyed a spell of property life. He published a magazine,
"Pepperpot". He devoted himself to the rearing and marketing of
flowers. He became a professional photographer. And all the time
he was writing and acquiring the techniques of the writing trade by
every means open to him. In 1937 he told Edna Manley he had written
200 poems.
Around 1940 began to appear the first collections of his short
stories, "Face and other Stories", "And Most of All Man". Many of
them had been appearing in the pages of Public Opinion, founded in
1937, whose policy included the regular publication of work by Jamaican
writers. These short stories of Roger Mais exhibited a style and sensi-
bility of a sort different from anything that had gone before. Already,
however, a new interest had claimed him. He had conceived the am-
bition to become a painter.
In 1943 he held the first exhibition of his paintings at the old
Phoenix Library in Tower Street. It was, at the least, a tribute to his
enterprise and is faith in his destiny as an artist. In the meanwhile


he had written plays; one of which, "Hurricane", was produced at the
Ward Theatre during these years.
In 1944 occurred the event which it is probably safe to regard as
the most critical of his entire career and by which his' name became a
household word throughout Jamaica. This was his trial and conviction
on a charge of sedition on the strength of an article appearing in Public
Opinion "Now We Know...." became a sardonic chant on the lips of
the populace.
The return to civil life, after his moths in prison, was painful and
laborious. Once again he was, so to speak, on his beam ends. He
manufactured and sold table delicacies. He hawked insurance. He
assisted in the running of a dairy. He planted rice. He wrote for the
newspapers. He put out another magazine, "The People".
In 1950 he wrote and assisted in the production of "Atalanta at
Calydon", a verse-play modelled on the theatre of the Ancient Greeks.
Bare months later he staged his second one-man exhibition of paintings
under the aegis of the University Extra-mural Department. He had
written a novel, based on his experiences of prison, which Jonathan
Cape accepted and published in !95'2 under the title "The Hills Were
Joyful Together". Here, at last, was recognition of the sort for which
he had worked long. He was 47.
He journeyed to England, published a second book, worked and
played in France, did not neglect to hold an exhibition of his paintings
in Paris, capital of the Arts, and returned home suddenly at the end
of 1954.
Roger Mais wrote many poems. I have selected these five from his
book of short stories, "Face and Other Stories" for reprinting in this
tribute to the man and his work.

Roger Mais


Because from life I fiercely fled,
Because I hated so the glib hypocrisy of light,
And preferred my appointment with eternal night,
I was glad for my election to the exclusive dead.
I thought I had at last escaped the noise-
The clamour of tongues, the intrusion of curious eyes;
Until one came presently, weeping to my grave-
One whom on earth, beholding, did my thoughts enslave-
(Ah yet within me how her memory quickens, laughs!)
Interrupting my quiet rest with epitaphs.
-From Deirdre

Roger Mais

Last Night I was Aweary of

the Wind

Last night I was aweary of the wind
Haunting the eaves of my ancient abode
Haunting the curtained interior of my tent.......

I said: 'The wind is the angel of my loneliness-
Alas, how lovely is the dark-winged angel
That spreads her wings within this solitude,

My inheritance, that is but the habitation of the wind'.
I sighed with the burden of my great weariness-
When out of the night, clothed with the night

And without other garment, saving her nakedness,
Stood suddenly before me that other angel your need.
The pinions of her wings reached down to the rushes on the ground....

She stood before me mute, her head down-bent,
Her hands before her, laid about her nakedness-
And of a sudden we were without a witness....

The wind was a slave-girl playing upon a reed -
I lay quivering and dumb upon my pallet
Alone with the dark angel of your need.
-From Comedy Above The Stars

Roger Mais

Last Night When it was Very still

Last night when it was very still,
When heaven leaned down her mirror,
The moon her smile;
The wind threw down to me
The whisper of your feet about the stars.
Their laughter......


Why, armed with the breastplate of unbelief,
The spears of limitations,
The javelins of doubt,
Do we hurl challenges at the Absolute
And rant and shout,
Confounding the stars with astronomy,
And all their miracles beyond
Our human reason flout?

Last night I stood
Under the shadow of the Absolute,
With you, little white ghost, one silent while....
And heaven leaned down her mirror to my soul,
The moon her smile.
-From Deirdre

Roger Mais


I am wearied of the dynamics of being awake,
Of eating, laughing, weeping, procreating-
Of being my own minister
Of dissolution, or of satiety,
Which is dissolution doubly sinister!
And being repentant, and sorry myself.

I would like to gather up all these shadows
Into one great writhing, rebellious sheaf
And drown them all in the infinite emancipating shadow of death.

For what is death but static knowing,
Static procreating, evolution,
Static growing?
A quiescent State of static forgetting,
A mating of the present with the past-
With no superimposed dynamic regretting-
Where one can be utterly alone at last!
-From Deirdre

Roger Mais

I, Shall Wait for the Moon to Rise

I shall sit here and wait for the moon to rise,
And when she shall look at me,
From over the mountain-tops of tall bleak buildings
And come smiling down the valleys of the streets,
I shall ask her here to sit with me
In a Chinese tea garden under a divi-divi tree.
And a maiden golden like moon shall come
Wearing a clean white apron......
And I shall show her a bright new sixpence
And bid her shut her eyes
And paint with the pigments of all her dreams
The broad brave canvas of the skies.
And she will think: 'He is a little mad-
Decidedly he is a little mad.".....
I shall sit here and wait for the moon to rise.

The Short Stories

Mais is a poet and a painter and he guides the moods of the reader
from one story to another; just as moods are changed or set by the songs
of Shakespeare or by incidental music in the cinema. In his 1943 col-
lection of short stories, "And Most of all Man", and in the earlier "Face
and Other Stories" (1942) Mais used poems to command the same switch
in mood.
Though dealing with social conditions as Claude Thompson does,
Mais is more subjective and inclined to analyse the mental states of his
characters; and he obtains his effects by broad sweeps of colloquial prose
showing how characters react to their environment.
Among other things, the indigenous short story in the West Indies
should be a mouth-piece for the mass of the people and express their
thoughts and hopes and inevitable fears of unemployment and it is
around this theme that Mais in "Face" has written six of the sixteen
stories dealing with the servant class. It is proletariat literature, writ-
ten sympathetically from the inside and while the two, "God made little
Apples" and "Red Dirt Don't Wash" are more typical of Mais's talent with
their introspection and frustration the story "Afternoon Delivery" of the
iceman and the parlourmaid, has a condensed vigour and a swift move-
ment that make it eminently readable.
There are other thoughtful vignettes of pictured emotion in the Pond,
the little story Face (which described a child's reaction to a quarrelsome


tramcar neighbour), the Letter and Lookout and an engaging feature
is the intercalation of pages of poems between successive stories.

The 1943 collection "And Most of All Man", shows an advance in
the quality and structure of Mais's stories. First of all, he contributes
a foreword and a Prologue which set the key and bind together all the
stories in the book. In these he states that he is writing the story of
"Man, the eternal protagonist amid eternal process", whom he met
on the top of a hill in St. Andrew, Jamaica, dirty, hungry and in rags.
In "And Most of All Man", the philosophy is more mature and the
plotting is better and instead of the reader being almost on top of the
story situation, Mais has adjusted the microscope of his social and human
examination so that the stories are more objective. "Flood Water",
"The Springing" and "The Earth in Season" are vignettes in the manner
of the earlier collection and they deal with situations in the life of the
peasant on the land, but already they show a sureness and an advance
which will be more apparent in the "Month of the Beautiful Stranger"
and "Crooked Branch" and "Without benefit of the Moon". In these
three more shapely pieces of work, Mais explores the family context
and its inter-relation with the thought and feelings of the boy or lad as
yet uncertain and frustrated before the challenge of the world, and the
impression is that he has caught the adolescent's wonder and growing
apprehension of the world. One may hazard the opinion that in these
short stories Mais portrays the young Jamaica coming to manhood.
Perhaps, perhaps, these stories are his best monuments. Like
Mozart, he is able to create a swirl of melody around each moment he
selects for narration. The outpouring of these stories are very close to
the quick of the mind; and here may be found the tenderness of Mais,
the tenderness he elsewhere compounds with fire and tempest to make a

The Springing

By Roger Mais

You could put out your hand and feel the sap rising in the trees.
The sun warm and lingering, drawing it up to the rich springing where
the young leaves were putting out.
He put two fingers in his mouth and whistled shrilly. The girl
looked out -through the window, but she drew in again almost imme-
diately, and all he heard now was the sound of suppressed giggles.

He dug his bare toes into the mud of the roadside and felt his bitter-
ness within him like a burning pain.

That was all she had for him, then. After all that had gone before.
To make a mock of him with her cousin, because she was a teacher


now. And not even that, really. They called them pupil-teachers at
the government school.
And he worked in the field. And so there was this great social gulf
between them. When they had sat next to each other in the fifth form
room at the government elementary school it had not been so. It had
been understood that she was his girl.
Now there was this division, and only because his choice lay with the
land, and hers with a kind of career that led nowhere, that was nothing
really. A pupil-teacher in an elementary school.
And this girl cousin of hers from Kingston, she it was who had made
Myra see it this way; thinking herself too good for him.
He threw the empty sack over his shoulder and took his machette in
his hand. He turned and walked stiffly down the road, without looking
When he was round the bend and out of sight he stopped and looked
down at his bare feet, at his trousers rolled up to keep the dew off them,
at his forearms bare to the elbows with his shirt sleeves rolled up.
But he was not ashamed about anything. He was dressed as any
working peasant might have been. There was nothing to be ashamed of
there. Instead he knew resentment against her and all her kind who
could see something unworthy in all this.
A man's life lay all within the earth he loved. It was all he had.
Himself the same and the equal of all those other dark-skinned peasants
who owned their land, or rented it, and grew their crops, and reared
their livestock, and were free men. In their inner understanding they
recognized this thing, and more, they respected it alike within them-
selves, taking their pride of manhood there; and in their fellowmen,
holding them in equal esteem. Not to brag about with the lips, but
feeling it as something present, and recognisable, and real; that was the
bearing of a man.
He walked on feeling the dull edge of his resentment against her like
the stones under his feet.
He could get himself shoes if he cared to. Shoes to wear out into
the field. Others had done it. But till this day he had never felt
the need of them, in the sense that he lacked anything.
And so he came at last to the field that had been his father's and his
grandfather's before him.
The field lay in a fertile valley, and it filled him with pride to stand
on the roadside and look down upon it. The rows of yellow-yam vines
climbing up their sticks, and the sweet potato vines. The rows of bana-
nas. The patch of coffee, dark-green in the shade of their trees that were
planted there before his grandfather's time to protect them from the sun.
Someone was down there gathering wood. Who could it be? Very
well, he would learn whoever it was that he was not the sort of man to
tolerate trespassers on his land ,


-,' He went down the track nimbly as a goat. Down there among the
-coffee he was, whoever it might be. He crept closer, covering the ground
silently as an animal stalking his prey.

He stopped short suddenly and drew himself upright with an oath.

'God dam it. Thought it was...... What are you doing there?

Miss Laura's Rhoda who never would stay in school. They said she
-was so bad the old woman couldn't do anything with her.

He frowned down at her feeling that he ought to be angry, without
quite knowing why. The girl was as brash as they come. She just
-s stood there grinning up at him, not saying anything.

'Well, what do you want here?'

'I came for wood.'


'To make a fire with.'

'What else would you be wanting it for but to make a fire with.
Don't try to be funny'.

She shrugged her shoulders, and still her gleaming white teeth
showed splendidly in their setting of ebony.

They said she was a bad girl, but no one ever ventured to say how
bad, or in what way. The idea just circulated around in an abstract
sort of way. The most anybody knew was the old woman couldn't
manage her. Though why anyone should want to manage another he
didn't really understand.

She had run away from school because the teacher wanted to take
the strap to her. She had bitten his hand almost to the bone. And
after that they couldn't get her to go back to school again. She used to
sing in the Baptist choir and all, before that. But the school master
was a deacon in the church, and on that account she stopped going to
Church too.
'Now look here, you have no business here. You didn't ask me if
you could take away any wood from this place. Don't you know that's

For answer she just put her head back and laughed right up at him.
It was rich, that laughter. Like the sap flowing up in those trees,
answering the pull of the sun.

He saw the round curve of her throat when her head went back like
that, as though she was hurling her laughter at him in the meaning of a


challenge. Not as Myra had laughed, secretly, with that cousin of hers
behind the half-drawn curtain.

Suddenly the anger went out of him, and he knew that he wanted
to get at something inside this girl, to understand her. To find out for
himself what made her do the things she did. Why she laughed at him
when she ought to have been at least contrite or at most angry. But
instead laughed. He felt of a sudden there was something here that he<
wanted to find out about for himself.

He came slowly down the slight incline and stood confronting her.

She watched him with quiet amusement, but withall a kind of wari-
ness. He felt it and it made him stop suddenly, arrested, with his inten-
tion as yet unformed within his mind.

He felt about her as he had felt about the trees this morning, seeing
their colourful rich springing where the young leaves were putting out.

They stood facing each other across the little bundle of firewood that
lay at her feet, for the space of a few seconds, in which neither spoke
a word. The whole world became for that time as still as their own
breathing. And it was as though something passed between them, from-
eye to eye, from breast to breast; something invisible, but real and with
meaning, like the sap flowing in the trees.

It was she who broke the silence that had fallen upon them like a

'All right,' she said, 'it's your wood, you can have it.' And she
started to walk away.

But he didn't want her to go, now. There was this upsurging resolve
within him to find out about her, what made her act the way she did.
All that. He wanted to call to her, to beg her not to go. But somehow
the words refused to shape themselves upon his lips. His throat felt sud-
denly hot and dry.

He saw the curve of her thigh under her short dress as she thrust -
against the steepness going up the hill. And the thought of her became
fluid and flowed through him like water.

She turned once and looked steadily at him, saw him standing there
gazing after her, with his jaw hanging open. But she didn't laugh now.
And she wasn't angry with him about the firewood either. She took all
these things with the same acceptance that she seemed to apply to
everything, not asking that they should be different, that people should
act other than the way they did; only wary, to be on her guard where
she could, to defend herself how and when she could, knowing herself
virgin and whole, and a little apart from it all.


'So long, then,' she said, with a gesture of her uplifted hand toward
-' him.

And he answered her, awkwardly raising his hand; 'So long.'

He stood watching her until she was gone.

He dug his toes into the soft mud.

S 'By Christ,' he said, but without profanity.

He would take the wood up to the house after her. She would under-
stand by that he wasn't angry, understanding it as an overture of
-j friendliness.

He would take wood up to the house every day, and sit and talk
with the old woman, once in a while.
But by the time he got to their house on the hill she had gone to
the village. The old woman was ailing. She didn't come out and talk with
him. He found the axe and chopped the wood and brought it into the
Then he went slowly, thoughtfully back to his field again. But not
to work. He did no work at all that day.

He lay by the river and watched the yellow grains of sun in the
sand under his fingers. Scooping it up and pouring it out with his hand,
and throwing handfuls of it up into the air.
He closed his eyes and saw the sap flowing up inside the trees.

He listened to the wind lifting and falling among the reeds and the
sound of it was like the earth itself breathing.

He saw the sunlight leaping back like fire from the eddies, of the
river, curling upward from the concave sides of the water; and the
great boulders squatting on their black haunches in green water up to
their rumps; the curious way the water circled round their ample forms,
like fingers caressing, loath to let go of them.

That evening, he returned late from his field. He was going by Myra's
house at the edge of the village with the first of the stars.

He put two fingers in his mouth and whistled shrilly twice. But
now with a bravado that went jeering, taunting through the twilight;
brash against the peaceful chirring of the crickets and the melancholy
piping of the whistling toads.

The Novels

The Hills Were Joyful Together

The first novel by Jamaican Roger Mais is certainly striking --
both in content and in style. The language, sure and swift, very de-
scriptive and with choice use of adjective, reflects the fact that Mais is an
artist one can see that his paintings would be striking, colourful,
thrifty, and true.
The author's sense of humour creeps into the fabric of his writing
-take the following passage in which, describing a row of shops, he
comments ........ "one of them flew a dirty little triangular red flag
which indicated nothing more sinister than the fact that ice was sold
here." That he is mature 48, and knows his countrymen is brought L
home in the well defined characters around whose lives the book centres
-- the slippery and appropriately named Hitlers, kindly Ras, generous
Zephyr, timid Tansy, "forceripe" adolescent Manny, spineless Bedosa
and many others. A panoramic picture of West Indian lower class
life is given the tricks of the Chinese shopman, the cowheel food, the
school age children working at home, the religious tracts, the cheap
patent medicines ,the humourously descriptive term "ole fowl" now
riding popularity in a current calypso is used in its original setting.
This book is full of people and the liberty wth which the author fills
his pages with these people is perhaps indicative stretching it a bit-
of their quantity and consequent low value in their society. For this
is a story of the Jamaican lower class, the hand-to-mouth common people
living in a yard, their everyday life and eventual fortunes. It is a cruel,
hard story, and the non-Jamaican must needs wonder whether life in
Jamaica is as hopeless as depicted here. The twenty-five characters
living in this yard a typical housing range of the Caribbean filled
with poverty and drudgery, are colourful and amusing their emotions,
well known to us usually centre around sex, religion and politics -
strangely enough for a Jamaican scene politics is completely left out of
the book. Their characteristics are the negro's high spirits, sense of
humour, love of singing, daricing or religion, and highly emotional. Mais
cleverly contrives to tell a story about almost each of his characters. It
is a story of everyday life, but the climaxes are, I would like to think,
hardly everyday, for six of the twenty-five die all violently. It is a
tribute to his technique that the whole story, save for the prison se-
quences, centres around the yard the reader gets no impression of life
in Kingston or Jamaica generally, the whole story is about the yard
and remains there. The tragedy developed slowly, almost stealthily,
for over half the book you drift along charmed by the day to day happen-
ings in the lives of the yard, then suddenly, swiftly, it all explodes and
in swift succession tragedy follows upon tragedy reaching to a heartless
climax. The passages on prison life are among the best in the book -
"Jamaican prisons are hard ...... "they make animals of the men who
pass through here" .... the police cruel, and incidentally, Jamaican


Police are armed, the prisoners hard. The dialogues here are good, and
through them some penetrating insights into human character are given
and the author leaves off his straight story telling to philosophise a bit
Sand to evince social protest an inevitable characteristic of modern
West Indian writings.

All in all the book is fine reading. The story grips and interest
never slackens. The author's trick of diverting from one trend to
another just as the interest in the former is at a high point, helps to
keep the reader lively. However, the reader finds that on finishing the
book he is left with little but a memory of a good story well told -
the book is not particularly thought-provoking although conceivably a
sensitive, community conscious Jamaican may be inspired to contribute
to the social welfare of the forgotten people who make up this story.

Brother Man

The page or two of introduction to each chapter, which Roger Mais
calls 'Chorus of People in the Lane' is like the setting of the stage for each
act of the play. It is here that we look at the stage, before the actors
come on, and fix upon our minds certain preliminary impressions.

In the first chorus "The tongues in the lane clack-clack almost
continuously, going up and down the full scale of human emotions,
human folly, ignorance, suffering, viciousness, magnanimity, weakness,
greatness, littleness, insufficiency, frailty strength." And in this chapter
-this first act we meet all the characters. Most striking of all is
Brother Man, and the most striking thing about Brother Man is the quiet
intensity of his eyes, and the simple directness of all his conversation.
It is in these 'Choruses' particularly that Roger Mais the artist ex-
presses himself in words which paint pictures as bold and essential as
the drawings done by the author for this book.
In the second 'Chorus' he says "The sea breeze has swept the lane
clean of its odours, and the big moon, riding high in the sky, lets down
light, dividing the shadows and walking in loveliness between them".

The moonlight seems to have its softening effect on this whole chapter.
Here we see Brother Man sitting on the end of the little wooden jetty
looking at the moonlight on the sea and letting the peacefulness of it all
flow over him, until he sees a vision 'of a man in shining scales who says
-"What do you want here". "To be alone, and invite the vision, and
listen for the call" says Brother Man.
Roger Mais has his own characteristic way of unfolding his story.
He presents a series of pictures and just as the reader begins to under-
stand the curtain is pulled and there is another picture on the screen.
In this way the reader's interest is kept just on the crest as the story moves
from climax to climax.


The characters are all strong, elemental and vivid, presenting life in
the Jamaican slum where as in any slum people seldom think beyond
the things which trouble them physically shelter, food, sex. Brother
Ambo tries to capture their imagination, and their money,, by his obeah.'
Brother Man tries to impress on his neighbours his message 'Peace
and love' and he follows through by living a Christian life, helping
those in need not only by giving away the little money he has, but by
talking and praying with them too. And following in the tradition
of Christian martyrs, the time comes when these same people turn against
him when he is in trouble and then comes the terrible picture of Bra'
Man being stoned by a crowd of people, and a woman throws the first

In contrast, the scene before the final curtain shows us Bra' Man
recovering from his wounds, full of hope for the future and beside him is
his faithful Minette, who now calls him by his real name, John, and no
longer falters before the quiet intensity of that gaze and all is peace
and love.

There are other stories interwoven in the plot besides the principal
one of Bra' Man. These provide the undercurrent of violence which
contrasts with Bra' Man's peace.

There is Papacita, so anxious to get rich quick that he becomes in-
volved with a gang of counterfeiters. There is Girlie who lives with
him. Her emotions are very near the surface and she is roused quickly
to passionate love and as quickly to passionate hate. They alternately
fight and make up, and in the end she becomes so bitter through jealousy
that she stabs him in the back with a clasp knife.

There is also Jesmina, who has her own anxieties concerning her
boy friend Shine, but is very worried about her sister Cordy whose
husband has gone to prison for six years for peddling ganga. Cordy
has taken this very badly and since troubles never come singly, her small
son Tad is very ill. Bra' Man does his best to help her, but she loses
faith in him and turns to Bra' Ambo and his obeah. She eventually
loses control, and after smothering the child, hangs herself.

Any West Indian will feel at home among the characters of this novel
who express themselves in Jamaican dialect, using phases and expressions
which are familiar and dear to us all. Not only the words, but their
very lives are familiar to us. We see them being lived around us every
day the small boy trundling an iron hoop down the road the loud
voices of people talking, laughing, quarrelling next door-the sun piping
hot overhead the Chinese shopkeeper and they are all part of our
West Indian way of life.

Black Lightning

It would be fair to say that the impact and force of Roger Mais' first
novel, The Hills Were Joyful Together, could not be repeated. This book
gathered together all the indignation, poeticism and sympathy of a re-
markably intense life and set it down with a vigour approaching crude-
tness, and an eloquence which occasionally became rhetorical. Everything
went the way of realism "stark" was the usual adjective-the observation
was surprising, a large number of differentiated characters was effectively
'placed'; but it was not a rounded creation. In his second book he went
back to the same material and wrote a more finished, less powerful
Brother Man. It seems that the novelist who begins late, who writes at
Sthe end of his experience rather than during it, has a tendency to go on
re-writing the same book: if he is aware of this he may stop writing
altogether (which seems to be the case with Vic Reid) or, and this requires
as much courage as skill, he may attempt an entirely new path. Black
Lightning is such an attempt.
Here Roger Mais chooses a village setting and a handful of characters.
There is Jake, the principal figure, a blacksmith by trade but well-
educated, who is sculpting a huge Samson in the loft of his workshop:
there is Amos, crippled and incomplete, drawn to Jake's powerfulness:
there are the young lovers Glen and Miriam: there are Bess, Jake's
housekeeper and Estella, his wife who leaves him.
Roger Mais is primarily interested in the internal lives of his
characters. He gives Jake three crises his wife's leaving him, his loss
of artistic vision (both subtly connected), and his physical blindness -
all handled quietly and without rhetoric. The suggestion of punishment
for presumption is pointed up in the village-warner's outcry against the
making of 'garden images'. There is searching talk throughout, as when
Estella in one of her brief appearances attempts to define her relationship
with Jake (talking to Amos).
'You. You don't think a hell of a lot of yourself, do you?'
She said quietly: 'I know what I am talking about. He knew it, and
he hated to know it. For a time he tried to close his eyes to it,
it was bound to destroy him'."
Amos and Jake fumble towards a statement of the problems of artistic
"What you see, for instance, is a man carving a block of wood: but
that's not all. You must understand that he is first of all a creator,
that man whoever he is. He's like God, brooding over that bit of
wood or stone'."
The love-story of the adolescents Glen and Miriam, even if its immaturity
is over-emphasised and its lyricism slightly artificial, is an effective and
amusing foil to Jake's more earnest story.


Certainly Black Lightning with its deliberate restraint and queitness
is a book well worth reading.

But it has little of the personality of The Hills or of Brother Man.
It would be ,truer to say that this last book of Roger Mais went back
rather than forward. It has about it the 'feel' of an expanded short
story and only a thoroughly admirable mastery of the technique of writ-
ing sustains it over two hundred pages. Again, there is a retreat to the
'not-poetry' of the late thirties in West Indian literature,

"What a lovely miracle this night with moonshine........

The wind laying the grass on its side, laying the little grass........

What a lovely miracle of a night with wind and moon........"
The publisher's word 'idyllic" can carry no further significance than the r
absence of 'city' and the presence of deliberate artifice the wood and
the river scenes interwoven with immature or ingrown love, Amos' ac-
cordion, the faint sense of place.

If we said Black Lightning is 'charming' we would mean it is free
from sensationalism: we would not imply a lack of masculinity. For, in
reading this book we have the regrettable certainty that much more work
of power and insight would have come from Roger Mais' pen.

We of Public Opinion have had the privilege, the abiding honour
of calling him colleague. It was here that he serv-d his apprenticeship with
the pen, as a newspaper reporter. It was here that his early poems and his
fiction were published. His gifts as a painter were early discovered
by us. And again, it was in these columns that the monument to his
patriotism was furnished when his now celebrated article, NOW WE
KNOW, appeared.

The consequences to him are now historic. He was imprisoned '"
under the wartime Defence Regulations for six months.

And it is in this context that Mais is perhaps the only complete
patriot we have produced in these decades since the first strong waves
of nationalism surged forth in 1938. His was no negative punishment of
being detained for what he might do. Roger Mais dared, and suffered.

In his defiance of the conventions, he grew into a legend. He had
no apologies for his "Bohemianism". He knew full well that in the
orchestra of humanity, his was not the role of "any wind instrument, nor
any stringed instrument, nor any instrument like piccolo or flute", but



that his was the genius that only knew its limit when it was filled "with
the madness of the great Maestro".

The quotations are from his poem The Wind.

His early struggles were immense; they would have struck down a
lesser man. It is fitting that just before his sudden flagging at noon,
he should have been caught up in that floodtide of creativeness that
brought three excellent novels and a gallery of masterly water-colours
from this great artist.

Now we know that his memory will never die.


The qualities of Roger Mais as a writer are difficult to assess.
Though he had a feeling for the breadth and amplitude of the Novel
his sense of form was never highly developed. Energy had always been
his main characteristic; and this energy had a tendency to expend itself
in many different directions at once. The nett effect may be vital, dis-
turbing; eloquent of this or that: but seldom, if ever, did he attain that
consonance which is the prime condition of literary art. Eloquence, in-
deed, was the virtue he possessed above all others and it may well be that
the choicest examples of his prose are to be found among the files of
local newspapers; in the Johnsonian polemics in which he from time to
time indulged; or, perhaps, in some of those early, lyrical short stories
which have a quality not unlike that of his last watercolours. His
apprehension of the world and of experience came, let it be admitted,
more and more to be plastic, and, perhaps, had never been anything else.

I recall when we were the only reporters at Public Opinion in the
throes of the campaign of the first General Elections. A. E. T. Henry
was News Editor, and Isaacs, Editor. Fairclough converted the weekly
then into a daily, and it was almost a miraculous task, heart-breaking
really, to gather news with a couple of persons, and edit in uncomfortable,
badly-equipped rooms, and print on a press that was always breaking
That was always the final background of the day, the press that from
morning till night had to be coaxed and prayed to. Roger Mais was a
mass of energy, with passionate dedication ito the new Jamaica and a West
Indian way of life. He went to prison for writings that were really inno-
cent, but expressed with the childish passion and true conviction of the
dedicated visionary.
Finally, thought and expression became more controlled, and all his
writings now will belong to the freedom of literature where there are no


prisons; to the future, where social equality, social freedom, and justice
may be realized.

He was dedicated as a writer, taught and trained himself as a writer,
and must be admired for doing nothing else for a living, over many
years of struggle, in his passionate, detached way. I like to believe that
despite his painful illness, somewhere towards the end he found some
happiness in a sense of achievement. West Indian letters, especially,
and present-day literature are the poorer for his passing.

As the years passed I knew the warm, frustrated, gentle, spiritual core
in all his desperate passion. I saw the short stories, loose in structure at
first, develop into a polished vehicle for ideas and social protest. The
novels controlled, powerful, realistic pictures of Jamaican life, censored
by a truly sensitive mind. He was a mixture of Zola with the art-
studio work mind of Flaubert. He would have been the richer for his
ultimate development. But his final writings, The Hills Were Joy-
ful Together and Brother Man will assure him a place in West Indian
literature and destiny, in which he took such a fanatic interest. Like
Yeats he had a 'fanatic heart.'


Having never had much use for middle class hyprocisy and senti-
mentality, I care nothing for the convention which rules that one should
speak only good of the dead. I shall praise or damn a man as I think
he deserves, whether he be dead or alive. So it may be taken for
granted that what I say here about Roger Mais is what I sincerely felt
quite a little time before I heard that he was even ill. In fact, in a
letter to Henry Swanzy in October last, a copy of which I still have on
my files, I said: "I'm convinced Mais has the right idea about writing
fiction. When he gets over this 'proletarian' phase, it will be interesting
to see what he does."

News of his death affected me in much the same manner as did the
death of Philip Pilgrim, some ten or eleven years ago. Another highly
talented West Indian artist gone and we can ill spare such men!
Death is a cock-eyed economist.

I have never met Mais personally, but I know his work. His short
stories always struck me as being outstanding, and his novel The Hills
were Joyful Together, when I read it two years ago, left no doubt on me
that here was no fumbling, amateurish talent doomed to fizzle out in a


short while. I can say with perfect truth that this novel of Mais's was
the first I had read by a West Indian which had held my interest from
cover to cover, and which, in myopinion,contained all the ingredients
that a good novel should.

I am never weary of pointing out to people who ask me that, as I see
it, a good novel is one which succeeds in three basic things: telling a story
that holds the interest, depicting credible characters, and creating a strong
atmosphere of place. In The Hills the story is not only gripping but
powerful and dramatic. The characters all live and can be believed
in as human beings. The atmosphere of place is rich; at times, over-
whelmingly so. Added to this, there is a lyrical quality about the
prose that delights the ears.

When I saw Brother Man announced, I suspected another "proleta-
rian" novel-and when the book came into my hands, I found that my
suspicions had been justified. I began the work with a groan, expecting
a mere repetition of The Hills-but before I had read a chapter I had
begun to succumb to Mais's magical manner, and Brother Man held me
to the last sentence. It was repetition with a difference!

Again, as in The Hills, story, characterisation and atmosphere are
strong, but, unlike the previous book, the tragedy is touched with a
deeper pathos. The central character, Brother Man, dominates the book
as no character, not even Surjue, did in The Hills. In the hands of a
lesser artist, this character could easily have been a caricature or a figure
of intolerable sentimentality; the actuality that emerges is a creature not
only credible but one for which the reader cultivates a definite affection.
There must be few people in this part of the world who are unaware
of the impatience I feel for religion and religious fanaticism; it is ex-
pressed in almost everything I write. Yet for not a single instant did
I feel myself out of sympathy with Brother Man. He was too human.

We shall never be able to prove it, but some intuition tells me that
Mais could have treated middle-class characters with the same under-
standing and depth as he did his proletarians. His scope as an artist
was big enough, and it seems a pity that he could not have set his hand
to writing novels at an earlier period of his life. He certainly had the
right idea about writing fiction. He was no airy, impractical experimen-
ter, and realized that however "poetic", however strange and highbrow
a novel might be, if it lacks a good story, if the characters don't live, and
if the atmosphere is poor, it is a failure.

Basically, as a novelist, Mais was sound, and, given another ten or
fifteen years, I feel certain, would have produced a body of work of solid
literary worth.

166 K1YK-OVEf-AL


The oak was strong and sturdy, and grew, resisting storm and high
wind. The buffetings of nature harmed neither its growth nor its form,
tested it and found it worthy. One day it came to the end of its time,
sickened, and died, wasted and ravaged, leaving behind the memory of
its strength, an echo of its beauty in the golden leaves it had strewn at its
feet, the hardy seeds it had cast at its own roots.

Some men grow like trees. They send down firm roots in the soil,
seeking the nourishment and warmth and strength that comes from their
native earth. They are connected to their earth by a rich taproot, strong,
seeking, that draws from the richest places of nourishment. And they
give as much, if not more, than they take. For they change the food that
nourishes their minds. It becomes transmuted by the chemistry of their
imagination, and is made that much richer. Some men grow like trees,
and such men are like Roger Mais.

Those closest to Roger during the wild excitement of his living days
could not have known that searching taproot he sent down into the earth
of things. It was there, but it would not show because until years enabled
him .to understand the happening, it is likely that he did not know it was
there himself. Instead those around him must have seen a restless
hungering, a wild, nagging, insatiable wanting for something else. For
Roger was a seeker, and as a seeker, he could be known only to a
stranger who saw in his eyes the endless asking that marks the seekers.

He grabbed at life and living, twisting and turning it, tearing at it,
looking for the ache and pain of it. In the writings of Thomas Wolfe
there is a great dominant question mark, the symbol of the seeker who
asks why. There is the stormy question, the looking at and touching of
things that excite. In his writings was the great, blustery fear of not
knowing, and it was shaping and reshaping of words into new meanings,
into the dark music of language that marked his work Through the
passages of his writings, majesty strode.

I remember Roger speaking about Thomas Wolfe and recognizing in
his words and writing that majesty of words. I remember reading Roger's
writings, and hearing in his words that same majesty. Because he was a
seeker too.

Roger became anything he wanted to, many things he did not know
he was becoming. He became a famed Jamaican in 1944 when, with that
impatient, restless anger he focused on the British Empire his caustic
concentration. "Now We Know", which he wrote in Public Opinion,
Jamaica's nationalist newspaper, drew on himself the mark of the pro-
testor and earned the wrath of Governor Richards, the Attorney General,
the patriotic anger of the Britons in Jamaica. To Jamaicans the words
rang with the poetry of truth and when he was imprisoned for sedition
a part of all protesting Jamaicans served the term with him. Roger had
written from a place close .to the heart of his people.


That year was Roger's beginning as a figure of importance. At his
own expense in 1939, he had published "Face and Other Stories" and
followed it with "Most of All Man" in 1940. They became collector's
items. The bright spark of notoriety had lit for Roger the small flame of
growing fame. Jamaica discovered his way with words and ideas and
soft, sensitive feelings .....

"I, remembering how light love
hath a soft footfall, and fleet
that goes clicking down
the heart's lone
and empty street
in a kind
of spread twilight-nimbus of the mind,
and a soft voice of shaken laughter
like the wind......

I, remembering this,
And remembering that light love is
As fragile as a kiss
Lightly given,
And passes like the little rain
softly down-driven......

Bade love come to you
with rough male footsteps -
Deliberate -
That hurt to come,
And hurt to go....

And bade love speak to you
With accents terrible, and slow.

Roger was a blustering and loud fellow, was described as rude and
bumptious. And he was. He had within him a great endless anger; he
refused to believe that men must be stupid and blind and unfeeling, but
he accepted it and delighted in cursing men for it. He had handled ideas
with words, touched ideas and felt their texture, got an easy familiarity
with them, and known them coming through the process of his mind, and
worked his alchemy on them before putting them down on paper and
written in soft-spoken beauty......
and remembering that light love is
As fragile as a kiss
Lightly given,
And passes like the little rain
Lightly down-driven......

One day he picked up a pencil, some say at the urging of Edna Manley
who handed him this familiar instrument and said "draw something,
Roger, draw anything," and drew. It didn't come to him easily, although


he drew quickly and deftly, with an eye that knew the shapes and forms
he drew.
Roger drew the hills around him, the hills he had seen in sunshot
silence and written about in knowing words....
"All men come to the hills
Finally ......

Men from the deeps of the plains of the sea-
Where a wind-in-the-sail is hope
That long desire, and long weariness fulfils-
Come again to the hills.

.... he drew the heavy, lumping mass of the hills and from the beginning
those who looked at his paintings felt he knew the folds of land they had
looked at for so long and not seen, and had drawn their quiet strength
out of them and put down on canvas. But painting did not come easily
to Roger. He spent hours in the Institute of Jamaica, examining the
work of other painters giving his great mind a chance to search and seek
and wonder at the things that moved other men. He understood quickly,
intuitively, and scorned his quick, intuitive knowledge, but worked to
have it come out of his brush so that it looked and felt right for Roger
He looked into his own country for further inspiration. Out of history
he shaped a play, "George William Gordon", won first prize with it in a
contest run jointly by Public Opinion and the Little Theatre Movement.
The play was strong, stark stuff, full of embarrassing truth about men
and motives, about the heart of a patriot. It was never produced.
Working the play form around in his knowing hands, Roger wrote
another. "Hurricane" was a powerful work, was produced by the Little
Theatre, and was a smashing success. Mais was demonstrably Jamaica's
most powerful writer, its only playwright of consequence, an outstanding
capable writer. He wrote "Atalanta and Calydon", had it produced by
the U.C.W.I. Extra Mural Workshop.
By 1951, Roger had won ten first prizes in local competitions, had
been published in Life & Letters, Negro Story Magazine, Focus, Bim. His
prose and poetry had been heard on BBC, he was to be included in an
American Anthology of Negro writing published by Dr. A. N. Oxley.
Roger had become the stormy petrel of Jamaican letters, was a true
artist who lived his life from the inside out, saw the world and the lives
of others from the outside in. No dimension was too spacious for him
to sample, no experience too frightening. He had developed the peevish
intellectual irritability of genius, the impatience of the honest, the forth-
rightness of the able. He spoke straight from the shoulder, hard, ugly
words sometimes, found joy in the thunder and conflict of argument, used
words sometimes as rapiers, sometimes as stilletos, sometimes as pickaxes
or mauls, always aggressively in the lists of dialectic. He drank and played
hard, chose his friends from among those who held mo superiority for the
act of living. He was incapable of any snobbery but the snobbery of the


intimate group, he sought out no artists or writers, and scorned the
literati. In fact, he was ordered to leave more than one meeting of
austere, dignified intellectuals gathered together to self-consciously discuss
Writing or Art. Roger on "The Intellectual" was a classic of its kind.
When he finished the first draft of "The Hills Were Joyful Together",
he was afraid of it. He was afraid of the months of work, the hard
struggle with words, the deep love he had for his own creation. He was
afraid it might not be good enough. He gave it to a few friends to read,
a very few. It was a powerful, blunt-edged work, shockingly direct, full
of Roger and his language.
It was rough in the first draft, rough and unfinished, its characters
blurred sometimes. But it was a work that throbbed with power, that
promised to emerge with dedicated effort. He took it back into the mill
of his mind, pounded it finer, worked it around. Then he proudly pre-
sented it again. It was his first book, ready to go to the printers. There
was no question in his mind now about it being good enough. He knew.
It proved out that he was right, except for some slight adjustment.
Roger had never left Jamaica. He was incurious about the world,
about the miles of water and strange lands that were over the four
horizons. He had been searching out the heart of his own land, a patriot,
a nationalist, a Jamaican whose home was Olympus. But suddenly he
decided he wanted to see the places outside. He told his friends he
would be leaving Jamaica by hook or crook. He set about painting with
an angry fury, hurrying to capture the world he saw and the people he
His work went on show at Anderson House, paintings again of hills
and houses, of faces and forms. The show was attended by friends, by
critics, by the curious. It was his first major show, although he had put
on a one-man show previously at Doris Duperly's Phoenix Library. Again
his talent, surprisingly extensive to many who came, shown in his under-
standing of form and colour, of shape and substance, of the nature of the
things he saw, was the outstanding characteristic of the show. More,
now, found the word "genius" and the phrase, "the genius of Roger''' more
apt, more easy to use.
The Seeker still sought, and Roger was searching through the world
of canvas and paint for another part of himself. He worked at poems, was
inspired by the hurricane of 1951, to write the prize-winning "this is the
city, this is the hills....", a story of the wild fury of the streets in the
midst of a disaster. He lived his life of intellectual search, leaving behind
the vital statistics of his own life. "Born, Kingston, August 11, 1905, son
of Eustace Cleveland Mais, businessman, and Anna Louise Swaby;
educated Calabar High School; former Civil Servant (Education Depart-
ment, 1924), reporter, publisher, planter, horticulturalist, photographer,
Publications: "Face and Other Stories; And Most of All Man; House of
Pomegranate. Plays: "Masks and Paper Hat; Hurricane; Morning Noon;
and Night; Atalanta at Calydon; George William Gordon; Painting; Two
One-Man shows, 1949, 1951; Unmarried; recreations: Reading, literature,
painting .... arguing .... fighting...... drinking ...... living."


And so Roger left for England, bid adieu to the few, select friends he
had allowed within the orbit of his searching friendship, with whom he
shared his moments of madness, of anger and blind wrath, of profane lust
for life. He left with a publisher's acceptance in his pocket, with a wider
fame within his grasp. But not before he had put on a final, powerful
one-man show in the house of his sister, Jessie, softspoken, understanding
Jessie, a show to which he invited friends presented his mother, fussed
and worried and finally left. Again those who came and saw were
amazed at the flexibility of his understanding, and those who could under-
stand and see recognized in his work something as distinctive as a bold
signature, for Roger's work, still reaching and seeking, had become Roger,
identifiably his.
He wrote to a few friends from abroad. England was dirty, the most
depressing, damp country, London was an untidy charwoman. He was
living in small digs, getting used to the cold, dim, spacious mass of Lon-
don. He was going to Paris. The word sang. It was the greatest of
Roger's hopes to see Paris.
He took his talent, his brushes, his ideas and understanding to Paris.
There he worked, painted the places around him, worked with a sudden
hurry and rush, with a desperate haste. The 50-year-old boy still looked
at life through his ever-youthful brown eyes, put down what he saw. As
he painted, he wrote, and revised words written before, new words pro-
jected from the fevered maelstrom of impressions that filled his mind.
He crystallised and shaped a character who had walked through "The
Hills Were Joyful Together", his first, controversial novel, into the gentle,
humanity of "Brother Man". The jackets of both novels were illustrated
by Roger himself, brought his characters to life to be seen by the reader.
When he returned to Jamaica in December, 1954, he spent lonely,
quiet days in his mother's Barbican home. A few friends visited him,
were frightened at what they saw, were impressed by his fierce determin-
ation to finish the many things that were yet to be done. But the fight
was a losing one. While he was sick in bed his paintings went on dis-
play, the show arranged, planned, put on by his good friend and confidant.
Albert Huie. From the walls of the Institute glowed a new Roger, a
newly crystallised ability, a bright talent, a deft, professional understand-
ing of how to put down the things around him.
Doctors had opened Roger, despaired. The little, bearded man re-
turned to the home of his sister. He began his halting walk towards the
final door. Beyond it......?
.... Golden are the fruit of night,
Golden for laughter....
Roger had written those words of the endless reaches of space.
....Who planned the orchard there,
Planned their hereafter. (

Golden are the fruit of night,
Golden for laughter.
And the Searcher walked through .the door, alone.


Philip Pilgrim's Legend of


On Wednesday, July 28, 1955, introducing a BBC Programme, Mr. E. R.
Edmett the Producer, said:
"Ten years ago in Georgetown, British Guiana, there was given the
First performance of a choral work (originally intended for chorus and
orchestra and then recast for three pianos in place of the orchestra),
the music for which was written by one Guianese, Philip Pilgrim, to
verse and to a theme created by another, A. J. Seymour.
In Britain now are several of the people who either helped in the
organisation or took part as performers or were members of the audience
which witnessed the birth of a production which could truly be de-
scribed as a native work both in conception and performance.
The programme relates the experiences and .the reminiscences of these
people told in their own words and recorded for the anniversary of
the event."
Mrs. Joy Allsopp took part in that Programme and she writes: -
Away from British Guiana, everything that had anything to do with
home became nostalgic, particularly a memory already charged with so
much feeling The Kaieteur Legend. Even then, ten years after
the first performance in Georgetown, everyone of us in the small group
of people gathered in a BBC studio in London, was just a little emotional.
We had recorded our small parts in this tenth anniversary programme
Separately, over a period of a month or two, and now we had come to-
gether to listen to the finished recording.
The programme was a collection of memories and impressions, not
only of the Legend but of Philip Pilgrim himself, and our thoughts were
principally with Philip and with his family as we heard various people
give their impressions of him his tutor say how gifted a musician
he was.
As we sat there listening to the programme, I am sure we saw and
heard not only what was going on then, but felt again the atmosphere
at the Assembly Rooms in 1944, the air of excitement, the pride of
achievement felt by everyone, even those who had nothing at all to do
with the production, who only belonged to the Legend because the
Legend belongs to Guiana.
We also saw again the choir file on to the stage, the soloists George
Harding and Ismay Callendar, the pianists Colin Franker, Reggie McDavid
and then Philip himself, the conductor John Heuvel and the perform-
ance began.
It had come upon us suddenly, this music, and we were unprepared
for the splendor of it,


His inspiration came out of the unknown and untouched forest.
Philip was very anxious to collect and preserve the true folk music of
Guiana, things like the now familiar "Itanimi" which he arranged for
choral singing and the music of the Amerindians. The main theme
of the Legend came from this folk music, and that is the theme which
most people remember, which comes right at the beginning with the
words "Now Makonaima the Great Spirit dwelt...." and which recurs
again and again.
The structure which first inspired this outpouring of music was written
four years before, and was essentially an old Amerindian folk tale of -
"the Old Man who was sent over the Fall in a wood skin by his resentful
daughters". This, put into rhymed verse, and enriched with all the magic
of the atmosphere of the Falls, expressed in poetry, became the Legend
as we know it, and Kaie, the old man, emerged as the central figure who
had by an act of will to become a sacrifice for his people.
There had not been, in the British West Indies, in 1944, much musical
composition of any sort. Even the calypso had not won the respect and
popularity it has today. And so as people filed into the Assembly
Rooms for this premiere they had for the first time the real thrill of a
first night. It was not, as always before 'For the first time in
British Guiana', but simply 'For the first time'. And so the conversation
filling out those elastic few minutes before the performance began was
not, 'Did you read about the capacity houses in Trinidad' or .the review
in some magazine, but 'How wonderful it will be when people in other
countries have an opportunity to hear this our Legend.'
And there, in that word was the pride 'our' Legend inspired
by our Kaieteur Falls, written by our Arthur Seymour, set to music by
our Philip Pilgrim and performed by our friends and families.
There will be many other such nights in Georgetown, perhaps on the
same site though not in the same building. We and our sons and
daughters, shall taste again the peculiar joy in being present at the
unveiling of many a masterpiece of art which is of us and so satisfies
us more than anything we have heard or seen before. But there cannot
be another first born that was the Legend of Kaieteur.
There was at that time, in 1944, writing of various kinds which
belonged to British Guiana, but music reaches out in a way that words
never can, and draws people together until they realise that they all feel
the same way.
And in that BBC studio, that afternoon in August 1954, we all felt
that in the programme the words expressed just about as much as they
could, but now we wanted the music. There had been just a teasing
extract from one of the solo parts, but lovely as it was, it only reminded
us of Keats' 'Heard melodies are sweet but those unheard
Are sweeter......

And all the way home odd phrases of melody vibrated, after ten
years' sleep, in the memory.


Rogue Male

by Basil McFarlane

From the proscribed solitary vantagepoint of two-years-old he per-
ceived the world: the backyard, the frontyard, the large, sounding house.
Of proscription he was dimly aware as with the daily arrival and de-
parture of his father the stranger whose morning peck at his mother's
Face and casual tousle for his own head he merely endured or as in calm
progress between yards he was disturbed by the frenzied outburst of his
mother at the trail of small mudencased feet over the polished floor. In-
Sdeed as time wore on she became less and less understandable. In soli-
tariness he was confirmed. This was life.
He watched her about her daily business with a vague stirring of
regret. On what distant shore had they once stood together and how had
- come the parting? She seemed not to know what he felt and there were
no words with which to tell.
In the backyard was the place he considered the most interesting of
4 all the world: under trees, a cool green place, the ground always covered
with dry dustcoloured leaves that made a hoarse terrific noise when he
dragged his feet through them. In the soft rich soil beneath the fallen
leaves there were worms, long, pink and marvellous in their earth-
shadowed delicateness.
The presence of trees somehow relieved the loneliness that crept
upon him with every day: their rooted constancy, remote and ancient
converse with the wind. The unselfconscious beauty of their several
forms was for him a voiceless music of green dusk and stark ironic boles.
Here Gerald found him who bore on his broad muscular chest the
scars of the Kaiser's war and hoisting him onto his shoulder they set off
to where the stunted thickets lay at the edge of the forest. Oh that was
a wonder indeed to ride on Gerald's shoulder up almost among the high
wonderful companions of the wind almost to touch one to feel reverberate
beneath him the firm careful tread not his own was security indeed from
all complexities of lostness! A far space below Earth swam but he was
safe in a new dimension and free even as his crazy unattainable friends
the leaves.
Gerald sang the songs of the Kaiser's war. Out of his scarred mus-
cular chest burnished with sweat as he split the kindling for the kit-
chen fires the voice growled thick and resonant of guns and trenches
bristling with beautified hate. This then was the way for him for Gerald
was his friend: to fight the Kaiser and return with scarred and burnished
chest to splitting kindling in his mother's backyard. A fine world.
Occasionally these moments of extreme selfpossession and aplomb
would be disturbed by the sound of his mother calling from the back-
steps. His calm was shattered. What could she want alien as she
now was? His loyalties were with Gerald and the life of the trenches


or with the profound and voiceless forestmusic he knew she could not
hear. In these moments he was brought to the hell of indecision.
Love was with us a summer long ago;
For this is Autumn and the woods we walked
,Are bare. Their gaunt and bitter thighs are frocked
With rime. Their words, their leafless words are slow........
She sang that song and he loitering in the dim hall where she sat
in the shadow of the ornate piano her father's gift knew he was trapped. <
What a triumphant melancholy in those long phrases! What about the
pale tender cassiaflame and beyond those arrogant mountains flaunting
their blue pride? Would they sing thus? What did he know
of Autumn or for that matter what did she in a land flattened to
scrub by the perpetual stare of an iron sun? What did they know of
Summer who knew only Summer?
And those scabrous slums lurking in the shadow of rich homes
where today he had driven with Claude surely they were an omen
of the pretentiousness and inequality of our lives? The sudden vision
of ragged zinc fences their paint blistering in the sun intruded upon the
polite orderedness of his wife's petunia beds and gave savage balance to
her complacent melancholy.
Or was his nostalgia perhaps equal to her own and as futile? What 4
was he doing about these vague ardours that so disturbed him? Was he
not proud of his unrest the index of a liberal mind? She yearned
perhaps for another land of different weathers and he only for this in
which he had been born and grown to manhood. How was he cut off
from his life?
She sang of love. Had he known love in the pagan revelry of his
not too distant youth or in this comparatively secure existence with her
who bore his children and supported his life, even a life he did not
wholly acknowledge? The daily round: departure and arrival. The
morning sun that was both tender and cruel not implacable like noon
but warm clear lulling like a warm bath fluid like flame; fixing his
heart with the strange unquiet of one journeying to his own doom. Re-
minding him perhaps of the hill he had not found on which to spin out the
golden hours, perhaps consummate some wild love. The daily round:
Melanctha at the office, bright and knowing, challenging him almost to a
return to the past, smiling with arch possessiveness when Dacres said that
day: We are proud of you.
He was a fool. He knew himself a fool and stricken with the mortal
folly of all men watching the child his two-year-old stand on tiptoe in
the attempt to unlatch the gate into the street. It was not the first time
After repeated efforts he turned and saw his father standing in the
doorway and on his face was the expression the man had seen there on <
that afternoon they brought him grimy, dishevelled and rebellious in from
his childish games to be washed and groomed for the evening. The
troupe had passed him where he sat with his newspaper and his son had
looked at him in a silent appeal. As he turned to resume his reading
he had been shocked to discover the tears that stood in his eyes.


The Sun

{Fourteen Poems in a Cycle)


To Christ, the seasonless fire
The fire burns both quick and slow.
Blow wind, blow!
What relative furies glow
like summer and spring and autumn weather.
Long past the hour of death,
some miraculous flame will linger,
a fever of spiritual desire that makes a living finger
of the faintest fuel of life.
In the black prison
of this grate flesh bears
Burns slowly the last miserly shovelful
of death: life empties out this ash,
leaves only wisdom like the secret of the fire:
life empties out this ash and leaves the wisdom that is fire
In the heart of human wood. Like wood, what tree or man
Upholds Christ, the inevitable good.
What tree or man, what monstrous wood, what monstrous branch
Becomes sainthood,
Sheds a leaf of spiritual desire
that falls slowly to face good,
Christ, the seasonless, the unconsuming, and the fire.


SThe sun-rose
still lights
every black sea,
Still turns the blackest sea
into a glowing rolling marble sun:
splinters from the moving marble sun
fly like wave-birds,
like flocks of sea-birds
flying out of the marble sun
stemming neither from the pure sea nor from the pure sun.
The sea-rose in turn
still darkens
in every marble sun.


The marble makes the sea-rose black with its every turning,
and the rose still turns into a sea-egg
like blackest sun,
a sea-egg like blackest sun,
like blood and wings of a hatching sea-bird
at the splintering of the marble sun.
At the splintering of the marble sun, what immortal sea-bird
is still divining, still divining
the fire-yolk in every black sea, the rose-of-the-sea in every .
marble sun.


Sun cuts down in the west
in a knifing of wind.
Light is cut deeper still
where sun rose even still.
Every ship chisels the sea
and every sea planes the wind.

in a waving of wind.

where sun breaks even still.
Every ship curves the sea,
Who loves the glory of the sun
the inward-turning light
at the-breaking-of-the-sun.
Every black sun stays bright,
Where love still gathers a far light,
the fiery, faint and far light,
beyond eclipse of the sun.
Each day-star pools the sea,

Sun blows up in the west

Light shoots higher still

and every sea bends the wind.
must harbour its blowing light,
that stars

Beyond the eclipse of the sun
and the knitted sea heals the 1

Sun colours and shapes
Earth in every leaf. Every single leaf sun treasures above
Has earth's shapes and colours beneath. Above

Sun still shapes every leaf
With the whitest cross of earth beneath and heaven above. Beneath
Sun still colours every leaf
With the greenest cross of heaven above and earth beneath.
Earth's brightest shape and most glowing colour sun makes
Of every cross of heaven beneath and earth above. Every green leaf
sun burns into light
Heaven gains above like light bones of sun beneath.


Beyond its transparent bones of sun
is the green flesh of every leaf,
the green flesh of colour the sun crosses on the ground beneath.

The sun crosses this dense earth above and beneath,
crosses beneath heaven and crosses earth

Crosses of sun trace every living shape and every living colour on earth
they trace every grave leaf that falls to the ground.
Forever traces of the green sun cross the earth,
and the white earth is forever
on the sun.

The sun burns every tree,
and every tree burns,
a happy martyrdom,
Of every century.

Black wood of every tree
under the upright sun
Stands burning the black wood o
every tree

S On the black cross of a tree
still hangs burning,
and still hangs free.

On the white tree of the sun,

? At sunrise or sunset,

under every sun,
burning with the suns
Burning with the suns of every
stands upright under the upright sun:


running with the suns of every cen-
the blue sky hangs still,
a happy martyrdom,

a red cloud trailing every human
what red broom of memory traces
the ground:

light, light sweeps this broom like rain on the ground.
It sweeps the ground and leaves no stain of blood, light, light
on the ground. Light, light
is the mark the broom of the centuries
leaves on the ground. Light, light
is the dust the wind blows,
and the rain sweeps down.
Light, light the broom in the clouds sweeps the dust,
that was once the noblest flesh
the sun burnt upon.


Love's cross
Still bears
Of your human form
On love's
Space runs
Space is

Love's cross
of time
and place
still is
in the still race
of every sun.

like water
clear, swift, timeless,
so clear
so swift
so timeless

the frailty
and mine.
of individual lives
between us.
your cross and mine

there is no burden, there is no bitterness, there is only brightness,
the brightness of an unearthly sun, or the stars' brightness.
Stars nail our blood to this,
this cross
time and place.

Stars nail

our blood

to this.

Sun is steel

Sun is heaven

Sun is hell

a band in steel

a band in heaven

steel band.

steel band.

a band in hell
steel band.
Black fingers in the clouds
play upon
the hot steel band of the sun, heaven and hell's
steel band.
The clown comes first and dances,
dances under the sun.
His liver turns to ashes,
and his tongue lolls on the ground, steel band.
He hangs in the noose of the sun, steel band.
The saint comes next and dances,
dances with the sun.
The clown scorns him as he dances,
a visionary shadow dancing, dancing with the sun,
steel band.


The vision of the saint is a violent dance for the clown
hanging free of the ground
under the trapdoor of the sun, steel band.
is the still dance with the sun,
the dance with the sun still standing
the dancing clown.


Clouds bury the great sun in the sky, the great sun,
the great sun,
in the sky, in the sky.
Clouds bury the hastening ripe sun
in the sky, in the sky.
Each forgotten seed-sun on earth when the sky-sun was bright
glows now
like a new sun, a little sun, a spiritual sun,
a dumb sun: each forgotten seed-sun, now,
is visionary and light.
Each dumb sun starts, now,
With the promise and with the memory of the Cry, the Cry,
Of the Dumb that first broke the sky,
Summoned the sun,
The great flowering sun from each seed-sun.


Sun is milk, milk, milk, Sun is milk.
S Sun is a pure, milk-white star in the sky.
Sun is milk.
The strongest star is milk.
The weakest stai is milk.
Milk, milk, milk is every star.
The sun is milk.
The whitest sky kills the weakest star.
The strongest star saves the whitest sky, the sun of milk fills the whitest
breast. The stars are milk.
The stars are milk,
still drops of milk,
still drops of milk on the blackest sky,
On the blackest sky, on the blackest breast. Every black breast Is starred
with milk
still starred
with milk.



The sun is a skin

'Light, light

Every sun shaves

The skin

Its ripeness

The stone

The sun

The skin
The heart

In the harvest

Falls from the heart

of light.

The sun
with every
black skin,
light, light.
the sun runs
light, light.
The sun's
skin of light
with every
black skin,
light, light.
this breathless skin with light. I run with the sun's

I run light.
with the sun's light breathing skin.
Though breathless
I run light.


of the sun
is on the harvest's warm ground.
is harvested
in warm ground.

is still warm there.
in the heart of the ground.
warmed the stone there
in the harvested ground.
is still warm here.
is still stone there.
The heart that dwells true here
is stone there in ground.
the stone falls
into the ground: the stone in the heart
from the skin of the sun
from the fruit,
falls from the skin,
the stone in the heart
from the skin of the sun
falls from the sun.



a pale-gold
a pale-blue

Sun lights
Sun lights

Sun lights

Sun lights
Sun lights

The Sailman hamm
Hammers sun
Hammers stars

To nail this sail

The strongest cloud
Is the crowd of the

vessel made of cloud.
lake which floats this

a sensitive sea which harbours
Sun lights


noon in cloud.
the height and depth of night in cloud.
noon night
sail by
the sun's light
under cloud.
Under cloud
iers, hammers loud:
the painted sun,
the hidden stars.
And starry nails from noon
fly round
to night like cloud
to nail the day
to the starboard sun.
on the starboard sail
Stars, Is the sail of the sun.

The death of Hector, tamer of horses
Over the mountains and over the sea
runs a black horse, his hoof
Pounds the mountains and unsettles the sea.
His hoof grounds the mountains
Like the bones of the sea.
When Death runs so swiftly, his black limbs remember
my very vain breath and my boast in the stars.
I mount him and I hold him
with the sun for a saddle and a bit made of stars.
I mount him and I hold him
with my breath on the bridle and my boast in the stars.
I mount and I hold him
with my breath turning silver like a bridle of stars.
Far up on the mountains and deep down in the sea
I ride my black horse up and down and far.
My breath now deserts me,
I spit saliva and stars, I stop breathing
the gore and

18~ ftY-OVfi-AL

I grow breathless, ride faster and ride far. My ultimate horse of darkness
leaves earth's doors ajar.
I am kneaded into a star.
I am kneaded in a cave of darkness
where Death's hoof ploughed a scar.
I am klneaded on the mountains near heaven
where Death's hoof cut a scar

like a grave for a man and a mortal
the mud and spit of stars. The mud and spit of stars are in
the mixing
and in the kneading
Of every mortal being
Who rides the black horse far.


The intercession of Mary, Mother of God

I stood in the forest of space, Lord
beneath the jungle of suns
under Calvary's flowering Sun.
I stood with the trees of space, Lord,
under Calvary's flowering Sun,
Saw the fall of galactic suns, the galaxies
are the pollen of suns. But this
is Calvary's Sun: this hour, this day,
This Sun.

0 God, hold still
this Atom,
This ladder of Calvary's Sun,
for a Child climbs up and down, Lord,
Love mushrooms in the Sun,
his coal-burnt flesh marks his birth, Lord
he was bonn in the burning sun
with the blazing sight of children which looks round the
earth to the sun:
a burning sphere or sun-drop still trembles
into the ladder of the sun yet never truly collapses
tiptoes to other suns.

What Child!
but climbs this ladder
into every curving Sun.
(May God hold still
this Atom,
this ladder of Calvary's Sun, and bring Love safely down)

Two Periods in the Work of a

West Indian Artist
by Wilson Harris

Any proper attempt to study the work of Denis Williams must take
into account the two periods his work discloses. The first embraces the
Human World theme, the second in which he is deeply involved now
-has reached a high point in "Painting in Six Related Rhythms 1954."
This painting secured an Award of 250 from a distinguished panel of
judges including Sir Herbert Read and Mr. Graham Sutherland in
a competition organized by the Daily Express of Great Britain.
There is a very wide difference indeed between the two periods.
This kind of separation or departure marking the changes and periods
in the work executed by great artists always offers room for fruitful
enquiry into the nature and spirit of genius. We shall not attempt this
now. Our object is to be as factual as possible and to put on record,
as best we can, the principles which govern the two periods to be
observed in the work of Denis Williams.
We can venture to say that the Human World period started here
in British Guiana in 1949. This may appear strange to a great many
persons. Denis Williams had returned from England where he had been
painting and working since 1946 when he secured a British Council Art
Scholarship. Two major works in the Human World theme were painted
here on his return Origins and Burden and Release. A few persons
were privileged to see these paintings at private exhibitions before the
painter returned to reside in England, somewhat disappointed at being
unable to secure a thoroughly remunerative post as a teacher of Art in
his own homeland.
Origins and Burden and Release were painted in oils on Sacking.
They were paintings influenced principally by a sense of the Actual. The
artist sought in overpowering and densely packed symbols to gather
together the shapes of leaves, breadfruit, branches, trees and above all
human life and expression into a most profound and disturbing form:
a form that was classical in the traditional spirit of modern art where
the painter worked for actual relationships organized structurally or archi-
tectonically and drawn from his field of vision. The word classical is
always under fire but we use it bearing in mind Wilenski's admirable
definition of what is classical in modern art. Cezanne and Seurat and
Gauguin qualify as modern classical painters in contradistinction to the
Impressionist school.
We may say then that Denis Williams's work was structural and archi-
tectonic rather than Impressionist in spirit. The artist painted
with his eyes wide open, in absolute concentration on the Actual. His
figures had mass and patient architectural and structural build-up. Human


expression took on a terrifying stony candour and urgency: a marriage
had been forged between primitive passion and European technique.

The painting Burden and Release has remained one of the most power-
ful and successful paintings of the Human World period which was to reach
its climax a year or so later in England. Burden and Release is less
urgent and dramatic than that great painting Human World which marks
the close of the period. But it is wonderful for a quality of non-gesticu-
lation. It has immense quiet and control. The painter had worked
with his eye on the strange mud huts one sees on the coastlands of
Guiana, and on the Corentyne. These mud huts are trashed or roofed
by palm leaves which dangle sometimes like grotesque hair under the
tropical moon. The grey flesh of the huts is, of course, mud, and the
eyes and half-agape mouth are, or course, windows and doors.

Denis Williams returned to England in 1950 to continue his paintings
of the Actual and the Human. He worked with a daemonic intensity
almost like possession. He put everything he saw on canvas: fearful
faces, desperate faces, demons, lust, the faces of newspaper vendors utter-
ing mechanically the destinies of the world, faces coming out of subways,
on buses, on the pavement, the face of pregnant women all against
the actual harsh world of time and circumstance.

Now, more than ever, he longed for a greater and greater canvas.
He wished for space like a mural, or some great expanse of wall at the
junction of busy streets. If only one had space!

His paintings were numerous. Many he destroyed. Amongst those
he destroyed were the remarkable Plantation Studies on brown paper
in gouache. These had been painted in British Guiana and were, to
a great extent, preliminary studies leading to the major painting Origins,
which the artist retains today in his studio like a prized possession. It is
interesting to note that the Plantation Studies had been exhibited in Brit-
ish Guiana in 1949 under the auspices of the Guianese Art Group. They
aroused considerable comment that bordered in some instances on hostility.

The paintings that survived included Burden and Release, Mystic
Marriage, Umbrellas, Securities, and of course the greatest of them all in
that period Human World. Some of these paintings hang today in
national and private collections in Europe, and it is hoped shortly to
acquire by public subscription Human World for a British Guiana national

Wyndham Lewis had already seen something of Denis Williams's
work shortly before he returned to British Guiana in 1949, and had
praised it. Towards the end of 1950 he accepted an invitation to have a
look at the new paintings, and immediately used his great influence to
bring that work before the sophisticated viewers of the London art gal-
leries. This gesture grew naturally from one of the greatest of English
artists (amongst the few with a great ntemati.nitajma -aUrLh


and a genius whose obsession has always been with the values of culture
above all else in a civilisation where those values are in peril.

All the paintings that belonged to the Human World period, which
had not been destroyed by the painter of course, were gathered together
and exhibited in December of 1950 in the Gimpel Fils gallery. The ex-
hibition was a marked and brilliant success, and the repercussions from
that exhibition reached New York and Paris. The Human World period
had closed with fame for Denis Williams.

It is too early still to analyse the tremendous philosophical implica-
tions of this success, philosophical implications that have to do with the
whole character and destiny of culture and society in the 20th century.

The four years following the "Human World" period are marked by
that phenomenal characteristic of genius we have hinted at already: the
renunciation of one period or style and the adoption of a new technical
and spiritual revolution.

What was Denis Williams renouncing? When I met him again in
England in 1954 I was inclined to criticise him rather too bitterly for
renouncing the invaluable experiments that I thought still possible in the
Human World theme. But the fact is it is idle to criticise such a
renunciation. The overburden of guilt and responsibility in the actual
human world draws the artist deeper and deeper into squalor and mire
until he renounces the overpowering oppressive theme in favour of a
Spirit which is freedom itself. Let us examine the situation closely.

One of the most remarkable experimental painters in 20th century
Europe was the Dutch Painter Piet Mondrian who died in 1944 ten years
exactly before Denis Williams painted his "Painting in Six Related
Rhythms 1954". On Mondrian's arrival in Paris in the first decade of
this century he was influenced by Cubism. He moved on from there
to make his own radical experiments. His work pursued a course that
freed form and rescued basic and essential relationships. Composition
1935 and Victory Boogie-Woogie 1943-4 are examples of his last and ma-
ture works. Mondrian wished to establish what is known as an equiva-
lence between form and space. It was a remarkable idea. In order
to accomplish this, space must no longer be mediate and indecisive. He
reduced volume to an illusion. Volume was abandoned in favour of the
plane, and the plane lost its identity to become an area between lines.
In Victory Boogie-Woogie, where the pure rhythms of original jazz music
had captivated his intelligence, the lines themselves were broken. Mon-
drian, in his search for pure reality in terms of paint, accepted the
limitations that the flat canvas imposed on him. He sought for a principle
of unity in which natural form would be reduced to constant elements
lucid and free and uncluttered by distortion.

The search for lucid essentials was also the preoccupation of the purist
school of painters. They, however, sought an organic discipline in rela-
tion to forms natural and man-made (like the egg or the broom) rather


than in the reduction of natural form to a pure mathematical spirit in
paint. All this work has had considerable influence on architectural
achievements (Corbusier for example) in the 20th century.

An examination of abstract work of this order reveals a refreshing
climate of freedom and contemplation, almost metaphysical in character,
which has been blurred and partially buried under the moods and arbitra-
riness and partisanship and oppressive relationships that dominate nearly
every form of creative activity today or every attempt at understanding
the creative spirit of the past.
It is at this point that we must start to assess the second period in
the paintings and work of Denis Williams. His intention is to break
with and renounce the powerful and dominant and oppressive relationships
that he painted with such actuality and genius in the Human World
theme. He was surfeited with the idea of power as admirable in itself
alone. Most great paintings exercise power and they dominate the
onlooker. They hold the onlooker captive. The onlooker is taken into
the canvas. Denis Williams sought for ways and means to renounce
painting in that traditional sense, and to free the onlooker, to extend him
gloriously out beyond the confines of the canvas. He wished to set
aside the painting that captures, and to discover a movement outward,
a liberation of the person. What he sought steadfastly to guard against,
however, in his new experiments was the arbitrariness or mood that is
characteristic of a new school of abstract painters at this present time in
England and Europe. He did not wish to gamble with colour or intui-
tion. He sought a work of art true in itself, true to a law and discipline
of relationships.
Some of his first experiments are therefore free of every kind of
illusion save the baring of essential movements and relationships. He
worked on wood instead of canvas. Bold vertical strips literally stood
out beyond the surface. The horizontal movement was immanent and
present in the bare intervals. Colour was applied with a kind of restraint
and quiet deliberation.
More striking than these paintings was the sculpture he attempted.
The artist worked with the utmost patience and skill in brass, cutting
and saving his material, soldering parts together. The outcome was a
space-work, an aloof and shining open spirit. It was curved and shaped
like a mask: so unobtrusively, however, that an almost impassive quality
obtained-a shining impassivity wherein the mask very slowly ingrains
itself in the mind without compulsion or force as if withholding recogni-
tion until recognition is freely given.

The painter became more and more aware of the new growth he was
tending in his own spirit. He saw in his mind's eye a flowering
art free of sordidness or distortion, and he was increasingly drawn to
explore the mathematicc" and soul of this new art. He increasingly
schooled himself to abandon all arbitrariness of mood in favour of unre-
lenting research and organization of the purest relationships of form.
He was tempted to abandon painting altogether in favour of space-


sculpture that sparkled with impassive and deliberate joy, a seasoned and
cultivated journeyman. He wished his work to be tied to no mytholo-
gical or ideological creed, to exist freely in its own right.
He abandoned completely the quest for single organic natural forms-
the egg, the leaf, the fruit in purist art. He had toyed with, and
speculated on, this principle. He applied himself instead to discover
a fundamental mathematical order that would inspire entirely new rela-
tionships free of any element whatsoever of subjective coercion.
What have Mondrian and Denis Williams in common? and where lies
Sthe essential difference in their work? Mondrian set out to find certain
"deliberate relationships" long forgotten under the subjective morass of
art. He stripped every illusion from painting and signalled that a fresh
approach to Form had become a necessity. Denis Williams retraced the
ground Mondrian had covered to a point where he struck out on a new
Irack. Mondrian's mature and last works had shattered volume and
space. Planes no longer existed on his canvas. He had freed and
disclosed the real function of paint on canvas so as to release it for a pur-
pose which would come as close to reality as possible. This freeing
of the function of paint could be taken no further. What was necessary
now was Form obeying its inherent objective laws that had been rescued
and freed for that purpose in Mondrian's experiments.

Denis Williams struck out on this new track of Form in one of the
most radical and metaphysical paintings of the past decade "Painting
in Six Related Rhythms 1954".

The mathematical control was supplied by strict vertical, horizontal
and transverse lines so ruled on the board to offer varying compartments
ordered to strike a balance of areas. The paint was applied so that bril-
liant and precise objective relationships emerged moment to moment, hour
to hour, day to day.

The painter worked without any moodiness or arbitrariness, almost
as if he were an engineer tracing the stage-discharge curve of a river
from plotted values. With this major difference that each application
of colour was a test of his own genius, in response to an unknown form
and its relationship to colour that he had no method of pre-determining
or reassuring himself about in actuality or from previous discovery, as
he encountered it. It was a Presence that grew: a Presence that did not
compel or force or demand allegiance. The witnesses to that Presence
were spatial relationships like an ordering of a new universe that appeared
under the brush deliberate and joyful and with a tendency when
looked at from another angle, other than the painter's, to fly away into
space outside the confines of all tension or restraint.
This is the major painting that won an Award in the Daily Express
Exhibition, and it glows like a jewel among 200-odd paintings in the
Burlington Galleries, London, a witness of a technical and spiritual revo-
lution, where the tension is contained and balanced, and the spirit of man
is independent and free,


"Is There a West Indian Way of


Some weeks ago I invited some of my friends to, give views as to
whether there is a distinctive West Indian way of life, either in being or'
emerging, and whether, beneath these forms of culture and artistic crea-
tion, there lies a complex of historical traditions and religious and moral
beliefs as a result of the community's attempts to meet the challenge of
its environment.
The term "way of life" may be interpreted to cover matters such as
family structure, the use of national dishes, questions of dress, deportment.
and behaviour, the psychology of workers, the attitude to games a basic
psychology of life etc., and it may also include achievement in the fields
of art, music, literature, dancing etc.
Discussion of this question will lead to an assessment of the possi-
bilities of West Indian Nationhood, and this is necessary at the present
time as a broader and deeper current of thought, parallel to the political
discussions on Federation. It seems fitting that the artists and the
leaders of thought in the region should express themselves, consciously
and deliberately, on this vital issue.
Whatever the decision on political grounds, the success of the political
association must depend on the facts of culture, and the underlying truths
of a way of life common to the British countries of this region.
Friends were cordially invited to send their views.
I received replies from a doctor of medicine, a minister of religion,
an educationist, a journalist, a social welfare worker, a post and a
novelist. Some replies came as impromptu letters and others were in
more formal dress but at the risk of untidiness they are printed as they
were received. Possibly the views of a painter, a musician and a lawyer
would have rounded out the symposium but they have not come in,
although solicited.

I have long taken it for granted that there is a West Indian way
of life and when one takes something for granted, reasons and explana-
tions become as difficult as they seem unnecessary.
When I left home in 1944 for the first time, I had met few West
Indians other than Guianese, but just over five years in the U.K. brought
me into almost daily contact with the entire region. It was not long
before I discovered that we all thought alike on most matters, our tastes
in dress and food and people were alike, our outlook on sport was


!the same, our outlook on money was the same (we all felt insulted when
Son paying a three half penny fare for an English friend, we found it being
returned to us), we had the same sense of rhythm; and in all these
respects, we, as a group were certainly different from the English, Welsh,
Scots, West Africans, Indians from India, and Continentals, though of
course, we shared varying common features with each of these groups.
It was the sum total that was different.
But making generalisations such as these won't do. You want me to
be specific, don't you? At this point, I may well ask what 'sinister'
'thoughts prompted you to want a doctor to contribute to this symposium.
Of course, I agree with you that expressions of thought by different ele-
ments in a society on such a subject might in some way be helpful to the
society, especially such a one as ours with all its pressing problems, some
perplexing and devilishly difficult, some nearing solution, others defying
solution, but all of them, intensely exciting.
Is it that you feel some doctoring is indicated? Or do you want to
know whether West Indian doctoring is making a contribution to a West
Indian way of life? I won't say anything of "respectable" doctoring, but
certainly our own brand of witch-doctoring is making its contribution!
I see evidence of it almost daily. I always ask my patients whether they
have had any treatment before seeing me. Almost everyone presenting
with abdominal pain has had his belly "hauled for nara" and these
include all strata of our society. I will not discuss with you all the
possible consequences of this fact, but I suggest it does contribute to a
way of life perhaps occasionally to a way of death! And what about
our bush medicines? Who knows what contributions to our way of life
have been made by such notables as "Tanta-fal-back" and "Lemon grass",
"Man-piaba" and "OOman-piaba". Surely "Stinking Toe" has done some-
thing! I wonder if there is any West Indian, or even West Indian born,
Swho in his childhood has not had "bush tea"? At this very moment, our
friends at the University College Hospital in Jamaica, are giving much
thought to the possible part played by "bush tea" in the causation of some
of the diseases of West Indian children which baffle us among them
a disease of the liver. And everyone knows how important the liver is
to one's whole well-being, physical, mental, emotional! At least every-
one who listens to the advertisement of patent medicine. According to
these, a "sluggish liver" may be held responsible for almost anything from
that tired and run down feeling in the mornings clinically indistinguish-
able from laziness, to nagging one's husband or beating one's wife. I
wonder how many of our West Indian politicians suffer from sluggish
livers? And I wonder how many of them were brought up on bush tea?
What has bush tea done to mould our artists, writers, poets, musicians
and our men of learning? And how many of these has it robbed us of -
or created? And before we leave this subject of bush medicines and
bush tea, it is of interest to know and note that our University College
is collecting and sorting every bush known to be used for medicinal
purposes in the region with a view to discovering their potential uses and
usefulness. Native medicine in other countries has given many a respect-
able cure to mankind and who knows what the West Indies will con-


tribute in this field? We may yet find some drug right here on our door-
steps which will help us to defy the enervating powers of the tropical
sun and so free our full energies for the immense tasks ahead.
May I now change the field. The Australians have left us alF
figuratively hanging our heads, for we too have been bitten by that
menace to sport, the prestige bug.
A friend of mine after licking his wounds, began to indulge in that
West Indian pastime of day-dreaming-yes, day-dreaming is a part of the
West Indian way of life. He mentioned the names of a few of our promis-
ing youngsters, then commented, "you know, in a few years, nothing cani
stop us;" then reflectively, he added, "except perhaps ourselves"! Now,|
there are cricketers who will give expert and scientific views as to whyi
we lost bad selection, unbalanced teams, no fast bowlers and so on.
But for me, I believe we lost mainly because of our outlook on the game.
And it would appear that the Australian Captain thought so too, for he
said "We won because we played tighter cricket". This is almost British
in its understatement as a description of the grim, businesslike, ultraA
professional, planned-to-the-last-ball cricket the Australians play. That's
their way of cricket, reflecting no doubt part of their way of life. What's
ours? Cricket, to every West Indian, whether Test Cricket or else, is still
a Saturday afternoon game, played for entertainment, played for fun,
played for relaxation. I'm not here concerned with whether this outlook
is good or bad only with the fact. We like to see stroke-play and our
players oblige. We want runs all the time. When, very rarely, a'
Weekes or a Walcott or a Worrell decides to play the hard Australian
way (and English too), he gets barracked by us all. Players are con-
ditioned by their environment. Hence, the flash at the ball outside the
off stump, with the score at 0. If it comes off, player and onlooker are
delighted. If it doesn't come off, it is because he isn't good enough.
"Headley would have hit that for six" someone would say. Do you
remember the adverse comments of radio and newspapermen on the slow
rate of scoring of the Australians on those occasions when clearly the
state of the game warranted it?
But another aspect of the West Indian way of life emerges from all
this. We want stroke play and runs all the time but we also want
to win! Yes, West Indians like to eat their cake and have it too. We
want to experience the emotional satisfaction of seeing our country win,
but we dislike the sacrifice, effort and discipline involved (on the part
of both player and onlooker). Some of us want the fruits of Federation,
but we are afraid of the sacrifice, effort, and discipline involved. We
also want to manage our own affairs, but are afraid of the sacrifice, effort
and discipline involved.
We want to see these undeveloped lands of ours developed, but -are
afraid of the sacrifice, effort and discipline involved. Please note, I did I
not say we were incapable of sacrifice, effort or discipline, for those West
Indians who live in a different society with different values, do adapt
themselves quickly and completely in the interest of their own personal
survival. Those of us who have studied abroad in a climate and in sur-
roundings and circumstances quite foreign to us indeed at times


hostile to us, know that we could not have succeeded without sacrifice,
effort and discipline. We have it in us. We only need something to
nourish these qualities.
q I prescribe a good dose of being left to look after our own affairs, to
,bear responsibility fully, to make mistakes and to correct them by the
time-honoured process of trial and error, to do all this unhindered and
unhampered by any mothering, however, well intentioned.
But you didn't ask me to prescribe........ I'm sorry I can't help
it. Prescribing is in my bones but not because I'm a doctor. Prescribing
is part of the West Indian way of life.

You ask me whether there is a West Indian way of life and my
simple answer is that I cannot tell.
For one thing I assume that in the term W.I. you include the main-
land territories of British Guiana and British Honduras with all the W.I.
Now isn't it a tall order for me to opine as to whether there is a way
of life in the terms of your definition that is common to this area?
I have not travelled extensively in the area what is a week in
Port-of-Spain? and the West Indians I have met in B.G. and in the
U.K. were too selected a group for me to use them as a norm.
Again the works extant on the various aspects of W.I. cosmology are
so few or are written in Spanish that I cannot claim to have made a close
study to venture an informed opinion gained from second hand sources.
Having established my bona fides, I feel free to express the thoughts I
have on this question.
A W.I. way of life is the expression of the social habits of a West
Indian Nation and while I agree that the development of a W.I. nation
is desirable, nay is an absolute need in the present day world pattern,
yet I can only see the faint beginnings of a W.I. nation being fostered.
Of course the conscious evolution of nationhood is nothing new -
the U.S.A. and Britain being notable examples of this, but in our case
this "growth" is being fostered from above and not from the grassroots
as it should be.
Both England and the U.S.A. had time to grow, the latter having
the advantage of building on the accumulated experience of several
grown communities but they had the advantage of a compact country
within which this development took place, while the position in the W.I.
is so vastly different that the sea would tend to wash out what little
sentiment we derive from our common racial backgrounds. McIver and
Page in their monumental work "Society" feel that the bases of com-
munity are locality and community sentiment which can only arise in
an area of social living marked by some degree of social coherence.
Thus the theoreticians warn us of the extreme difficulty of creating
this W.I. nation and the consequent emergency of a way of life. Need I


comment on the existence of insular feeling so deeply rooted as to find
expression in legal sanctions?
On the other hand Hans Kohn claims that "in modern times, it has
been the power of an idea, not the call of blood, that has constituted and'
moulded nationalities."
True as Hitler has proved and although this is a good tool for our
purpose we would not approve of Hitler's methods. This fostering of W.I.
level of thinking is evident in the U.C.W.I., I.C.T.A., R.E.C., F.W.I.C.C.
and F.W.I.C.S., but some of these attempts at national thinking are
"forced" upon the intellectual elite as the only way of survival in a world
which is unmindful of small units.
But where is the attempt to foster the growth from the bottom, from
the grassroots; have we yet begun to use the power of the idea among
the people who must give form to a W.I. nation?
Let us digress for a short while to examine one unit of the W.I. as
you understand it and assess its demographic situation as it affects nation-
alism: our own B.G.
Do you see a Guianese way of life developing? Do we the six peoples
have any community sentiment or feeling that would make us face the
extra-territorial world with a united front?
Think of the differences of our racial origins and the difference of
circumstance of our arrival here and the cumulative influence of these
and see whether you do not agree that the healing power of Time should
be given a longer period within which to exercise a more beneficial
influence? To illustrate the difficulty of the problem, let us think of one
activity which should strike a sympathetic cord in the hearts of all the
six peoples cricket.
All of us even the indigenous Amerindians do you know that in
my recent trip to the North West District, I found on the Kaituma two
teams of Amerindians engaging in a practice match on some unpromising
pegasse land and on examining the pitch closely I was informed that the
stuff of which it was made was transported in boats over 50 or 60 miles?
How's that for enthusiasm! Yes, I was saying, all of us like our cricket
but do you think when we as a country engage touring teams that most
of us wish B.G. to win? Think of the M.C.C. and the Indian tours, and
in the former case recall the press comment and in the latter. I daresay
you should have sampled opinion then and discovered where the sym-
pathies of nearly 50% of our population were concentrated.
No, give Father Time a chance and to this add one generation or two
generation or two of enlightened teachers at all levels and other moulders
of public opinion in our country and at the end of a generation we should
have made some progress on the road of Guianese nationalism where in
the words of Macaulay's Horatius:

"None was for the party and all were for the State".
And now, look at Guiana as a microcosm of the W.I. and you have
your answer.



Instead of asking "Is there a West Indian way of life", I would much
prefer to ask, "what is there about the life in this region which gives an
essential distinction, a distinction that we can call West Indian". I do so
for reasons separate from the fact that the original proposition, appears
to be what Kant would have called an analytic proposition, inasmuch as
the answer to the question is contained in the very meaning of the subject

Wherever human beings live in community there must be a way of
V life. And the only sort of enquiry which can tell us anything about this
way of life is one which seeks an answer in terms of culture. For it is
only in cultural heredity, humanly speaking, that human beings differ
from one another.

Out of the complex of situations, traditions, influences that have
gone into the making of the way of life in this region, the institution of
slavery in the beginning lies at the foundation of the psychological make-
up of the people. This ignores of course the minorities, but the foundation
referred to above is to some extent all pervasive. Emancipation in the
eighteen thirties took the chains off the hands and the feet, but the
psychological constitution woven in the gloom of the plantation remained.
If this is true, then there is no need to stress the psychological continuity
here implied. And it is at this point that we come to recognize the real
meaning of the term "West Indian colonial", relating in this context a
political situation to a cultural condition in order to make possible a
deeper realization of status in terms of world humanity.

The cultural process is one of cross pollinations, of infinite selection,
rejection, permutation, transformation. This was the very secret of the
miracle of ancient Greece, that meeting ground of the wisdom of the
ancient East, Africa and Europe. What is happening with us here is
obviously the same process in another world, where the psychological
necessities are rooted in the slave-patterned experience of the West Indian.
colonial. And it is these necessities that go to give that almost demoniac
energy and vitality to the unrelenting rhythms of the steelband with its
emphatic physical imagery; that sardonic fantasy, casual dialectical
humour-prophylactic of despair, and ironic self-contempt to the argument
of the calypso with its pornographic corruptions; and that releasing
mockery of fate to the temper and spirit of life in this region. If I may
quote here from a popular calypso:

Back to back
Belly to belly
Ah don't care a damn
Ah done dead already.

It is because music is the very language of the inner life that we can
so easily find such expressions of the life of the people in it. Torture and
hope is a furious tension.


What is of greatest relevance to our theme is not simply what has
come in, but rather what has been done with what has been taken. A
slave who reads a Bible becomes one of the Children of Israeli, a highly
significant and revealing identification. On the other hand, the prohibi-
tion of marriage between slaves and the oft-discussed family structure of
contemporary city-dwellers are by no means Biblical injunctions.

A way of life is a necessary choice in which the necessities that
operate are only partially manifested in the choosing. The stem of a
coconut frond becomes a cricket bat in the hands of a child from the
slums. The metal instrument of a steel band evolves from a length of
bamboo inevitable motion in opposite directions, a consequence of the
particular socio-economic determinism in these parts. And when the
choice can no longer contain the necessity, comes the transformation,
comes the explosion of the seed.

There are seeds exploding every day in the West Indies. And every
sprouting leaf that emerges has the sign of its form, the mark of its
origin. Distorted almost beyond recognition in the trance of a miserable
existence, it screams for attention. It is the voice of the West Indian
strange in his own ears.

Because the human spirit must survive, and because music is the lan-
guage of the spirit itself, a necessity that conquers choice, it is in our music
that we must look for discoveries, avoiding at the same time however,
that uncritical static idealising so dear to the shallow and demagogic

And so, in spite of all the brutalisation, all the shattering of nascent
forms that obtain in this region, West Indian music does contain within
itself that emerging configuration specifically and particularly West
Indian, no matter how crude and primitive. It is here that we will
find the most rewards in our search for the West Indian meaning, the
West Indian way. And yet even here the greatest care must be exercised
lest there ensue a confusion of the shape o fthe germinating seed with
the shape of the possible fruit. Everything here must be dynamically
conceived with a Protean essence as a tribute to the human effort and
experience involved.

Only when the West Indian can experience himself as a human being
will he be in a position truly to celebrate his spiritual possibilities. It is
when his status as colonial is abolished that he will come into his own
human self-possession.

What is of highest value in the contemporary way of life in the West
Indies is that which moves to bring about this urgently required trans-
formation of status. In the jagged political efforts of the people in the
social demands for a better life, in the poetry and the art that extends
the spiritual dimensions beyond the suffocating actuality to accomplish
human growth, lies the burning ember of survival struggling into flame.


Is there a West Indian Way of Life? That this question is very
much in the minds of West Indian peoples everywhere seems to be an
indication of a nascent nationalism in these parts. It is a healthy sign
that these peoples of varied origins, from different races, religious and
cultural groups are beginning to feel a real sense of belonging to the
West Indies and taking a true pride in being West Indian. Hence the
striving to assert our individuality, to stress our separateness, to
emphasize our uniqueness in any particular aspect of our life.

It is a swing of the pendulum from the time not so long ago when
the middle classes in the West Indies were ashamed to admit knowledge
of, or participation in, anything so "vulgar" as Carnival, Calypso, Obeah,
Shango etc. But this swing was inevitable. These things were too real,
too essential a part of the lives of the masses of the people not to make
themselves felt. They influenced the manner, behaviour and outlook of
the people so profoundly that they forced themselves upon the attention
of thinking people. A few of the intellectuals began to study these forms
of behaviour, and origins were probed, histories were attempted, and
organizations were formed for the encouragement and improvement of
these expressions of the national character. Tourists and foreign visitors
expressed interest in, and appreciation of the more overt forms, sociologists
and foreign students came to study the more secret forms, a few books
were written, and gradually the general public began to take an interest.

Wherever people settle down to make a living, there will eventually
emerge a manner of life which of necessity reflects the history, geography
and economic conditions of the people, as well as the racial traits and
religious convictions, and all these forces interacting, result in a psycho-
logical make-up of the people which is typical.
In the West Indies there is a great variety of racial types, and a great
intermingling of these races which has resulted in the creation of com-
pletely new types. Peoples of mixed racial stocks are known in other
parts of the world, but the variety and extent to which they are found
in the West Indies and the fact that they are in these parts the rule, rather
than the exception, is an indication of the uniqueness of certain things
found here.

In Trinidad and in British Guiana and to a lesser extent in Jamaica,
there is a great variety of religions practised side by side, and Christian
Churches, Hindu Temples and Moslem Mosques add variety to the land-
scape by the architectural forms which are reminiscent of the style of the
countries of origin. Christian, Moslem and Hindu festivals are celebrated
by many people who are not adherents of the particular faith. At Christ-
mas, every one sends gifts and sets up Xmas Trees. At "Holi", the dye is
thrown on Hindus and non-Hindus, and at "Ede", Moslems invite their
non-Moslem friends to join in the festivities. A Hindu wedding in a
Trinidad village is an occasion of celebrating for the whole village, Indian
and African alike. The red and white flags flapping from bamboo poles
in the front of Hindu homes are a part of the landscape. These phenomena

196 i Y-OiVER-AL

are an accepted part of the life in these parts. They no longer cause
question or comment; they are recognized expressions of the way of life
of the West Indian peoples.

In addition to these major recognized forms of religion there are a
great variety of occult religious practices which are a strange mixture of
Christianity and a more primitive form of worship. There are many
variations of these, but they all have in common an extremely high degree
of emotionalism The Pocomania of Jamaica, Shango, Hoodoo and
Shouters of Trinidad are forbidden by Law, but persist in the remoter
areas and are practiced by many people of the lower classes. Associated
with these are certain occult practices of Obeah and Black Magic, which
profoundly influence the character of the people.

In the West Indies there are a great variety of people representing
many countries and many ways of life, and each trying to perpetuate
or carry on the culture of their country of origin, with minor adaptations
to suit the climate or geographical conditions. This perpetuation of in-
dividual cultures is not a conscious effort, but results simply from the
fact that each group of people continues to live according to the patterns
which they know best. But running under all these can be seen certain
patterns that are typical of these parts; certain ways and customs that
are unique to these islands, that are the offspring of all the different
forces at work here.

The Carnival in Trinidad, seabathing and Sunday picnics on the
beach in the islands, the Roti Stalls in Port-of-Spain, the promenading
on the Sea Wall in Georgetown, the bicycles which are a menace to the
Georgetown motorist, the Boating in Barbados, Kite Flying on the Sea
Wall in Georgetown, are all typical of the Way of Life of these places.
So is the food which is eaten here the foo-foo, corn coo-coo, flying fish,
sea eggs, pepper pot, metagee, "blogo", pilau, crabbacks, etc.

The family organisation is sociologically interesting. Here we have
the rather loose family set-up. This phenomenon has its origin in
history the time of slavery, when family life among the slaves was
actively discouraged, because it was felt that the slave was a better work-
er if he had no family responsibility. And yet the breeding of children
was encouraged because it swelled the labour force and increased the
wealth of the slave owner.

The master of the slave looked after the children of slaves and paren-
tal responsibility was reduced to a minimum. This has left its mark on
the people, and today we still find men leaving their children and going
off without any care for their support. This has resulted in the evolu-
tion of a strong type of woman and a semi-matriarchal type of society,
where the woman is head of the household, and where illegitimacy is
an accepted practice.

As soon as a way of life has been established it strives to express
itself in various art forms, in festivals and in humour.


The Carnival in Trinidad is well known and popular among all sec-
tions, cutting across all racial and class barriers and has become popular
among the peoples of the neighboring islands as well as the mainland
of South America. It has often astounded and intrigued tourists and
visitors who hail from the more sophisticated societies of the northern

The Steel Band is a completely indigenous phenomenon arising out
of the emotional need and economical necessity of a people to express
itself in music. It has a strong African rhythm, but the instru-
ments, the sentiments and the 'feeling' are Trinidadian. It is an inter-
esting sidelight on the West Indian Way of Life that forms developed
in one island, are taken on and become popular with the people living in
the other parts of the West Indies. Indeed, the Steel Band is now in-
ternationally known.

In drama, the Little Theatre movement is gaining ground in Jamaica,
and in Trinidad several Dramatic Societies are producing plays written
by West Indians about the West Indian's scenes and peoples. Derek
Walcott's "Sea at Dauphin", "Henri Christophe", Erol John's "How then
tomorrow", "The Tout", Frank Pilgrim's play Priscilla's Wedding are ef-
forts to express in dramatic form the West Indian Way of Life.

The West Indian scene is transferred on Canvass by our artists of
whom to mention only a few Sybil Atteck, Denis Williams, Albert Huie
Burrowes, Alladin and the Holder Brothers are the best known, a Sculptor
A. Herbert has carved many a West Indian bust and captured in wood
the expression of such well known types as the Old Indian Man, and the
"Saga Boy".

Beryl McBurnie and her troupe, and Bosco Holder are gradually de-
veloping a West Indian dance which draws upon all the influences, music
and folksongs of the islands and depict the history and emotions which
shape the West Indian people.

In every art form our people are expressing this West Indian Way of

In the political sphere we have politicians like Butler and Bustamante
who could only be West Indians, and we have men like Norman Manley,
Grantley Adams who can hold their own in the International scene and
gain credit for the West Indies.

But it is chiefly in the attitude towards life, the easy going happy-
go-lucky "laissez faire" attitude of the West Indian people that this unique
West Indian Way of Life is best typified, because our way of life must of
necessity be a reflection of our personality and our general psychological
make up. And since our whole historical background is so different, so
unique, it is natural that we, as a people, should be fashioned by this
mould which is our heritage, and that there should be elements in our Way
of Life which would be typically ours.



A national way of life-the representative, habitual life of a people,
into which their thoughts and imaginations are poured, and on which
their distinctive characters are impressed is a reflection of their C
corporate cultures. This way of life may be comprised partly of
codified ideals, such as a written constitution, and partly of a multiplicity
of uncatalogued customs, habits, and traditions. And, though the con-
stitutional part of this way usually has its codified concepts, such as
Habeas Corpus, the uncodified part, having merely the moral sanction
of custom, can and does function with all the force of statutory law.
As an example of the force of moral sanction on customs which
comprise a people's uncodified way of life, you have the English panto-
mime, which dates as far back as 1660, that century when the common
man in England was defying the power of the Star Chamber. The
pantomime survives today as constitutionally virile as the independence
of the jury for which Edmund Blundell, by defying the Recorder of
London, made a codified part of the British way of life.
Because a national way of life belongs to the various essences of a
people's nature, only those patterns which we consider genuine and good
ought to be preserved and handed down to our issue to continue and
revere. In their present nervously irresolute insipiency, West Indian
way-of-life patterns, such as the steelband and the calypso and the area's
habit of rum-drinking, have not yet been canonised, by the moral sanction
of custom, into approximations of codified ideals. They have not yet
reached the stage of a permanent way, such as the custom of Germans
eating frankfurters and sauerkraut, Italians eating macaroni and spaghetti,
and Greeks eating honey and mutton. The calypso, the steelband, the
drinking of rum, are ruled too much by the vicissitudes of capricious
public taste and economic changes. One possible change I can think
of is this: Rum, made from sugar's by-products, is the West Indian national
drink; but the discovery of oil and valuable minerals in the Caribbean
area might conceivably imperil the suzerainty of rum as the national
beverage. Another actual change: In British Guiana, masqueraders
and Congojumbies and the foo-foo bands were the pantomimic
pageant of my childhood days (and writing about them now makes me
nostalgic!) but-ah! They have all made their valedictory ritual now,
and their successors are the steelbands and the calypsonians. What
we thought were fundamentals have withered into fungus. Excrescence
had been mistaken for cream; anthropomorphism for permanent form.
And who will prophesy that the steelbands and their breed will not like-
wise be liquidated by the insolvency process of time! And that our issue
will not be observing strange new rubrics and rituals, bowing their
knees to misbegotten strange new gods of song and dance. This all comes
from a lack of permanency in our incipient forms.
Not even in dishes, the culinary-or dyspeptic!-sidewhiskers of the
West Indian way, is permanency found. What have we in the West
Indies been ritualistically eating for a hundred years? Nothing. The
regional dish, like the Regional Novel, has not yet arrived. From dishes


to novels all are insular in appeal. And even territorial dishes have
proved, with the passing of time, nothing more than territorial amorphous
growths. Take the pepperpot, that apotheosis of meats which so aptly
reflects the plural nature of our society, and that conspiracy of carbo-
hydrates called metagee. In my childhood days, they were both high up
in the culinary hierarchy. The mysterious rubrics of their manufacture
were solemnly revealed to us by our grandmothers. With a lush display
of toothless, masticatory finesse, our grandmothers showed us how they
ought to be ritualistically eaten. Today? Pah! So passeth culinary
glory. Time is revealing a quality of sham in them all. Yet they had
been hailed as permanent ways. We had not concerned ourselves much
with their true, critical evaluation, but had left them to journalistic de-
magogues and hack columnists who had hailed them as 'traditions'.
Tradition! Don't we meet our traditions ready-made? And we some-
times, if we are fortunate, contribute to the making of tradition. But do
we-or dare we-preside at the sanctification of amorphous growths into
A subtle alchemy of change prevents our customs from congealing
into permanent ways. Is it alchemy or character? Is this inconstancy
a reflection of the West Indian under the skin? or it it a process of
climatic corrosion, as a West Indian poet sings: "Burn, sun, burn my
waters", and to which we may add, "burn our customs, too". It is to
be noted that the West Indian novelist delineates West Indian character
as inconstant; and as there is little the professional psychologist can tell
the novelist of human nature which he does not already know, we must
stop and think. But apart from this suggestion of caprice and corrosion
which prevent our customs from congealing into ways, it ought to be
noted that the English pantomine grew up alongside the provincial
theatre. National ways of life have been perpetuated by national shrines,
used as psychological rallying-grounds and an emporium for national
wares. We in the West Indies have no native theatre. We have no
shrines-no Thermopylae, no Runnymede, no Richmond-nothing.

Hedged around as we are by this psychological vacuum and fungus
growth, two fundamental 'instincts' explain the present turbulence of
the West Indian situation, and they are helping to formulate two import-
ant concepts which are influencing West Indian society-the concept of
free political institutions, and the concept of a free Christian Church his-
torically critical of the secular authority. To understand how these
'instincts' have come into being, take a look at the vital historical
forces at work. You know that the psychological heritage of our en-
slaved and indentured ancestries still makes West Indians think of govern-
ment and employer in terms of the whip. So we are constitutionally
allergic to oppressive government and oppressive boss. So West Indian
mass psychology determines the radical programme of West Indian politi-
cal parties. Representative political institutions, therefore, take on the
significance of a weapon to fight the symbol of the old historic whip-
the government and the employer. The tragedy starts when represen-
tative institutions themselves are the government.


The second concept which, in my view, forms a permanent way is
the historical role of the Christian Church as champions of liberal move-
ments. Because the Christian missionaries were also emancipationists,
Christianity has imbued our political struggles with the ethos of theologi-
cal sanction. So we are, too, allergic to any tendency of the Church
repudiating its historical stand as liberal champions in the context of our
still-continuing West Indian emancipation.
These, then, are the possessive and the critical political instincts which
are forming permanent West Indian ways of life. To say that our West
Indian way of life is already influenced by the concept of a free parlia-
ment and a free Church, is to say, and say rightly, that West Indianism
is a spiritual contradiction of communism. This possessive political
instinct explains the constitutional crisis in Jamaica in 1839, when the
legislature, resenting the Act for the Better Government of Prisons which
overrode its authority, went on strike, defied the Melbourne Government
to suspend the constitution, and created the fantastic spectacle of the
overthrow of a British government. The instinct was also at work in
the Great Civil List Crisis in British Guiana in 1840. Today this instinct
explains our irresolution to enter a federal arrangement. The historic
approximations of this West Indian instinct are the religious way of life
of the American nation, which goes back to the Puritan traditions of
the Founding Fathers, the political way of life of the British, which,
through the practical genius of the English Common Law and
the impartiality of the Queen's judges, ensures freedom from arbit-
rary arrest and freedom of mind and conscience; and the Prussian mili-
tary way of life, which goes back to the Hegelian model of education-
Hegel out of Kant and Kant out of Rousseau.
With West Indianism already influenced by these two instincts, and
with the Region's people themselves working out the theoretical jejune-
ness of cultural thought, our way of life is being built on fundamentally
sure ground. All that is left is for our successors to see that these in-
stincts shall not wither and perish from our hearts.


Yes, there is a West Indian way of life but it is not as distinctive
a way of life as many cranks and faddists, who have West Indian nation-
hood on the brain, would have us believe. The West Indian way of
life is a way that runs fairly parallel, and very close, to the European
way. It was Europeans who colonised these islands (and mainland terri-
tories), hence is it to be wondered at that the West Indian way of life
should have been tremendously influenced by the culture of the parti-
cular nation or nations in control? While it is true that in various
islands and mainland territories, there are traces of African and Indian,
(or African-cum-Indian) customs, it would be sheer exaggeration to say
that either African or Indian has played a strikingly dominant part in
fashioning the over-all West Indian way of life. The Africans came as


slaves, and the Indians were an eclipsed people; the culture of the Euro-
peans carried the day, and Africans and Indians who came in contact
with the conquerors (and the Africans were always in contact) could
not help being influenced. For three centuries the Africans of the West
Indies have been divorced from their land of origin and have been open
1to European influences; and being slaves, for the first two hundred
years, they were not even allowed to practise overtly their own primi-
tive religions, nor indulge in their own ways and habits, (at one time
drum-beating was prohibited by the planters). The result was that, as
time passed, they absorbed the ways and habits, and the religion and
language of the Europeans; they imitated their masters in every possible
manner, even to adopting their names. The little African that remained
in them manifested itself in the occasional parody of some ritual dance
or "ceremony" which, in many a case, was itself not free of European
influence (to wit, the voodoo practised in Haiti).
Again, there is this that must be considered when speaking of a
West Indian way of life: each island or territory has its own "way" of
speaking, eating, and viewing life, of worshipping and governing its
people. The Barbadian way is not the same as the Trinidadian, nor is
the Guianese the same as the Jamaican, and ,of course, if we take the
French islands into consideration, too and I assume we mean by West
Indian not necessarily British West Indian then, again, we shall dis-
cover some alarming contrasts. Indeed, the contrasts will become almost
impossible of being put into perspective if we also include islands like
Cuba and Puerto Rico, and the Dominion Republic. I defy anyone to
amalgamate Latin American joie de vivre with the psuedo-English
puritanism of Barbados, and arrive at a common denominator called A
West Indan way of Life. It seems to me obvious, therefore, that there
is no point at which all West Indian ways of life meet. The Trinidadian
has his Carnival and calypso and his pilau, his tullum and pistache, and
S his boballes and graft in high places; the Barbadian has his gospel-halls
and his coo-coo and falernum, and top-hat and frock-coat at weddings;
the Cubans have their rhumbas and revolutions and Ernest Heming-
There is much more I can say on this subject, for it is one on which
I have definite views, and rather strong feelings though, perhaps,
not the kind of views and feelings that will prove popular among our
West Indian neo-nationalists. Indeed, I have had quite a lot to say about
it in a novel I have just completed, entitled A TALE OF THREE PLACES
(the three places being Trinidad, England and St. Lucia) in which the
central character is a young man who cannot decide whether to be loyal
to his native Trinidad or to the England of his dreams: the England of
which he has been taught so much at school and has come to learn to
love even without having seen. For remember, it is not the British
Council which has inoculated British West Indians with a love for things
British; it is the decades and decades of conditioning that are behind
us. And the same may be said of the Martiniquans and the French.
A West Indian way of life? It will be a long time, I feel, before that
way can be charted with clarity on the map of Caribbean mores.



"IS THERE A WEST INDIAN WAY OF LIFE"? That is the question.
But, first of all, what do we mean by the term "West Indian?" We may
agree, and I hope we will, to include within the term Guianese
as well as Barbadians and Trinidadians and the islanders generally, -
(although there are some people who definitely disagree with us here).
But when we have done that our difficulties are not over. What about
the East Indians who form so large a part of the population of Trinidad
and British Guiana? Shall we regard them as West Indians? I do not see
how we can avoid it, in spite of racial and cultural considerations. So
when we ask whether there is a "Way of Life" which is distinctly West
Indian, we are asking whether the people whose homes are in British Gui-
ana and the West Indian Islands have, in the mass, developed, or are de-
veloping a "Way of Life" which would be regarded as the hall-mark of
their essential unity in thought, aspiration, and outlook, and a promising
basis for political self-determination.
The two main cultural groups among the West Indians are the Afro-
Europeans, (a term which I have invented to include the descendants
and offshoots of the original sexual unions of Africans and Europeans),
and the East Indian, descendants of the East Indian immigrants brought
in to work on the sugar plantations. We can disregard any idea of there
being "pure Africans" in any considerable numbers, in these parts. Nor
need we consider, for our present purposes, other comparatively small
national elements in the West Indian population, such as Chinese, and
Europeans. The Afro European group is undoubtedly developing a "Way
of Life" which is distinctive, and peculiar to itself. We see it in the
West Indian "Calypso", which seems to embody the African rhythmic
form modified by close and continual contact with the musical inherit-
ance handed down to us from Europe. We see it too, (and I speak of
British Guiana), in the crowds which follow the Steel Bands, crowds
which are composed almost altogether of Afro-Europeans. The East
Indian group already has its own "Way of Life", which is part and parcel
of a cultural inheritance dating from the remote past. One is conscious
of it when one listen to the Indian Music, which, to Afro-European
ears, seems so un-musical, so toneless and monotonous. One sees it too in
the Indian Feasts, the Indian Marriage and Funeral customs etc., which
are a kind of national and cultural cement, binding together the individual
units of the race. Of course, the East Indian "Way of Life" has been, and
is being, modified, by constant contact with the large Afro-European
group. But this modification is being strongly and consciously resisted
by Indian-minded Indians, who look on such cultural modification as is
going on (through inter-marriage, adoption of Christianity and Christian
customs etc.), as cultural contamination.
Herein lies the difficulty of forging a political constitution which will
bring political self-determination to the West Indies. There lurks the
fear that one of the main groups, with its own distinctive "Way of Life",
may by sheer weight of numbers or economic strength dominate the


So there is an Afro-European "Way of Life", and an East Indian "Way
of Life". Is there any sign of the emergence of an over-all "Way of
Life", embracing both of these groups? I think there is. I see it in the
schools, in which children of both dominant races sit together, learn
Together, sing together, play together. It will be very difficult for them
to forget this when by-and-by the Workshop of Life claims their time
and their services. I see it in the University College of the West Indies,
where young men and women of both races, the future teachers, and
leaders, of the West Indian Nation that is to be, are learning to know,
to respect, and to trust each other. I see it in our literary and cultural
groups, where differences of race are transcended by a feeling of cultural
affinity and a common quest of Truth. I see it in those Christian Con-
gregations in which East Indians and Afro-Europeans worship our common
Lord. Every school, college, University, every club or group every
social gathering, of whatever kind in which the races mix, contributes
to the development of that over-all "Way of Life" for which we look.
Every Christian Congregation in whose Fellowship East and West are
equally at home, adds its invaluable quota to the total effort. The move-
ment will gather momentum in proportion to our faith in it, and our
earnest desire to help it along.


The Harrowing of Hubertus
Edgar Mittelholzer

Those of us who enjoyed "Children of Kaywana" and waited
anxiously for the second volume of the series, will not be disappointed
in "The Harrowing of Hubertus". The story continues chronologically
from 1763 until 1802 and we follow the fortunes and misfortunes of the
van Groenwegel family and of British Guiana through a very in-
teresting period of history.
It was at this time that the government of British Guiana changed
hands from Dutch to English in 1781 then French in 1782. Through the
enthusiasm of the lovable if lisping Wilfred, with his passion for statis-
tics, we are kept informed of all that takes place at the new Fort St.
George 'very near to Plantation Labourgade at the very mouth of the
river, East Bank.' The name of the Governor at that time was Kingston.
When the French took over in 1782 the Dutch planters, having been
made to take an oath of allegiance to the English the year before, were
now called upon to take one to the French.
And no sooner had the French taken over than this most interesting
proclamation was issued "To all whom it may concern, be it known
that it is considered necessary, from the great extent of this river and
its banks (the Demerara) to have a capital which will become the
business centre where religion will have a temple, justice a palace, war
its arsenals, commerce its counting houses, industry its factories, and
where the inhabitants may enjoy the advantage of social intercourse."
And so was born the town which we now call Georgetown, The French


were systematic. They planned the town well, and passed a law that all
kitchens should be built in brick, to reduce the risk of fire.

In 1784 British Guiana once again became Dutch and again the A
planters were called upon to take oaths of allegiance. The fort at the
mouth of the river ceased to be called Fort St. George and was re-
named Fort William Frederick, and the new town of Longchamps was
renamed Stabroek.

But the romance of our own history is only part of the attraction of
this novel. As in his previous novels, Edgar Mittelholzer has created (
vivid characters. Hubertus dominates the book. He has great strength,
physical and of character. He has schooled himself to speak English as
well as his native Dutch. He is greatly influenced by the traditions of
the family, even though he takes care not to instil them into his children
as his ancestor Hendrikie did. There are times when he is very ashamed
of his ancestry, but yet when prompted by his cousin Faustina or by his
own daughter Luise, he cannot help conforming to the van Groenwegel
tradition, and then he is proud of 'the blood I despise or imagine I

But he is always struggling with himself. As he says 'How can
one be loyal to God and to the flesh at one and the same time? The
flesh is not of necessity evil, yet to yield to its urges is to wound the
spirit. The spirit cannot grow in stature while the flesh is being satiated.'
And he never really solves this problem.

His wife Rosalind is English, and everything about her is well
ordered, her household, her children, herself. She is deeply religious and
is greatly troubled by her husband's lapses from the high standard he
has set himself. She is however always ready to forgive and try to help
him find peace within himself. If she has a fault it is only lack of un-
derstanding, but then, as Hubertus' cousin Faustina says 'Good, pure
people don't always understand.'

Edward is the sort of person who knows the loneliness of being alone
in a crowd. The rest of the family have always thought him queer, from
the time he was a small boy. Edgar Mittelholzer excels in his portrayal
of this sensitive yet strong character, who has a passion and genius for
design and later is among the first to build a town house in the new
town created by the French. The love of twenty-eight year old Luise for
Edward, ten years her junior, would normally invite unfavourable re-
actions from the reader for these characters, but here the author
succeeds in arousing sympathy for both Luise and Edward in this most
unusual love story.

No mention of any of Edgar Mittleholzer's books about Guiana can
be complete without reference to his awareness of the beautiful in
nature, especially those things peculiarly Guianese 'dismal December


rain' 'the air cool with the scent of leaves and fruit (blossoms and the
vague aroma of damp earth.' One feels that Hubertus' great love of trees
is the author's -
'Hubertus looked past the men at the fruit trees. The sun
glittered in their foliage and sackies and kiskadees twittered amidst the
branches. The mangoes were in blossom and very faintly on the air
drifted a turpentine aroma that of a sudden grew stronger as a breeze,
audible a moment ago as a hissing far away, now sizzling through
the foliage of the trees.'
S And there is a moment in time like a beautiful bubble that has
somehow been preserved for us and that can never be destroyed for the
kiskadees will always sing and the mango trees blossom in Guiana.
-J. A.

Poems By Leo I. Austin

Mr. W. H. Auden, speaking of poetry, reaffirms a basic truth in the
poetic spirit when he says "Essentially poetry is an affirmation of be-
ing, and the main negative motives for writing it a dread of non-being.
The poet feels like St. Augustine: 'I would rather have been deprived
of my friend than of my grief'; even when he says 'Since never to have
been born is beyond all comparison the best', he is rejoicing .that he is
alive to make that statement".
These are words which have considerable meaning for the serious
West Indian poet and artist, that strange person whose work lives and
moves within two extremes an extreme indifference in the Caribbean
to all serious art whether home-made or foreign, and an extreme
nostalgia the West Indian entertains in spite of every rebuff for
his homeland, and extreme desire not to be deprived of his grief, his
roots, his soil.
One can perhaps take pride in this extreme circumstance because
it means that the West Indian (were he aware of it) is a symbol of the
twentieth century world.
The predicament is plain to see in Mr. Austin's poems like a kind of
unconscious device goading the writer but losing force in the form and
expression the writer adopts. One searches in vain for experience in
his material experience that welcomes the unconscious, experience in
fashions word-material in spite of the unconscious, into a kind of memor-
able proverbial utterance. Form and content are then inseparable. In
fact everything is Form the mystery is Form.
After reading Mr. Austin's poems I come away with the impression
that the time is ripe for methods and principles to be discussed, the
materials and .the texture of poetry sheer poetry as an experience, the
unique and the phenomenal character of poetry.


We must read and study poets like Hopkins, Hart Crane, Yeats, Edith
Sitwell, Pound, Mayakovsky, Rimbaud. One is aware in these writers
of a major concern with words and their poetic material.
It is incongruous that Mr. Austin should write lines like these
In views secured from mountain tops
The heart will catch some fleeting glimpse
In those rare vistas
Of the meaning
Of life
and yet be oblivious to the hackneyed spirit in
Ere the shaking bark of ripening youth
Ventures uneasily o'er Life's mysterious seas
And each consoling beacon of my boyhood days
With the fleeting shores forever shall recede.
The evidence is there in spite of every insensitive lapse that Mr.
Austin loves his material. Consider these lines from Part III in his
West Indian Panorama
All the bars of wealth and race
As bosoms throbbed with animation
Were hurled aside in an hour of fate;
Saw Black and White work out a perfect harmony
In the dance's brief embrace.
A poem when all is said and done is the mystery of words and the
mystery of personality.
Nothing short of that is a poem in any memorable or fruitful sense.


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