Nos. 33 and 34- Edited by A. J. SEYMOUR and IAN McDONALD
THE GOLDEN KYK
Literature in the Making : The Contributio'c.lKvyk-Over-AI '.
-A. J. Seymour '
E. K. BRATHWAITHE: Piano; The Blu6; Solo for TrumM:
Interlude for Alto Saxophone (No. 27. 1. 60).
GEORGE CAMPBELL: Holy: History Makers: Worker
(No. 22, 1957). 15
OWEN CAMPBELL: The Washerwomen (No. 22, 1957). 16
JAN CAREW: Manarabisi (No. 19, 1954). ...... 17
MARTIN CARTER : Bare Night Without Comfort; Who Walks a
Pavement; The Kind Eagle; All of a Man; The Discovery of
Companion (No. 15, 1952); Death of a Slave (No. 14, 1952);
Three'Poems of Shape aid Sequence (No. 20, 1955); The
University of Hunger (No. 17, 1953): .... 18
FRANK COLLYMORE: Hymn to the Sea (No. 14, 1952). ... 27
OSWALD DURAND: Choucoune (No. 16, 1953). .... 28
WILSON HARRIS : Agamemnon (No. 15, 1952); Death of
Hector; The Stone of the Sea; Charcoal; Troy (No. 22, 1957) 30
ROY HEATH :......The Peasants (No. 17, 1953). .. 35
CECIL HERBERT : Song; And the Pouis Sing (No. 22, 1957). 36
E. McG. KEANE : To .... (No. 14, 1952); My Love Are You
Strong (N. 22, 1957). .... 37
ETIENNE LERO: He Left Today (No. 15, 1952). .. 38
JEAN JOSEPH RABEARIVELO: Poem (No. 16, 1953) ... 39
GEORGES DESPORTES : We Have Abandoned (No. 15, 1952). 39
LEOPOLD SEDAR-SENGHOR : And We Shall Bathe (No. 15,
1952); The Hurricane (No. 16, 1963). .. 40
ATME CESAIRE: Sun Serpent (No. 15, 1952), The Wheel
(No. 26, 1959)... 41
GEORGE LAMMING: Swans; Birthday Poem For Clifford
Scaly (No. 14, 1952). .. 42
LEO (EGBERT MARTIN): The Swallow (No. 5. 1947); Themes
of Song; Twilight (No. 19, 1954). 45
WALTER MacA. LAWRENCE: Kaieteur (No. 19, 1954) ... 47
ROGER MAIS : I, Shall Wait for the Moon to Rise (No. 20, 1955). 47
WORDSWORTH McANDREW : To a Carrion Crow (No. 27,
1960). -.. 48
HILDA McDONALD : Evensong (No. 14, 1952). .,.; 49
IAN McDONALD: Pineapple Woman; Son Asleep-Aged Six
Months (No. 28, 1961). ...... 49
BASIL McFARLANE : Poem; Jacob and the Angel (No. 14, 1952). 51
EDWINA MELVILLE: Poem (No. 17, 1953). ...... 52
EDGAR MITTELHOLZER: Meditations of a Man Slightly
Drunk (No. 20, 1955). 53
E. M. ROACH : To My Mother; I am the Archipelago; Home-
stead; Poem (No. 22, 1957). ... 53
W. ADOLPHE ROBERTS: On a Monument to Marti (No.
22, 1957). 57
A. J. SEYMOUR: Sun is a Shapely Fire (No. 14, 1952); There
Runs a Dream (No. 19, 1954); Name Poem (No. 2, 1946);
Tomorrow Belongs to the People (No. 3, 1946). ...... 58
PHILIP M. SHERLOCK: Pocomania (No. 14, 1952). .. 62
M. G. SMITH: Mellow Oboe (No. 14, 1952). ..... 63
HAROLD M. TELEMAQUE : Roots; Poem (No. 14, 1952). 64
H. A. VAUGHAN: Dark Voices; Revelation (No. 14, 1952)...... 66
DEREK WALCOTT: The Yellcw Cemetery; A City's Death by
Fire (No. 14, 1952); As John to Patmis (No. 22, 1957) :..: 66
DANIEL WILLIAMS: Over Here (No.. 22, 1957). .. 70
MILTON WILLIAMS: Oh! Prahalad Dedicated Day; Pray
for Rain (No. 23, 1958). ..., 71
FICTION, TRAVELOGUE, HISTORY :-
P. H. DALY : Christmas in the Ninteen-Twenties (No. 21, 1955). 73
VERE T. DALY: The Story of Kykoveral (No. 1, 1945). .:.'. 78
CELESTE DOLPHIN: Waramurie (No. 6, 1948). .... 83
WILSON HARRIS: Fences Upon the Earth (No. 4, 1947) ... 86
ROGER MAIS: The Springing (No. 20, 1955). ...... 90
SHEIK M. SADEEK : The Symphony of Mazaruni (No. 12, 1952). 94
ARTICLES AND REVIEWS:-
JOY ALLSOPP : Philip Pilgrim's Legend of Kaieteur (No. 20, 1955). 99
E. R. BURROWES: Old Wine in New Wineskins (No. 8, 1949). 101
LILIAN DEWAR: Simey on Education (No. 7, 1948). ..... 104
EDNA MANLEY: Art in the West Indies (No. 5, 1947). ...... 108
EDGAR MITTELHOLZER: Literary Criticism and the
Creative Writer (No. 15, 1952). ..... 116
A. J. SEYMOUR: The Books of Guiana (No. 27, 1960) .... 120
D. A. WESTMAAS: On Writing Croolese (No. 7, 1948) ...... 128
DENIS WILLIAMS: Guiana Today (No. 9,1949). ..... 131
FRED WILMOT: Roger Mais (No. 20, 1955). .... 134
ALLAN YOUNG : On Writing History An Administrative
View (No. 23, 1958). ...... 139
BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES' : 143
LITERATURE IN THE MAKING -
THE CONTRIBUTION OF KYKOVERAL
ARTHUR J. SEYMOUR
The biography of a magazine includes the consideration of the part it
played in the making of a national literature which is still incomplete although
it has some considerable body.
First the basic narrative. KYK started in 1945 as the organ of the British
Guiana Writers Association, and gradually assumed the responsibility for printing
the more important lectures and discussions of the British Guiana Union of
Cultural Clubs. This was possible because the editor was also the honorary
secretary of the Union of Clubs. Then the Writers Association ceased to meet,
and later the Union of Cultural Clubs fell apart, leaving the editor to pursue
the development of the magazine without clients of any sort. The editor was
himself at first staff member and then the head of the Government Information
Services and therefore committed to providing facts and information to all.
He was himself a poet and looking back, it appears that without his being very
conscious of it, he was seeking to make a distinction in his poetry of a public
voice and a private voice. So here is the editor as a primary resource.
A word now about the function of a Little Review or literary magazine
since this type of magazine has a history of its own. The little review is
important in the world of literature and particularly in the English language
as a contemporary record of trends in new writing, that would otherwise receive
little attention. In the 1945 Little Reviews Anthology, the English poet-editor
Denys Val Barker points out that over the past two centuries in England,
there is one long story of writers, later to become famous, making their first
appearance in print among small and unknown magazines. The little review
is valuable and important since it can print new forms of writing which are
too revolutionary for the popular press to notice except in a glancing fashion.
For example, the novel Ulysses by James Joyce had to come out in the little
reviews before conditions for book publication could be created. A little review
is also produced by a writer who finds that he has something to say of an un-
orthodox, controversial or visionary nature. D. H. Lawrence published his own
magazine Signature in this way.
In the regional sense, the Little Review is important, to express a growing
nationalism. Hugh MacDiarmid, one of Scotland's leading national poets, un-
popular with other editors because of his strong nationalistic and socialistic
approach, found it necessary to bring out his own magazine Voice of Scotland
and we have magazines with the names of Wales and Welsh Review to cater
for regional ambitions.
During the 1939/45 war, we also had Little Reviews devoted to the
literature of countries overrun by enemy forces Free France, Belgian Mes-
sage, Czech Review, Greek Hellas and so on.
There was also a special type of little review which developed the
book anthology or book magazine. These looked like magazines but were books.
Men and women in the British Military Services brought out anthologies -
Bugle Blast, Khaki and Blue, and Air Force Poetry. The same was true of short
stories, published in little review collections.
Looking back after many years, the editor was only vaguely conscious
of some of these events, in England, a faraway centre of Empire. The editor was
only vaguely conscious also of many of the social forces operating in Guyana
in the 1940's although looking back, it is evident what had taken place.
In the first place, national health had become much better; it was in 1946,
at the end of the war, that Dr. Giglioli and D.D.T. had come together to break
the scourge of malaria, and people no longer had to suffer from crippling fevers.
There was new American money coming into the country from the construction
of the Air Base at Atkinson and at the Naval Base at Makouria. People were eating
more meat so the diet had improved. Harold Stannard had come to Guyana and
encouraged intellectual curiosity and had put creative intelligence in touch
with one another in the Caribbean region especially with Trinidad, Barbados
and Jamaica. The Union of Cultural Clubs that he had encouraged was focus-
sing attention on the development of the arts and the discussion of cultural
values in a planned deliberate and sustained fashion. This meant a gathering of
interest and support that unified the native elite in the country, and a possible
leadership in the country was coming into existence to discuss the intellectual
material written by their peers. By chance there were at least three poets
important by national standards who had begun to write in Guyana and to
maintain a fellowship of poetic and critical imagination in the 1940's.
At the end of the war, there were suddenly available good inexpensive
paperback books in the Penguin Series, making a revolution at that time in
reading in England and America. So the community was open to influences
from abroad in a liberal way. Linkages with groups in the West Indies began
to appear with the little review Focus in Jamaica edited by Edna Manley, with
Bim in Barbados edited by Frank Collymore and Therold Barnes.
There were also deeper social forces at work, now that one can look
back and analyse. In the small community of likeminded people, a strong
contact was being forged between the magazine and the society, and a shape,
a character of being Guyanese was being given to the society. The free play
of mind upon ideas helped a blossoming of what we call literature, and the
description of areas of cultural values and an inventory of the condition of the
arts helped the focussing of common concern and openness to ideas. The
symposia (many of them came later rather than earlier in the biography of
the magazine) encouraged progressive thinking, even though contributors held
diverse views in social and religious matters. But the very clash was important.
In this creation of a literary and intellectual leadership, there was an
unconscious groping towards a position in which the community wanted to
maintain the tradition mediated from England to the British West Indies by
our colonial past and to see how it could be married to all the cultural elements
in the community that were quickening to birth. We did not have a name for
it then, but it was what is called the process of cultural pluralism and national
What was this tradition that we inherited? It was part of the European
heritage leading back to the Greeks, the Romans and the Hebrews, and came
as part of our educational patrimony. With the English language came standards
in literature and criticism. We laid great store by this legacy and consciousness,
and we wanted it included in the new Guyana to be born, since we would
continue to use the English language. The question in our minds perhaps un-
asked, was how we could take this old colonial world and remake it into our own
nation. We were conscious also that many of our members had religions and
therefore cultural values based upon their links with India and others on links
We asked the question, what is there in our past as Guyanese to which we
could give common pride? What were the things that united us rather than the
things that divided us? We wanted to move away from this old world to make a
new world. The old world was still alive and the new world was not yet born.
We were not without some roots. There were the Dutch historical past,
the mythologically valuable Amerindian present, and in some vague way all of
us felt that we could somehow claim those roots and bring them into literary
and cultural production. Vaguely too, we felt that linkages with the West Indies
and others there thinking like ourselves would help to make this new world
Remember that the editor is speaking from a web of reflection and
memory that looks backwards to see the roads travelled by thinking and arti-
culate people in Guyana over the past 40 years. We did not know it then, but
we were placing an intellectual and cultural apex on the traditional colonial
pyramid. There was no university, but the University College of the West
Indies, especially through its Extra Mural Department, was beginning to make
its influence felt in Guyana. It was the inner necessity and urge to freedom that
we were paying attention to. So we focused on the human condition in Guyana,
the here and now of our world.
The value of a magazine like Kyk lies not in its age, but its purpose. The
responsibility and duty of a third world magazine is to name the here and now,
to summon up the values of the past that are embedded in the soil and its
history, and to point to the future from today's discernible trends. One aspect
of the urge to freedom is the ability to choose from among several possibilities.
An editor can request the prose writings to put in his pages and they will be
the fruit of the conscious mind, but we must remember that the poetry he
prints is the expression of what is secret and internal, since the age is about to
make its statements and announce its values through the poets.
Early in its pages in 1945 and 1948, Kyk declared its aims "an instru-
ment to help forge a Guyanese people, make them conscious of their intellectual
and spiritual possibilities build some achievement of common pride in the
literary world make an act of possession of our environment. We so
desperately want to be rooted in the European soil, that is the only earth avail-
able.. the accident of forced immigration into the Caribbean has isolated us
to the impact of a dying civilization so that we can pass on some flaming torch
higher up the line."
L. E. Brathwaite reviewing Kyk in 1966 against these aims felt that the
magazine had not been radical or revolutionary enough, that there had not been
enough analyses. He however observed that then there had been disagreement
with the editor's concept and point of view. He notes the magazine moves from
a purely Guyanese to a West Indian position with the setting up of the University
College of the West Indies, and became aware towards the end, of the importance
of African Culture in the region. He saw as valuable the translated poems of
French West Indian and African poets and the special issues on West Indian
Literature, Pen Portraits of important West Indians, anthologies of Guyanese
and West Indian poetry, the Cities of the Caribbean, Guyanese Christmas, the
Theatre in British Guiana and the Artist in Society. He felt that the poetry of
the main Guyanese poets and the introduction of a radical and critical element
I wish to add certain personal points of view. There were many problems
facing the Editor of Kykoveral. Appointed by his peers in the Writers' Associa-
tion to take charge of the magazine, he had to conduct the business of the pub-
lication in accordance with the agreed aims and with his own standards of
excellence developing these as he went along, following his vision of the future
in the formulation of his plans for successive issues, weighing the ability and
the willingness of his possible contributors, expressing the spirit of the contents
in his leading articles, gauging the relationship between the periodical and his
developing audiences at home and abroad, moving out from a limited Guyanese
writing core to the wider regional contribution and discussion of ideas by fellow
writers of quality in the West Indies, making possible the circulation of these
ideas while they were still fresh, articulating always as best he could the spirit of
the times in thought and sensibility, and with growing support and confidence
playing a creative part in the literary, intellectual and cultural growth of the
country and the region.
As this development of editorial philosophy took place other problems
arose. As noted already, the British Guiana Writers' Association ceased to
exist; then the British Guiana Union of Cultural Clubs ceased to meet. As I
became the editor of a magazine without bases, my own responsibilities as a
Senior Civil Servant deepened, various difficulties arose in securing advertise-
ments, the climate of opinion among the ablest minds in the country changed
imperceptibly from tolerance to internal divisions and to commitments and pre-
possessions on the political scene, in the region the Federation of the West Indies
began to falter and fail in its stride, horizons everywhere began to narrow and
there was a gradual closing of mental frontiers to the circulation and influence
of those ideas of breath and richness of which I had been a champion. I feel sure
that there always exists a regional fraternity of men of letters within the Carib-
bean indeed I was to experience contact with that fraternity during my years
with the Caribbean Organisation and to sample this curiosity and openness of
mind to new ideas without hostility but with the beginning of the 1960's it
was clear that national loyalties and differences of political philosophy were
affecting the existence of periodicals such as Kykoveral.
There is a special relationship between a magazine and an editor. In
Australia, for example, the critic H. M. Green, pointed out that over the period
1900-1950 in three instances, The Bookfellow edited by Stephens, The Lone Hand
by Archibald and the little review The Triad dealing with literary, artistic and
musical matters which migrated from New Zealand to Australia, these maga-
zines were kept alive only by the vision and perseverance of the editors. This
would be true also of Kyk. Contributors had to be coaxed, cajoled, and reminded
in many instances, and they still did not produce the promised contribution, in
which case the editor has to decide whether or not he will write the piece himself
so that the magazine will come out as planned. The relationship eventually can
become that of an anxious mother and a child.
So in 1962 when the editor moved from Guyana to Puerto Rico as a
political casualty, the magazine went to sleep. Since 1945 there has been a great
change in the climate of literary opinion and in Guyana and the West Indies
talents that had been active in the 1940's had moved into politics. There was that
disillusionment also in the wake of the breakup of the West Indian Federation.
Who had been the main readers and supporters of Kyk in its 17 years of
existence? Writers themselves, the middle class, middle-brow people in the city
like clergymen, teachers, doctors, musicians, lawyers, merchants and clerks. The
contributors had been involved in a number of symposia on themes like the
spirit of man, the responsibility of the artist to the community, remembrances
of Christmas from the view-points of living in London, New York, Jamaica; the
arts in Guyana, children and their values, is there a West Indian way of life,
greatness and bitterness, standards of criticism and several on reading meaning
into a poem. These brought readers into involvement and made them into con-
There was a strong section on book reviews. Books that could make any
contribution to the Guyanese way of life were made the subject of reviews and
there was a wide net of persons who responded with a personal reaction to the
books which found a place in the magazine.
Some years ago, a German Literature student prepared an index to
Kykoveral over the period 1945-1961 under eight sections Fiction, Drama,
Poetry, articles on literature and language, articles on history and culture. Mis-
cellaneous articles, Symposia Colloquia, and editorial notes. It was published in
the magazine World Literature Written in English, Nov. 1977. The Editor went
through the pages, 40 in all and realized that this was the distillation of several
years of his creative life. The 16 pages of the names of poets and poems, epito.
mised his relationships with many men and women, some of whom he had never
For example, it was a letter from Miriam Koshland in California that
brought translations of the poetry of Senghor, Cesaire, Lero and Rabearivelo.
Meeting Philip Sherlock, Clare McFarlane and his sons in Jamaica brought an
input of Jamaican poets. The St. Vincent star soloists, Keane, Campbell and
Williams, Telemaque of Trinidad, E. M. Roach from Tobago, Derek Walcott
from St. Lucia, Frank Collymore and H. A. Vaughn and later Eddie Brathwaite
from Barbados, all had sent poems to Kyk, but always Wilson Harris and Martin
Carter could be relied upon to send in poems to be printed.
As I looked at the Index, I realized that Kykoveral is a prism of silver
crystal which has attracted and held glowing images and ideas from more than
150 contributors over 17 years and mingled them into a jewel of memory of
indescribable richness, now flashing in radiant light and now colours of heaving
and seething blue and green and yellow for the delight and development of
thousands of its readers. It's lovely to know that this jewel was once in my hand.
Here in my hands I hold
This happy jewel
These glowing dreams I forged
In a hard school
Visions and memories
Their blessings radiate
And many a blessing more
On new eyes wait.
My life's blood, others too,
This jewel holds
Transformed and caught in words
Glinting with gold
And when with dust my eyes
Still with our happiness
This jewel glows.
Based on an offprint from the Guyana Library Association Bulletin, vol. 9, No. 2, 1980.
ASSAYING FOR A GOLDEN KYK
by IAN McDONALD
Helping to choose what should go into this issue of a "Golden Kyk" I
thought might be a time-consuming chore. It turned out to be a time-enriching
The first good thing I did was decide to read right through all 28 issues
of the old series of Kyk produced between December 1945 when No. 1 appeared
and December 1961. I might have done it differently and cut corners by con-
centrating attention for the most part on the well-known Kyk anthologies: of
Guyanese poetry (No. 19) and of West Indian poetry (No. 14 and No. 22). These,
after all, would contain ore sifted and refined by experts to a purity already
worthy enough for a "Golden Kyk". All that might then be necessary would be
to anthologise the anthologies.
It is a good thing for me that I didn't pursue that slightly dishonest
course. By reading through all 28 issues I came across countless items that
first held my attention, then captured my interest, and ended up considerably
widening and deepening my education. I intended spending not much more than
a few hours speed-reading through these old magazines in order to get an
instant overview of what appeared to me the best things so that I could make
a list which I could then check against the magisterial opinion of AJS, editor
ever since the creation of Kyk and still going strong. Instead I spent many,
many swiftly passing hours reading right through poems, stories and articles,
most of which might not be candidates for "Gold" but which were all the same
fascinating in their own right. Indeed the material so intrigued me that I
found myself putting down even Isabel Allende's great novel "The House of the
Spirits", which I had just been given as a special treasure, in order to
concentrate on this marvellous old Kyk stuff still so full of life and lessons.
A complete sampler of the instruction and pleasure I derived would stretch
for pages. It would certainly include all of Wilson Harris's long-ago poems
which distinguished many early Kyks. I don't know to what extent Wilson, in
these days of his special fame as a novelist of deep and complex significance,
would acknowledge these poems as anything more than apprentice work but they
certainly delighted me. Then, quite apart from his poetry, there were the
articles, editorials and reviews, issue after issue, by AJS on scores of different
cultural themes and personalities. These would themselves make up a valu-
able anthology if they were collected and published. Sometimes the briefest
of notices like Vincent Roth's "Six Most Outstanding Men in British
Guiana's History" whetted the appetite for much more. Very often a line or
two from a long forgotten poem sparkled a small fire in the heart. Personalities
from the past I hardly knew about came to life: Harold Stannard, for instance,
a British Council man, who comes through the years as a wonderfully "complete
humanist" in the collection of tributes to him in Kyk No. 6. There was a
series of vignettes on Caribbean capital cities 33 years ago which are fascina-
ting to read today and made me think how interesting it would be to have a new
series written for a new generation. Issue No. 23 (June 1959) was devoted
entirely to the theatre. It brought special delight and gave impetus to the
idea of preparing an up-to-date issue on the theatrical scene in Guyana today.
With a start of pleased recognition I came across in Kyk No. 24 (June 1958)
extract from an early version of my own novel "The Hummingbird Tree" which
was finally published in 1970. How swiftly time passes before concept becomes
conclusion, if it ever does!
Even the advertisements in the old issues I found had nostalgic value as
they extolled the merits of Ferrol Compound ("Conquer That Obstinate Cough"),
the Portuguese Mutual Pawnbroking Company, Bookers Hardware, the Argosy,
and Raleigh the All-Steel Bicycle. And I noted with amazement the price of a
copy of Kyk in 1950. One shilling! Eighty times cheaper, I regret to say, than the
price of today's product in our inflation-riddled economy!
Time and time again I found myself putting down an old Kyk and think-
ing how much I wished others could read what I had just read with such
pleasure and interest. In December 1961, there was, as just one instance, a won-
derful and still completely relevant exchange of views on "Children and Values
in a Changing Society" in which I found a quotation from the Talmud I did
not know but shall now take care to remember: "Limit not thy children to your
own ideas: they are born in a different time." In issue after issue there were
phrases, ideas, insights, and creations which provoked and pleased. Kyk 15 I
found to be a classic in the series poem-sequences by Martin Carter and Wilson
Harris, extract from a novel by Jan Carew, pen portrait of C. L. R. James, a
wonderful article by Edgar Mittleholzer, translations by Miriam Koshland of
four black French poets which were a revelation, and a score more poems
and reviews to add to a magnificent collection. It was so good I had the im-
mediate feeling that all that was needed was to reissue this number and the search
for a "Golden Kyk" would be over.
Having completed the chore, which had turned into a real pleasure, and
become closely acquainted with all 28 issues of the old Kyk, I was sure there
would be quite enough material to produce not one but a number of "Golden
Kyks" of equal interest and merit. But the task remained to compress that much
of value into a single volume of 128 pages. How to set about such a task?
A lot of it must be done through instinctive reaction to individual poems
and articles as you are reading. This provides a still formidably long list
from which a further assay must be made. At this point, and probably earlier,
certain guidelines or principles of selection form in the mind. It may be useful
to identify these as they occurred to AJS and myself not in any particular order
One. Quality, of course. The poem or piece must not merely be interest-
ing or historically valuable or culturally exotic. It must be well written, it
must have literary merit.
Two. There must be category-spread. A "Golden Kvk would have to
contain not only poems (perhaps Kyk's greatest strength) but also fiction,
literary and other reviews, and articles with a reasonably wide time and subject
span of cultural developments.
Three. There would have to be some mix of the famous and the for-
gotten. Kyk contributors who are currently celebrated writers like Wilson
Harris, Derek Walcott, Martin Carter, Eddie Brathwaite must surely be
substantially included on merit alone. Yet an honoured place must also be found
for stalwarts of the past who might be in danger of sinking undeservedly into
Four. There should be some indication of Kyk's seminal role not only
in providing an outlet for Caribbean writers, especially poets, but also in helping
to form and further a new cultural consciousness in the region.
Five. To some extent pure sentiment, if you like to call it that, would
have to carry the day. It would be impossible, for instance, not to include some-
thing from Kyk Volume I Number 1. Again, however he might protest, a place
of eminence would always have to be found in a "Go!den Kyk" for the work of
the chief begetter of the whole enterprise, AJS himself.
Readers will have to judge the result of trying to apply these guidelines
as faithfully as possible. It has certainly not been possible to accomplish all
that such principles might imply could ideally be achieved. Many marvellous
pieces have had to be omitted. People who have made great contributions to the
Kyk series have been short-changed and in some cases entirely neglected.
For instance, there is not even one piece by Norman Cameron, one of the stalwart
Kyk contributors on a variety of subjects in the 1940's and 1950's. I personally
am dismayed that not one poem or short story by Jacqueline de Weever, once and
still an excellent contributor, has found its way into this collection. A. N. Forde,
Ivan Van Sertima and J. E. Clare McFarlane are others who are, sadly, missing.
And there really isn't enough from Edgar Mittleholzer, who was a regular con-
tributor in the early days, or from Adolphe Roberts of Jamaica, to name just two.
Certain cultural aspects-art, music, theatre, folk-lore, history-abund-
antly covered in Kyk over the years do not find the sort of place they deserve.
There is nothing here, for instance, from the issue, No. 25, devoted entirely to
theatre. Nor has anything been included from the extraordinary issue No. 10
(April 1950) when single-handedly the editor. A. J. Seymour, undertook a
"summary survey of writing in the West Indies". Any abstract from this issue
would either be too short to do justice to the whole or would have monopolised
too much space if justice were to be done. This was often a dilemma. One
would have loved, for instance, to include Richard Allsopp's series of articles
entitled "The Language We Speak" but they were much too long to fit in and one
was therefore simply left thinking, not for the first or last time, whether or
when we will ever see his completed magnum opus on the subject.
There are many, many other regrets. I had a particular admiration for the
1951 Harold Stannard Memorial lecture by AJS on "The Creation of Quality in
the West Indies", but it is not here. It is worth reissuing as a pamphlet on its
own. I would have loved to include all of Wilson Harris's fourteen poems in
a cycle entitled "The Sun" but only some of it has slipped in. Almost above
all there are the lovely wood-engravings by E. R. Burrowes which appeared in
many Kyks in the early days but which it has not proved possible to reproduce
satisfactorily though they thoroughly deserve to be in this "Golden Kyk".
It proved necessary at the last moment, for want of space, to make some
hard choices. As a result of this final assay M. G. Smith's beautiful poem
"Madonna and Child" and Wilson Harris's powerful sequence "The Fabulous
Well" both had to be omitted. With heavy hearts we also omitted at the last gasp
correspondence exchange between AJS, W. H. L. Allsopp, and Leo Small on the
calypso, a concise and perceptive profile of C. L. R. James by Canon J. D.
Ramkeeson, and a critical appraisal of the paintings of Denis Williams by Wilson
Harris. So much was discovered, so much had to be set aside.
Seemingly glaring omissions are inevitable when material enough for
an article on writing history by Allen Young that badly needed reprinting. So
a couple of full-length books has to be reduced sufficiently to cram into about
120 pages. In the end, of course, what happens is that "instinct", "feel",
again takes over and is the final influence on what goes in. To that large
extent this "Golden Kyk" is very much a personal choice and not a carefully
balanced academic exercise.
Even with the final choices made and the material at the printers one
had bad dreams that some great and obvious treasure from these past issues
might have passed unnoticed through our judgements' careful sieve. We are
reconciled to receiving a number of letters beginning "How could you have
forgotten .................?" To many of these we will have to respond I am sure with
a rueful nod and smile of recognition.
Finally, I must recall again the pure pleasure this work of delving into
past Kyks has given me. The magazine merits its "Golden" issue and it deserves
much more. Some day, when Guyanese or regional institutions can afford it, the
whole series of early Kyks, 1945 to 1961, should be reissued for the benefit of
scholars, for the interest of those who love West Indian literature, and for the
pleasure and information of the ordinary reader.
EDWARD KAMAU BRATHWAITE
Hunched, hump-backed, gigantic,
The pianist presides above the
Rumpus. His fingers clutch the chords
Dissonance and discord vie and vamp across the key-
Board. His big feet beat the beat until the
Whole joint rocks. It is not romantic.
But a subtle fingering exudes a sweet exotic
Odour, now and then; you'll
Recognize the fragance if you listen well.
This flower blooms and blossoms un-
Til brash boogie-woogie hordes come bourgeoning up from hell
Blind and gigantic.
She's dark and her voice sings
Of the dark river. Her eyes
Hold the soft fire that only the warm
Night knows. Her skin is musky and soft.
She travels far back, explores
Ruins, touches on old immemorial dreams
Everyone but herself had forgotten. She
Becomes warrior and queen and keeper of the
Tribe. There is no fear
Where she walks, although drums speak
To announce the terrible death of a tyrant
And although her song is sad, there is no sorrow
Where she sings. She walks in a world
Where the river whispers of certainties
That only she can acknowledge. The Trees
Touch confident and unassuming. She hopes
That light will break in the clearing
Before her song ends.
SOLO FOR TRUMPET
He grows dizzy
The sun blares.
Only the brass
Of his own mood.
If he could fly
He would be
He would see
How the land lies
Softly in contours
How the fields lie
Striped, how the
Houses fit into the valleys.
He would see cloud lying
On water; moving like the
Hulls of great ships
Over the land.
But he is only a
He reaches to the sky
With his eyes closed
His neck bulging.
Plummets through the sunlight
Like a shining stone.
INTERLUDE FOR ALTO SAXOPHONE
Propped against the crowded bar
He pours into the curved and silver horn
His old unhappy longing for a home.
The dancers twist and turn
He leans and wishes he could bur
His memories to ashes like some old notorious Emperor of Rome.
But no stars blazed across the sky when he was born
No Wise Men found his hovel. This crowded bar
Where dancers twist and turn holds all the fame
And recognition he will ever earn
On earth or heaven. He leans against the bar
And pours his old unhappy longing in the saxophone.
Holy be the white head of a Negro
Sacred be the black flax of a black child.
The golden down
That will stream in the waves of the winds
And will thin like dispersing cloud.
Heads of Chinese hair
Sea calm sea impersonal
Deep flowering of the mellow and traditional.
Heads of peoples fair
Bright shimmering from riches of their species;
Heads of Indians
With feeling of distance and space and dusk:
Heads of wheaten gold,
Heads of peoples dark
So strong so original:
All of the earth and the sun!
Women stone breakers
Hammers and rocks
Tired child makers
Hard white piles
Under hot sky
In the gully bed.
Women child bearers
Wilful toil sharers
Hammers and rocks.
Why praise him lightly when he turns to die?
Maybe the night is bright, his fiery court;
Maybe the darkness for a night of mourning
New day: the sun's eternal sport
Watching the earth of life and death and sorrow
Now he is dead. Is there for him tomorrow?
His Earth which claims him for her own
Full knows the lover she has sown.
Measure him? His death is living,
Living for the land which knows no death:
He wears the silken day, the veils of night
His hands that hungered at your heart a time
Are now the trees and paths, his epitaphs.
The stars can tell with their sphinx eyes
He's Earth, her lover, and surmise.
Down where the river beats itself against the stones
And washes them in clouds of frothy spray,
Or foaming, fumbles through them with the thousand tones
Of an orchestra,
The women wash, and humming keep a sort of time;
And families of bubbles frisk and float away
To be destroyed,
To be destroyed,
Like all the baffled hopes that had their little suns,
Tossed on the furious drifts of disappointments.
But all the tide.
Cradles these clinging bubbles ever still, alike
The friendly little hopes that never leave the heart
In this big hall of rushing waters women wash
And with the sound of washing,
With the steady heaving of their slender shoulders
As they rub their stubborn rags upon the boulders,
They keep a sort of time ...
With their thoughts. These were unchanging
Like the persistent music here
Of swirling waters,
The crash of wet clothes beaten on the stones.
The sound of wind in leaves,
Or frog croaks after dusk, and the low moan
Of the big sea fighting the river's mouth. ,
The ever changing patterns in the clouds
Before their dissolution into rain;
Or the gay butterflies manoeuvering
Among the leafy camouflage that clothes the banks
And hides their spent remains when they collapse and die;
Are symbols of their hopes and gaudy plans
Which once they dreamt. But finally they learn to hope
And make plans less elaborate.
It was the same
With those that washed before them here
And passed leaving the soap-stained stones
Where others now half stoop like devotees
To pagan gods.
They have resigned themselves to day long swishing
Of wet cloth chafing the very stone;
And the big symphony of waters rushing
Past clumps of tall stems standing alone,
Apart, like band-leaders, or sentinels,
They must hear the heavy hum
Of wings of insects overgrown,
Cleaving the air like bombers on a plotted course.
They must hear the long 'Hush' of the wind in leaves
As dead ones flutter down like living things
Until the shadows come.
Legend that selling bore was hard as greenheart core
of piles driven into heart of a river:
reapers watched boatmen come and go
till Hanna voices jarred the dust,
and white cranes winged their way complacently
to nests in long savannahs:
green grass pointed legions of sharp blades
like warrior's spears abandoned on pavements
of streets of eternity,
for dark evenings when voices spoke with singing of frogs
and piper owls played throaty melodies
in orchestra of silent trees.
Who parted long night to breach dawn
when tife was a cave of green dungeons,
exploded peripheries of light,
while death sailed dreamlessly on a dark river.
Burning eyes peered from window
to watch green galaxies crowding the world,
Islands of grass rooted in moving tides,
tall cocerite palms leaning to gaze at images
in dark pools of sky and water.
The hungry heart leapt from hard selling of life
rippling mirror still poo!s of death,
bursting like flower of concentric rings
to wash grim hope on shores of time.
Howler baboons rent morning with roaring,
heralds of memesis feeding on berries from Long John trees.
Life was a blood-stain, crimson like cocks-comb flower
red as wild orchids
and legend remains hard as green-heart core
of piles driven into heart of a river.
Poems of Prison
BARE NIGHT WITHOUT COMFORT
In a bare night without comfort
Stood like an infant hearing a drum;
Shadows and green grass spinning
But clutched at a world without nearing.
Like dark ball rising from nothing
Hurling curse at me and full of scorn:
Bare night without comfort
Stood like an infant hearing a drum,
WHO WALKS A PAVEMENT
Iron gate the terrible hands of a clock
A calendar with days scratched off and buried,
Slant roof of slate black as the floor of tight cell
Is not a prison, nor a convict shelter.
A prison is go back, go back, go back,
Lash of two things, shell which is the heart
And heart which is the shell-the hollow tear
The man of time whose look can stain a sky
Who walks a pavement, walks and disappears.
THE KIND EAGLE
I make my dance right here!
Right here on the wall of a prison I dance!
This world's hope is a blade of fury
And we. who are sweepers of an ancient sky,
Discoverers of new planet sudden stars
We are the world's hope -
And so therefore, I rise again, I rise again
Freedom is a white road with green grass like love.
Out of my time I carve a monument
Out of a jagged block of convict years I carve it
The sharp knife of dawn glitters in my hand
But how bare is everything tall tall tree
infinite air, the unrelaxing tension of the world
and only hope, hope only, the kind eagle soars and
wheels in flight
I dance on the wall of prison!
It is not easy to be free and bold!
It is not easy to be poised and bound!
It is not easy to endure the spike
So river flood, drown not my pillar feet!
So river flood, collapse to estuary
Only the heart's life, the kind eagle soars and wheels in flight.
ALL OF A MAN
O strike kind eagle, strike!
Grip at this prison and this prison wall!
Scream and accuse the guilty cage of heaven
Hurling me here, hurling me here.
O strike kind eagle, strike
All of a man is heart is hope
All of a man can fly like a bird
0 strike kind eagle, strike.
THE DISCOVERY OF COMPANION
This tower of movement bending on the world
is shocked to motion
crumbling knee and face
in the strange sands of discovery
a gasp of fear is the first farewell to death
the first wave of a hand, the first heart beat,
But the return of arrival is merciless
is a pool of dark water, a terrible mirror.
To bend on a planet of misery
is revelation like apocalypse.
No longer the trunk of a palm, the trunk of a tree
but pillar of endurance.
Yes, to be born again, astonished and made bare
is awareness of companion.
While the blue swords of lightning kill
knowledge is intense and scorching fire.
And only when a man is clad in flame
can he be made to know companion.
This is his first companion valuable fear
a beacon on the sea, a lane of light,
This matron of the trembling loin of man
becomes companion at the precipice,
His human hands are brittle and will crack
like the wall of his heart.
In the ladder from the cave the rungs of time
bend like the working roots that eat the soil.
But fear of losing all is strong like life
losing but not lost.
Fear of inhuman movement is the curse
or the blessing, guide of traveller.
While time is measured in the stretch of years
night can be measureless.
The veinless womb of darkness breeds a bird,
the flying child of fear or curse or blessing
to soar in the blue gables of the world's imprisonment.
And this too is companion
mother of life and motion,
The stranded cables loosen bit by bit
and sink in the flood of a river.
The brittle heart expands a moistened flower.
And the kind eagle soars again
but in the tension of his wing and shadow
moves a man.
Now this ;s the completion of discovery
the life of the world.
So man is wrapped or clad in gowns of fire
each human clutches at companion
in an original sequence, no desire of death.
The arrival in the camp of broken glass
is full of wounding points.
And the streets of life are set about with knives
to cut the travelling eef.
Merciless and bare the moving world revolves
like a circling star.
Only men of fire will survive
all else will move to ashes and to air.
DEATH OF A SLAVE
Above green cane arrow
is blue sky-
beneath green arrow
is brown earth -
dark is the shroud of slavery
over the river
over the forest
over the field.
Ale! black is skin
Aie! red is heart
as round it looks
over the world
over the Forest
over the sun.
in the dark earth
in cold dark earth
time plants the seeds of anger
this is another world
but above is same blue sky
below is same deep heart of agony.
cane field is green dark green
green with life of its own
heart of slave is red deep red
red with life of its own.
day passes like long whip
over the back of slave
day is burning whip
biting the neck of slave.
but sun falls down like old man
beyond the dim line of the River
and white birds
come flying, flying flapping at the wind
white birds like dreams come settling down
night comes from down river
like thief -
night comes from deep forest
in a boat of silence-
dark is the shroud
the shroud of night
over the river
over the Forest
over the Field.
slave staggers and falls
face is on earth
drum is silent
silent like night
hollow like boat
between the tides of sorrow.
in the dark floor
in the cold dark earth
time plants the seeds of anger.
THREE POEMS OF SHAPE AND MOTION
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 stand 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 too 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.
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
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
Jump off the ground
Pull down a star
Burn till you bleed
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
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 themselves
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
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.
UNIVERSITY OF HUNGER
is the university of hunger the wide waste
is the pilgrimage of man the long march.
The print of hunger wanders in the land
the green tree bends above the long forgotten
the plains of life rise up and fall in spasms
the huts of men are fused in misery.
They come treading in the hoofmarks of the mule
passing the ancient bridge
the grave of pride
the sudden flight
the terror and the time.
They come from the distant village of the flood
passing from middle air to middle earth
in the common hours of nakedness.
Twin bars of hunger mark their metal brows
twin seasons mock them
parching drought and flood.
is the dark ones
the half sunken in the land
is they who had no voice in the emptiness
in the unbelievable
in the shadowless.
They come treading on the mud floor of the year
mingling with dark heavy waters
and the sea sound of the eyeless flitting bat,
O long is the march of men and long is the life
and wide is the span.
is air dust and the long distance of memory
is the hour of rain when sleepless toads are silent
is broken chimneys smokeless in the wind
is brown trash huts and jagged mounds of iron.
They come in long lines
toward the broad city.
Is the golden moon like a big coin in the sky
is the flood of bone beneath the floor of flesh
is the beak of sickness breaking on the stone.
O long is the march of men and long is the life
and wide is the span.
O cold is the cruel wind blowing
O cold is the hoe in the ground.
They come like sea birds
flapping in the wake of a boat
is the torture of sunset in purple bandages
is the powder of fire spread like dust in the twilight
is the water melodies of white foam on wrinkled sand.
The long streets of night move up and down
baring the thighs of a woman
and the cavern of generation
The beating drum returns and dies away
the bearded men fall down and go to sleep
the cocks of dawn stand up and crow like bugles.
is they who rose early in the morning
watching the moon die in the dawn
is they who heard the shell blow and the iron clang
is they who had no voice in the emptiness
in the unbelievable
in the shadowless
O long is the march of men and long is the life
and wide is the span.
FRANK A. COLLYMORE
HYMN TO THE SEA
Like all who live on small islands
I must always be remembering the sea.
Being always cognizant of her presence; viewing
Her through apertures in the foliage; hearing,
When the wind is from the south, her music, and smelling
The warm rankness of her; tasting
And feeling her kisses on bright sunbathed days:
I must always be remembering the sea.
Always, always the encircling sea,
Eternal: lazylapping, crisscrossed with stillness,
Or windruffed, aglitter with gold; and the surf
Waist-high for children, or horses for Titans;
Her lullaby, her singing, her moaning; on sand,
On shingle, on breakwater, and on rock;
By sunlight, starlight, moonlight, darkness:
I must always be remembering the sea.
Go down to the sea upon this random day
By metalled road, by sandway, by rockpath,
And come to her. Upon the polished jetsam,
Shell and stone and weed and saltfruit
Tor from the underwater continents, cast
Your garments and despondencies; re-enter
Her embracing womb: a return, a completion.
I must always be remembering the sea.
Life came from the sea, and once a goddess arose
Fullgrown from the saltdeep; love
Flows from the sea, a flood; and the food
Of islanders is reaped from the sea's harvest.
And not only life and sustenance; visions, too,
Are born of the sea: the patterning of her rhythm
Finds echoes within the musing mind.
I must always be remembering the sea.
Symbol of fruitfulness, symbol of barrenness,
Mother and destroyer, the calm and the storm!
Life and desire and dreams and death
Are born of the sea; this swarming land
Her creation, her signature set upon the salt ooze
To blossom into life; and the red hibiscus
And the red roots burn more brightly against her blue,
I must always be remembering the sea.
HAITI'S MOST CELEBRATED FOLK POEM
(Translation by W. Adolphe Roberts)
Behind the big patch of pinguins there
The other day Choucoune I met.
She smiled on me when she saw me stare.
I cried: "Good Lord, what a pretty pet!" (Repeat)
She said: "You really think so, my love,"
And the little birds heard us from above. (Repeat)
When I think of that, my grieving pains.
Since then, my two feet are in chains. (Repeat)
Choucoune is a sambo; she has eyes
That shine like candles lit for you.
Her breasts are firm, and straight they rise,
Ah, if Choucoune had but been true! -
We stayed there and we chatted long,
And the birds in the woods were glad, with song.
Better forget, for the grieving pains.
Since then, my two feet are in chains. (Repeat)
Choucoune's little teeth are white as milk.
Her mouth star-apple colours took.
Not large, she is plump and smooth as silk.
Such women please me at a look.
But yesterday is not today!
The birds heard what she had to say!
Perhaps they know how grieving pains,
Since then, my two feet are in chains!
I went with her to her mama's hut;
As good an old one as there could be!
Who while we drank chocolate and coconut
Said plainly: "This young man pleases me!"
O little birds in the woods that fly,
Is it really all finished and gone by?
Better forget, for the grieving pains.
Since then, my two feet are in chains (Repeat)
The furniture was ready: a fine, deep bed,
Two mattresses, a wardrobe beyond corn' -
Round table with napkins and cloth to spread,
Curtains and cane-chairs and a rocking chair.
Just fifteen days I had to wait ...
Little birds, little birds, hear my fate! .. .
You will understand that my grieving pains.
Since then, my two feet are in chains!
A little white fellow came down there,
With a little red beard and rosy face,
A watch in his pocket, pleasing hair.
He was the cause of my disgrace!
He found Choucoune a pretty dove,
He spoke French to her She fell in love.
Better forget, too much it pains.
Choucoune left me with my feet in chains!
A wonder, the saddest in all this song,
The thing folk cannot forget so soon
Is that in spite of my cruel wrong,
I love and shall always love Choucoune.
She is going to make a little quadroon!
Look, birds! Her belly is now a full moon!
Be still! Close your beaks! The grieving pains.
The two feet of Pierre his two feet are in chains!
The rendering of Choucoune should be in the form of a chant, with in-
cidental musical accompaniment on a banjo or an accordion. Often the reciter
improvises a mere thread of a tune.
the beacon of homecoming: the dark night is illuminated,
in a split second. Thunder rolls
like a breaker of magnitude
in space, the trees stand
caught in the tensions of instantaneous tumult: the crowded
world knows the violent confines of storm to be over
or not yet begun.
So full of stark memory,
it is blinded by the lightning storm of time: like a king, majesty
of action stumbles over a trivial pebble,
the road of homecoming
is dark as night, doom lit up like daylight,
all armour ineffectual.
The swift lightning of reason and unreason
shed uneasiness over the truce of god, the implacable warrior,
whose station is life or death. Each flash lengthens to brief sunset,
or shortens to noon, individual and separate,
leaving the recollection and murmur of violence. The trees are not
more captive in the photography of storm
than each ominous warrior, whose brightness looks substanceless.
One remains in the darkness alive
to count the gain or loss, the vestige of victory or defeat,
from a blinding revelation of peril in the lightning-flash.
is the glory of that noble king?
must he always stand at the well of time
flashing still the stream or murmur of violence as an omen of war fulfilled?
his strength no more than his peers who are substanceless with the shadows
of the dead: his features featureless and enduring
like the storm warning:
Or must he go to his journey's end
to the other timeless well, must he go?
where home is both time and timeless, height and depth, always home.
Home is a mysterious whisper, the strong winds voice faith or conspiracy:
the conspiracy of faith or of love, of lovers: yet the storm out of love's
heart has its own faint secret and no breath of warning may blow.
Silent lies the way home, the road of the spirit, the aftermath
of victory. When war is over, the silent flashing beacon faces
home and eternity like a dream recaptured
a dream of conflict ended, a dream of tranquility.
The memory of homeland, the eternal sky, the green
leaf and the cordial of life, the certainty
of days that pass under easy clouds
without long shadows to divide stream from substance!
Each living definition of beauty
smothered in the murky heart of space when it overpowers
and drenches the constancy of earth: but the stream darkens
only to flash again. Home is the clarity of the soul
in the certainty of destruction.
The purpose or the destiny of a king-to endure lightning of fate -
must render august and memorable
the home of man wherever it be, the startling recovery of time
through the murky feud that deforms constancy.
So life darkens under branches of home
into murder and death
covering friend and foe alike.
But the truce of god still endures
when lightning flash and point to the wounds of the world
in one instant of perception for all:
this fateful flash the promise or well of a king.
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.
Like 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 mud
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 kneaded 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 STONE OF THE SEA
(Ulysses to Calypso)
Muffling time and muffled by time
ironed out to surrender the light or like a star
is the deep bed of the sea like sunshine
crushed to yield blood in darkness. This night of ocean
is its own star of memory, waving gently
the vast water reflects an eerie life and solitude
majestic, strange. an experience of hollowness and yet
of solid mass like substance. The minstrel balance of fins
is feet of dancers, whose poise or quality
is the web of destiny, the organ of reunion
and separation. Every inclination to crawl or creep
upon immensity is nameless. Yet it is sometimes called Birth,
it is sometimes called Death. It is like a stone that melts
into flesh, it is like a colour mysterious in half-light,
equally solid as melting, internally shaded, externally bright.
It appears black, it appears white, merman or mermaid, deeper
than primitive desire in life, it has no footing, it has no ledge,
but in appearance like doom
in a cold spray it sometimes rests or is blown over the range of the
Immortality is part of its nature, the stone of fire
which is resting and yet never rests like the sea.
The whirling chasms of sensation are fixed
like pyramids of immobility, a mindless fixity
in every instant of time. Only the immortal fluid
of stone as star
can turn a succession of waves into light (This is the prayer
of earthly love
to move the stone of the sea
for Glory and its invaluable human spouse, a mortal
being, like Penelope)
(epilogue to the senses: the heart)
Bold outlines are drawn to encompass
the history of the world: crude but naked emphasis
rests on each figure of the past
wherein the golden sunlight burns raw and unsophisticated,
Fires of brightness are sheltered
to burn the fallen limbs of men: the green
spirit of leaves like smoke
rises to mark the barrow of earth
and dwindles to perfection. The stars
in space and time, the fury of fire
that blackens the limbs of each god who falls:
spendthrift creation. The stable dew-drop is flame.
The sun burnishes each star in preparation for every deserted lane.
Time lies uneasy between the paintless houses
weather-beaten and dark.
The Negro once leaned on his spade
breathing the smoke of his labour,
the arch of his body banked to shelter or tame
his slow burning heart
like a glittering diamond:
or else like charcoal to grain
the world, lines of a passionate intention.
The working muses nourish Hector
hero of time: like small roots that move,
greener leaves to fathom the earth.
This is the controversial tree of time
beneath whose warring branches
the sparks of history fall. So eternity to season, it is converted into
an exotic roof for love, the barbaric conflict of man.
So he must die first to be free.
Solid or uprooted in pain, his bright limbs
must yield their glorious intentions to the secret
root of the heart. And musing waters dart
like arrow of memory over him, a visionary: smarting tears
of the salty earth.
The everchanging branches of the world, the green
loves and the beautiful dark veins in time
must fall to lightning and be calm in broken compassion:
but the wind moves outermost and hopeful
auguries: the strange opposition of a flower on a branch to its dark
wooden companion. On the gravel and the dry earth
each dry leaf is powder under the wheels
of war. But each brown root has protection
from the spike of flame. Each branch
tunnels to meet a well or inscrutable
shows the mortality of man
broken into scales that heal the strife of god.
The petals of space return
in a gnarled persistence like time.
To claim eternity as its own
time is this tree of the past
still grows from a mortal bosom.
So now when Hector dies, the creation of a hero
kills a father, a husband and all. What frail succession continues I
Why must he fall
when still a green branch
why shoulder a war with the sulky sky of god
To be truly mortal-
to the immortals climb?
or to be truly fateful
to Hades lean before time
and be dusty and forgetful?
What glory has the almighty promised him?
capricious lightning of victory
while Achilles rests beside the ancient sea
while death waits in the guise of immortality.
Far off the clouds are tinged with pink and purple
the fire and darkness, the passion and the gloom of storm
the unearthly sense of valour subdued: but the caves of death
wait for the mortal
who turns in brightness to the immortal
blandishments of fame or fire!
the wild contest and the atrocious end
must dapple the world with flame and extinction
like still shadows moving in the memories of god.
Save for this tree that continues out of the breast of love,
shelter for what is beleaguered, the struggle that lives and shines!
So Hector knows the trunk of man, the branches of heroes and gods
foreshadowing the labour of all.
Loses his spear and groans to leave his love:
so is he pursued by a contradiction, The fine blades of grass
point their green arrows to his heart: the sun marches
to meet his young night.
his red flowers burning like inexorable stars: his roots serve
to change illusion and forsake
blossoming coals of immortal imperfection.
The people plough the land
but do not own it.
Their children see the land
but do not inherit it,
Labour beneath the ruthless sun broiling and burning
through the skin bears no fruit
but yet it is better to die on rich brown soil than in
These noble peasants who know the pure and simple life
suffer from this rare knowledge,
and forever kissing the hem of destitution
they live with green fields of rice and pasture
sown with the rich dung of contented beasts.
Like a tree so arched by the wind that its crown would kiss
so seem the figures of reapers that gently rob the silent
Fortitude in a shattered shirt
when the sun retires and dusk draws her blanket over
They skirt the dams, these pillars of dignity
to homes of peace and hope
and after the rains a breath of wing brings a pungent
scent of steaming earth
and trees give up their fruit
and the harvest is garnered.
Night's end and bird song. Bright birds,
All through the morn from the child's waking hour,
From perches high in, with cascades of chords,
Drenched the leafy dew-starred hair of trees,
When the gradual, vivid dawn was done
The filigree of dew drops disappeared,
Bird song of the past was blurred
And fumbling the hairless trees
Came time's haze of dust-laden years
Which makes future and past so vague;
And also came the fear that stunned
The fear that I'd grown into stone.
But to-day, bright thoughts have scoured the brain
And I try for the happy words
To express my hope, large as the sun,
That violent as the poui
Which explodes into flowers when earth is cast iron
I shall rend my veil of fears
And burst into song with the radiant tongue
Of the birds, in the trees, in the dawn.
AND THE POUIS SING
In far days in happy shires
In the perfumes that all day creep
From virgin moulds, in the fires
Of a sullen but tolerant sun, deep,
Our roots drilled deep and found
In caverns underground
Rich as the laughter
That slept in Carib eyes before fierce slaughter.
Through the soft air failing,
Swifter than the sleek hawk dives
On the dove, on silent wing
Pilfered their caciques lives
At our feet in our shade
Where once they had played
Children of the sun
Who prayed to the sun to avenge their blood,
Hostile grew the sun and pitiless
Spear sword arrow of light grew fiery
And in the blindness of their bitterness
Bored bird and beast and tree:
Under the whip of savage winds
And intricate with wounds
Fell fold by fold from flanks
That never before had known the driver's lash.
Old. we are old before our prime
(Springs of laughter ran dry
And hearts atrophied) and in our time
Have heard lips lift their cry
To the stone-deaf skies, have seen
How the hawk has been
Stripped of pride
In necessary propitiation;
In vale on hill where slave and cacique died.
Have seen from the blood arise
The cactus, live columbarium
Of the winged tears of indignant eyes,
And from its flowers come
Dim odours, sweetening the air
Through the desolate years
And bringing barren hearts
Auguries of new days, new faith, bright singing.
E. McG. KEANE
Shyly a little
because your innocence is still
innocent of itself,
and you have not
learned your modesty by heart,
my thoughts embraces
of your soul
end every searching their sadness:
sighs are not fulfilled
in their own due longing,
and hope remains mercy
only until the warm
love of its deception
waltzes over the edge of
our one lost moment,
my searching is forever
and so be your innocence,
MY LOVE ARE YOU STRONG
My love, are you strong?
I will bring my life to you like a bundle of washing,
And all they say is my soul
I will bring
Like washing to your sweet rivers.
And will you say this?
Dream deeply of cleansing
In the rivers' bones ...
My love, are you strong?
I will bring my sins to you
On the breast of your rivers, like stones
I will bring my sins
Prayerful to be swept along and away,
And will you say this?
Will you say,
Dream deeply of cleansing
In the rivers' bones
ETIENNE LERO (Martinique)
HE LEFT TODAY
He left today when the grieving forest poured out its flowers in
in a great rhythm of injured things ..
his memory floats, liquid and capricious on the golden steamer
that the jealous soul of old deers
forgets in the forest of their dreaming youth.
whistled a song that was never heard again
And the lost bell
of goats in the mountains
like the prayer of the wind on the slope ...
JEAN JOSEPH (Madagascar)
she whose eyes are prisms of sleep
and whose lids are heavy with dreams,
whose feet are buried in the sea
and whose slimy hands stick out of it
filled with corals and blocks of glistering salt.
She will put them in little heaps near a bay of mist
and sell them to naked sailors
whose tongues were cut out -
until the rain begins to fall.
Then she will no longer be visible
and one will only see
her hair flying in the wind,
like a clump of unwinding algae,
and perhaps some grains insipid salt.
GEORGES DESPORTES (Martinique)
WE HAVE ABANDONED
We have abandoned the rabble, the unfrocked
We have stripped us of our European clothes
Magnificent and barbarous brutes we are;
And we have danced altogether nude
Altogether nude around the high flames
Altogether nude under the red sun of America,
Altogether nude under the bamboos and the palmettos
of the islands
Altogether nude like savages, altogether nude like Negroes.
And we shout our joy of being free
We sing our deliverance and our liberation
Under the luminous sun of the tropical Caribbean;
And the tom-tom re-echoes our joy ...
On our bright faces, generous and relaxed,
The black joy mocks with great flashes of white teeth!
Macerated in the alcohol of our African joy
we rime a new music
To the blows of muffled rolling in drum's cadence
To the dry beaten blows, vibration of drumsticks
And we hurl against the world our primitive challenge
Our prognathious challenge!
Altogether nude under the red sun of America
Altogether nude around the great wood-pile of joy
Altogether nude under the palms, nude under the bamboos
We shout under the sky of the Tropics;
To the sound of powerful jazz from the Caribbean islands
The pride of being black
The glory of being Negroes.
LEOPOLD SEDAR-SENGHOR (Senegal)
AND WE SHALL BATHE
And we shall bathe, my friend, in an African presence
Furnishings from Guinea and the Congo ponderous and polished
sombre and serene
Masks primitive and pure on distant walls yet so near!
Tabourets of honour for the hereditary hosts from the princes of
Of wild and haughty perfumes, thick tresses of silence,
Cushions of shadow and of leisure, the noise of a quiet well,
Classical words and in the distance the alternating chants like the
loincloths of Sudan.
And then friendly light, your blue blindness will soften the
obsession of this presence-
Black white and red, oh, red like the soil of Africa.
The hurricane uproots everything around me
And the hurricane tears out within me leaves and
Whirlwinds of passion blow in silence
But peace on the dry tornado, on the flight of winter!
You, ardent wind, pure wind, wind of beautiful season,
burn each flower, each empty thought
When the sand falls again upon the dunes of the heart.
Servant-girl, suspend your statuesque gesture, and you
children, your games and your ivory laughter,
You, that it consumes your voice and your body,
drying the perfume of your flesh
The flame that lightens my night like a column, like a palm.
Embrace my lips of blood, Spirit, breathe on the
strings on my kora*
That my song will rise, as pure as the gold from Galam.
(*Kora a kind of harp. It has 16-32 strings.)
AIME CESAIRE (Martinique)
Sun serpent's eye fascinating my eye
and the ocean filthy from islands snapping with the fingers of roses
flaming spear and my body unharmed by lightning
water mounts the dead bodies of light lost in the pompless halls
whirlwinds of icicles crown the heart reeking of crows
this is the voice of tamed lightning turning upon their
hinges of cracks
transmission of anolis in the landscapes of cut glass
these are the vampire flowers climbing to the relief of orchids
elixir of the central fire
righteous fire of the mango tree in a night covered with bees
my desire a hazard of tigers surprised at the brimstones
and alarm golden the childish strata
and my pebble body eating fish eating
leaves and sleep
the sweetness of the word Brazil at the bottom of the swamp.
The wheel is the most beautiful invention of men and his only one
there is the sun which turns
there is the earth which turns
there is your face which turns on the axle of your neck when you cry
but your minutes will not coil the licked up blood around the spool of life
the art to suffer is as sensitive as the stump of a tree under the knife
of the winter
the hind weary from not drinking
puts for me unexpectedly upon the well's edge
your face of a dismastered schooner
like a village asleep at the bottom of a lake
to be reborn on the day of grass and the year
GEORGE W. LAMMING
By no other name are these
The imperturbable birds more beautiful,
No likelier image for the summer's curl
Of white light caught from the sea's
Arterial cells; or the moon's wry
Face carved on the curved aristocratic sky.
Sailing the solitude of their customary waters
Dark and dimpled in the windy morning,
Instinct prompts a ritual of preening
The rude arrangement of their feathers,
And leaping with the leaping light of dawn
They crown the river with a white perfection.
Later the circus arrives
With its ready-made apparatus of pleasures,
Dogs and women and the dutiful masters
Of small boats swimming their lives
Through charted areas of water
And chuckled warnings of the wind's laughter.
The birds thoughtful, decorous, austere,
Retreat to a far side of the river,
Their eyes held in a puzzled stare
Measure their recently arrived spectator.
Some cluster to a deep deliberation
Or ponder in amazement their own reflection.
Leisurely the evening ambles,
Through the stained air, on torn leaves,
Over the lame, dry grasses.
Sadly, silently the late light falls,
And the waving curl of water dies
Where the winged white quietude at anchor lies.
Now blank desertion fills the senses,
Over the howling city
Louder than the cry of industry,
The moon sheds a contagion of madness,
And water fills the eyes of the visitor
Entering the legend of this historic river.
BIRTHDAY POEM FOR CLIFFORD SEALY
Today I would remember you whom birth brought no lucky dip
From which to pluck a permanent privilege,
And pain pushed prematurely into prose.
The photograph that recreates a child whose glance
Cast on the rescuing rock reads tyranny
His body bare to the bellowing wind
Has proved your former existence,
So when the season of awareness came
Passion made politics a serious game
And poverty your partner. How well I understood
The intolerant gesture, the juvenile lust to murder
An evil that had forged your life.
My birth records a similar story:
The freezing bastardy, the huddled tenantry,
Where children carry parents' pains like a uniform
Articulate only in their loyalty to life
The individual desire or despair mocking most faithfully
Barometers that measure another's will
And happiness as time indeed has shown
Absolved by the evil, intelligent question:
Was that piece of land a paying concern?
Those who start life without a beginning
Must always recall their crumbling foundations,
Rushing past affliction of the womb's unfortunate opening,
Reconsider now and again their earliest ambitions,
Or poised somewhere between loss and a possible arrival
Question their precarious present portion
What new fevers arise to reverse the crawl
Our islands made towards their spiritual extinction?
Do you still patrol the city's unsavoury sites
Probing the prostitutes' hearts? Setting your intelligence
An exercise in pity as the warm nights
Drift their human flotsam before your questioning glance?
Nothing is changed in the news that reaches me here:
Papers continue to print the impossible, and rumours telegraph
Whatever falls within the senses' gauge,
Young poets are decorated with foreign approval
For precocious statements in a borrowed language,
Fashionable women whom comfort couldn't bless with sense
Still flock to applaud lectures by men
Who've a soft spot for the sound of their voices,
Corruption is keen: time throbs
With the ache of the proud and the sensitive like you
Who angrily wade through the vacuum
Forever afloat with oily seas,
While politicians posing incredible paunches
Parading their magical and primitive power
Fit the incompetent into jobs.
Life is similar in (what some call) the Mother Country
Where our people wear professions like a hat
That cannot prove what the head contains,
Success knows what grimace to assume,
Mediocrity is informed by a bright sense of bluff,
And Democracy a convenient attitude for many,
Students whom the huge city has shorn of glamour
Divorced from their status by a defect of colour
Find consolation in Saturday nights
With eloquent white whores that dance;
Or at nightfall over their new habit of tea
Argue with an elephant's lack of intelligence
Our culture must be spelt with a West Indian C.
We must suffer in patience whom life received
On islands cramped with disease no economy can cure,
Go with or without our lovers to the quiet shore
Where the reticent water weaves its pattern
And crabs crawl with a peculiar contemplation of the land,
Move through the multitude's monotonous cry
For freedom and politics at the price of blood,
Yet live every moment in the soul's devouring flame,
Until we fold with the folding earth.
Erect our final farewell in tree or cloud,
Hoping (if possible) for a people's new birth.
So you who care little for festival,
The seasonal sports, the carnival
Of barren souls in the February noon,
Preferring to inhabit your room, hoping to lean
On some durable solace in pages that justify
Your honest but innocent worship of the Russian regime
May not question why your exiled friend,
Seldom at ease in the habits of his time,
Never understanding why people pretend
To manufacture good wishes at certain times of the year,
Should yet try sincerely to offer you
A gift in words on your birthday.
EGBERT MARTIN (LEO)
Who would not follow thee, swallow, in flight
On clean, swift wings thro' the opal light,
Away in purple of setting sun,
With a mad, wild joy till the day is done?
Who would not sweep, like a flash, thro' and thro'
The deep, vast void of the liquid blue,
With never a care but to cut the air,
With never a heed but delirious speed,
And a life-a full life that is life indeed?
Who would not soar ever more and more,
Till the great earth seems but a spectre shore?
Who would not be in a sphere like thee,
Of glorious ether, for ever free?
Who would not mount with a swifter speed
Than the eye can follow or thought can heed;
With never a pause save to gently float,
On the sea of air like a drifting boat,
With a soft, full breast and a curving throat?
Past river and lake past the hills of white,
Past the houses' tops at a dizzy height,
Past the silent lake thro' whose crystal breast
Thy faint shadow flits like a spiritual guest,
Past the low long lines of the great flat plains
Where eternal silence for ever reigns,
So swiftly you fly now low and now high,
In chase with the clouds that lazily fly,
A voyager voyaging joyously.
Who would not follow thee, swallow, in flight,
In the cool, sweet air of the early night?
When each star hung high with its cheerful eye,
Drops golden treasure right gloriously,
And the moon high hung, like a censer swung,
Floods a rare light ever fresh and young.
Oh, who would not follow thee, beautiful swallow,
From life and its trials so trying and hollow?
Who would not rise, with a happy surprise
Away and away into happier skies?
THEMES OF SONG
Splendour of morning, splendour of even, splendour of night,
Splendour of sun and stars, and splendour of all things bright,
Splendour in deepest deep, and splendour in highest height,
These are the themes of song.
Beauty of ocean, beauty of river, beauty of lake,
Beauty that comes in dreams, and the living hues that wake,
Beauty that gleams and glows for the very beautiful's sake;
These are the themes of song.
Music that floods the soul in waves of delicious sound
Music that gushes fresh, spontaneously around,
Music in every voice and murmur of nature found,
These are the themes of song.
The twilight shuddered into gloom
The trees stood trembling in the air
And flung their green umbrageous arms
Above their wildly floating hair.
While saddened misereres fell
Like organ-peals in full excess
From breezes equal fall and swell
In agonies of bitterness.
The morning aged to older day
And burst in shreds of vivid light,
Bestrewing on the lying way
Its carnival of heat and light.
The wind a wondrous "Gloria" rolled
Deep through the cloudy arch of space,
Chord after chord, whose notes of gold
Were smothered in the rhyme of grace.
WALTER MAC A. LAWRENCE
And falling in splendour sheer down from the height
that should gladden the heart of an eagle to scan,
That lend to the towering forest beside thee the semblance
of shrubs trimmed and tended by man, -
That viewed from the brink where the vast amber volume
that once was a stream cataracts into thee,
Impart to the foothills surrounding the maelstrom beneath
thee that rage as the troublous sea,
The aspect of boulders that border a pool in the scheme of
a rare ornamentalist's plan,
Where, where is the man that before thee is thrilled not-
that scorneth the impulse to humble the knee,
With the scene of thy majesty resting upon him, and
conscious of flouting some terrible ban?
Who, who can behold thee, O glorious Kaieteur, let down
as it were from the fathomless blue,
A shimmering veil on the face of the mountain obscuring
its flaws from inquisitive view,
Retouched with the soft, rosy glow of the morning and
breaking the flow of desultory light,
Or bathed in the brilliant translucence of noontide a
mystical mirror resplendently bright.
Or else in the warm sanguine glory of sunset, a curtain of
gold with the crimsoning hue
Of the twilight upon it or drenched in the silvery flood of
the moonlight subliming the night,
And feel not the slumbering spirit awaking to joy in the
infinite greatly anew?
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.
TO A CARRION CROW
They call you Carrion Crow
scorn to eat your flesh
spit when they see you administering the last rites
call you Cathartes: the Clean-up,
yet if they only knew the
secret of your strange religion.
Once you were the silver bird of the heavens
once you flew as high and as free
as only a bird can. The sky was yours
for you were king of the air
was the secret of your discontent:
it was not enough to just live and die,
not-knowing. You kept asking, whence came I,
whither go I, and why? The sky
must hold the answer, you thought,
and sought long and desperately
to glimpse what lay beyond it.
Relentlessly you fought
pitted bone and feather and tendon
against the blue barrier that mocked you, locked you off
from the secret world behind its curvature.
But you were more determined than it knew
and could fly higher.
So you perspired at your quest
until one inspired day you flew
so hard and so fast against the blue
closing your wings at the last
minute for penetration
that at last you had a look at the other side.
Nobody knows what you saw
when you passed through
but you burned in that sacred blue fire
and returned, black as coals, dumb,
numb from the experience
to become this mendicant preacher
minister to those souls who die without sacrament
trading blessings for food
a saved soul for a full belly.
And now when I see you
crowding a carcass for the unction
or nailed against the sky like a crucifix
with the two spots of tarnished silver
beneath your wings where you'd closed them
I long to have you say a De Profundis for me
when I die, and I wonder:
Was yours a punishment or a purification?
Sunset had called in the colours
But not yet was it dark,
The pool lay a mirror of silver
Without spot or mark.
When out from the green mirrored mangroves
Stepped a wonder of white
A great heron wandering homeward,
Before it was night.
The pool held the moon and the heron,
And the first white star,
In a beauty beyond all imagining,
As I watched from afar.
And my heart sang aloud to its Maker
In thanks and delight,
Who gave me that moment of beauty,
Before it was night.
Selling pineapple is her art
Sad old woman pushing cart
Near Dutch Stabroek every day
You can find her minding tray
Full of sunripe 'Quibo pine
"Come an' buy me God-ripen pine!"
When the sun is hot and gold
01' woman get a lot of pineapple sold
Rich lady come with palmolive skin
Then the bargaining fun begin
Rich woman probably good at heart
But she got to bargain to play the part
So while silver shilling bursting her purse
She letting fly with less pence than curse
And old woman with her age and pine
Have to cut the price down fine
So she squatting down beside she tray
Twelve hard hours by the end of she day
Pineapple ripe smelling sweet of sun
Turning she belly by the time day done
Dollar fifty profit from the fat gold pine
If a day make so much she doing fine
And go down Stabroek in Maytime rain
Look for that old pine woman again
She old grey dress bursting away
Rotting and fade in the rains of May
But she under the branch of a saman tree
Still working out she destiny
Selling pines from 'Quibo fat and gold
Until the heart inside she chest get cold
Forty years by Stabroek rain and shine
Sad old woman selling pine
And when she dead by a 'Quibo charcoal pit
Nobody bother or care one shit
She was buying pine to sell in the morning
But she never reach to sell that morning
Stabroek looks the same old way
In suns of March or rains of May.
SON ASLEEP-AGED SIX MONTHS
Before our own. sleep of passion, dreams, and clocks
Warm wife and my proud self watch by his sovereign bed,
Over the child our smiling eyes like emperor's shine,
In his warm life our hopes spring tall as spears.
Pray God he finds a. destiny well-designed;
Against the terrific future how can he sleep so soft ?
He is not golden-armed, he is not tall or strong
So gently born, so sweetly grown, so calm
He rests soft beyond birth only half a year
Deathless he must be, no pains will visit him
He breathes quiet as white leaves of moonlight
His fist clenches like a young rose in his sleep
My son's face is serious for peace and good intent
His small heart is burning like a star.
That is not so, he is not safe forever
Death rages in man's bones all the days he lives
My son's not singular, death rages in him too.
Long time to come, long years past this proud present watching
He will find agonies enough, he will be hurt
The flesh kingly is but kings' dethronement comes.
Yet let him sleep so soft as this
Give him some sweet preliminary of life
Do not warn him too soon of cruelties and sleepless lusts.
The bribery of habits, red wounds, the iron nations' wars.
In this raw age of jealous total moods
When men soon march to orders behind dogmatic whims
We watch and deeply love and we determine this:
Take childhood's time and make a dream of it.
Music a kind of sleep
imposes on this weary flesh
wind beyond silence
speech of the God who ordered
trees flowering of dark earth
light, essence of darkness
in arrogant disorder all about
pale quiet strength of stellar presence
hears in a wonderful dread
music a calm
above the wild torment of nameless waters.
JACOB AND THE ANGEL
And shall a man
mortal though the mind
covets eternity seek only
this seek only to endure
whether failings of breath and bone,
corruption of flesh and faith?
Too thin too thin the wind
of consolation here
the outer edge of prayer
the unexo:cised inexorcisable knife
selfknowledge is closer to distant stars
whose stare is lonely and unexplained
solemn and keen and unwinking like regret
than to old Earth estranged now
a pillow of cold stone.
For his mate
And woman sultry
With eyes of hate.
Lithe and lonely
Along a wall
Blown about her legs
And long black hair
Falling over shoulders
Barem and touching'
Breasts young and fult
Of pulsig life,
Along the wall.
The man wordd follow.
MEDITATIONS OF A MAN SLIGHTLY DRUNK
I came, and they drunkened me lightly
With a medley of liquors.
There was falernum,
There were literary disagreements,
Yes, but chiefly there was rum.
They talked to me of stanzas,
The ancient and the very modem.
They broached even painting,
Haggled about form,
Over Epstein concorded with reverece,
Yes, but chiefly there was rum.
We jabbered of pendulums
Pendulums that swung like my vision.
They gesticulated and bawled -
Ranting about matter,
Yes, but never forgetting the rum.
We slashed at Swinburne,
And we justly kicked old Kipling.
We grimaced dreadfully at Pater,
How we hacked poor Donne,
And sniffed at Rupert Brooke!
Though, always, always, mind,
There was the rum!
E. M. ROACH
TO MY MOTHER
It is not long, not manydays are left
Of the dead sun, nights of the crumbled moon;
Nor far to go; not all your roads of growth,
Love, grief, labour of birth and bone
And the slow slope from the blood's noon
Are shorter than this last.
And it is nothing. Only the lusty heroes
And those summer's sweet with lust
And wine and roses fear. The children do not;
Theirs is young Adam's innocence.
The old do not; they welcome the earth's suction
And the bone's extinction into rock.
The image of your beauty growing green,
Your bone's adolescence I could not know,
Come of your middle years, your July loins.
I found you strong and tough as guava scrub,
Hoeing the growing, reaping the ripe corn;
Kneading and thumping the thick dough for bread.
And now you've bowed, bent over to the ground;
An old gnarled tree, all her bows drooped
Upon the cross of death, you crawl up
Your broken stairs like Golgotra, and dead bones
Clutch at your dying bones .
I do not mourn, but all my love
Praise life's revival through the eternal year.
I see death broken at each seed's rebirth.
My poems labour from your blood
As all my mind burns on our peasant stock
That cannot be consumed till time is killed.
Oh, time's run past your hands made bread
To this decrepitude; but in the stream
Of time I watch the stone, the image
Of my mother making bread my boyhood long,
Mossed by the crusty memories of bread.
O may my art grow whole as her hands' craft.
I AM THE ARCHIPELAGO
I am the archipelago hope
Would mould into dominion; each hot green island
Buffetted, broken by the press of tides
And all the tales come mocking me
Out of the slave plantations where. grubbed..
Yam and cane; where heat and hate sprawled down
Among the cane-my sister sired without
Love or law. In that gross bed was bred
The third estate of colour. And now
My language, history and my names are dead
And buried with my tribal soul. And now
I drown in the groundswell of poverty
No love will quell. I am the shanty town.
Banana, sugarcane and cotton man;
Economies are soldered with my sweat
Here, everywhere; in hate's dominion;
In Congo, Kenya, in free. unfree America.
I herd in my divided skin
Under a monomaniac sullen sun
Disnomia deep in artery and marrow.
I burn the tropic texture from my hair;
Marry the mongrel woman or the white;
Let my black spinster sisters tend the church,
Earn meagre wages, mate illegally,
Breed secret bastards, murder them in womb;
Their fate is written in unwritten law,
The vogue of colour hardened into custom
In the tradition of the slave plantation.
The cock, the totem of his craft, his luck,
The obeahman infects me to my heart
Although I wear my Jesus on my breast
And burn a holy candle for my saint.
I am a shaker and a shouter and a myal man;
My voodoo passion swings sweet chariots low.
My manhood died on the imperial wheels
That bound and ground too many generations;
From pain and terror and ignominy
I cower in the island of my skin,
The hot unhappy jungle of my spirit
Broken by my haunting foe my fear,
The jackal after centuries of subjection.
But now the intellect must outrun time
Out of my lost, through all man's future years,
Challenging Atalanta for my life,
To die or live a man in history,
My totem also on the human earth.
O drummers, fall to silence in my blood
You thrum against the moon; break up the rhetoric
Of these poems I must speak. O seas,
O Trades, drive wrath from destinations.
Seven cedars break the Trades
From the thin gables of my house:
I know the green demonic rage
When gales are trapped in their thick foliage
But weathers turn, the drought returns,
The great sun burns the green to ochre
Dry racking winds knock the boughs bare
Till they are tragic stands of sticks
Pitiful in pitiless noons
But know dusk's bounty and the moon's.
Beyond the cedars there are fields
Where one man sweated but his days
Wearying his stubborn bone.
He'd bought thick woodland for his own,
Set his axe of hope upon it
With his rugged bones of courage
And left his sons an heritage.
This heavy drudgery for a man
But plants his spirit in the earth
That blooms no fragrance of his worth.
So I write his epitaph
In his own blood of hope and faith:
"His life was simple peasant bread,
"He wrote his memoirs in his head,
"His heavy labour drained his face.
"He felt to his arthritic bone
"Both our weathers of the sun.
"God was his good friend on his fields
"In changing skies and wind and rain;
"He harvested his faith in grain".
Though his heavy days are done
He is present in the fields
In natural holy images.
He's girth and growth of all his trees,
He's on these tracks his goings made
In his slow to and fro in boots
As Earthy as his nurtured roots
To every furrow of the land.
To every shaken grace of grass
He is the spirit of the place.
An un-named, unknown slaveman's son;
Paysan, paisano; of all common
Men time-long in fields world over
In the cotton, corn and clover
Who are not told, but tell their breed
Through history's book, as passive, as
Unkillable as common grass;
Whose temperate and patient soul
The heavy loam of human earth
Feeds woods of wisdom, art and faith.
He plucked a burning stylus from the sun
And wrote her name across the endless skies
And wrote her name upon the waxing moon
And wrote her name among the thronging stars.
If the pale moon forgets he will remember,
Lovers remember though love's ghost sigh in the sun
Or whimper in despair in the large dark,
The seas are sorrows
And the seas accept the moon's dark tragedies.
The seas reflect the yearning of the stars.
His heart is weary as the endless seas.
His soul is wearier than the flowing wave,
O dark tide of no hope,
O blood of tears still sings the sun.
No cloud can blind the memory of the moon
Or blot the legend from the ageless stars.
W. ADOLPHE ROBERTS
ON A MONUMENT TO MARTI
Cuba, dishevelled, naked to the waist,
Springs up erect from the dark earth and screams
Her joy in liberty. The metal gleams
Where her chains broke. Magnificent her haste
To charge into the battle and to taste
Revenge on the oppressor. Thus she seems.
But she were powerless without the dreams
Of him who stands above, unsmiling, chaste.
Yes, over Cuba on her jubilant way
Broods the Apostle, Jose Julian Marti.
He shaped her course of glory, and the day
The guns first spoke he died to make her free.
That night a meteor flamed in splendid loss
Between the North Star and the Southern Cross.
A. J. SEYMOUR
SUN IS A SHAPELY FIRE
Sun is a shapely fire turning in air
Fed by white springs
and earth's a powerless sun.
I have the sun today deep in my bones,
Sun's in my blood, light heaps beneath my skin.
Sun is a badge of power pouring in
A darkening star that rains its glory down.
The trees and I are cousins. Those tall trees
That tier their branches in the hollow sky
And, high up, hold small swaying hands'of leaves
Up to divinity, their name for sun
And sometimes mine. We're cousins.
Sheet light, white power comes falling through the air,
All the light here is equal-vertical -
Plays magic with green leaves and, touching, wakes
The small sweet springs of breathing scent and bloom
That break out on the boughs,
And sun has made
Civilisation flower from a river's mud
With his gossamer rays of steel.
These regions wear sharp shadows from deep suns.
The sun gives back her earth its ancient right
The gift of violence.
Life here is ringed with the half of the sun's wheel
And limbs and passions grow in leaps of power
Suddenly flowing up to touch the arc.
Upon this energy kin to the sun
To learn the trick of discipline and slow skill,
Squaring in towns upon an empty map
Hitching rivers to great water wheels.
Taming the fire to domesticity.
Sun is a shapely fire floating in air
Watched by God's eye. The distance makes it cool
With the slow circling retinue of worlds
Hanging upon it.
Move other stars with their attendant groups
Keeping and breaking pace in the afternoon
Till the enormous ballet music fades
And dies away.
Sun is a shapely fire
Turning in air
Sun's in my blood.
THERE RUNS A DREAM
There runs a dream of perished Dutch plantations
In these Guiana rivers to the sea.
Black waters, rustling through the vegetation
That towers and tangles banks, run silently
Over lost stellings where the craft once rode
Easy before trim dwellings in the sun
And fields of indigo would float out broad-
To lose the eye right on the horizon.
These rivers know that strong and quiet men
Drove back a jungle, gave Guiana root
Against the shock of circumstance, and then
History moved down river, leaving free
The forest to creep back, foot by quiet foot
And overhang black waters to the sea.
Beauty about us in the breathe of names
Known to us all, but murmured over sofly
Woven to breath of peace.
If but a wind blows, all their beauty wakes.
Kwebanna on the Waini-Indian words
And peace asleep within the syllables.
Cabacaburi and the Rupununi
Reverence is guest in that soft hush of names.
For battle music and the roll of drums.
The shock and break of bodies locked in combat
The Tramen Cliff above Imbaimadai.
Guiana, Waini are cousin water words .....
The Demerary, Desakepe and Courantyne
Flow centuries before strong tongues bewitch
Their beauty into common county names.
Through all the years before the Indians came
Rocks at Tumatumari kept their grace,
And Tukeit, Amatuk and Waratuk
Trained ear and eye for thundering Kaieteur.
And there are mountain tops that take the sun
Jostling shoulders with seaward-eyed Roraima ....
These Amerindian names hold ancient sway
Beyond the European fingers reaching,
Forever reaching in, but nearer coast
Words born upon Dutch tongues live in our speech.
The sentinel that was Kykoveral
Beterverwagting, Vlissengen and Stabroek
And sonorous toll of bells in Vergenoegen.
For French remembrance, Le Ressouvenir,
The silent and great tomb of an exile's anguish,
Le Repentir-that city of the dead .....
Simple the heritage of English names
Hid in Adventure, Bee Hive, Cove and John,
And Friendship, Better Hope, and Land of Canaan
Garden of Eden and ... so Paradise.
Out west are places blessed by Spanish tongues
Santa Rosa, white chapel on a hill .....
Beauty about us in the breathe of names,
If but a wind blows, all their beauty wakes.
TO-MORROW BELONGS TO THE PEOPLE
Living in tenement yards
Dying in burial societies
The people is a lumbering giant
That holds history in his hand.
The efficient engineers dam the conservancies
Design the canals and the sluices
The chemists extract their sugar to the ton.
The millers service the padi into rice
And the heavy lorries and unpunctual ships
Bring ground provisions from the farms.
But always the people is a hero, a vast army
Making the raw material for skill and machines to work upon.
They frequent the cinemas
Throng the races and the dance halls
Pocket small wages with a sweating brow
And ragged clothes;
But it is their ignorant, illegitimate hands
That shape history.
They grow the cane and the rice and the ground provisions
They dig the gold and the diamonds and the bauxite
They cut the forests and build the bridges and the roads and the wall to keep
out the sea.
History is theirs,
Because history doesn't belong
To the kings, and the governors and the legislature.
Is the work men do with their hands
When they battle with the earth
And grow food and dig materials
For other people's profits and other people's skill.
And other people know it too.
The labour leaders and the politicians
Shake fists to rouse the rabble
But that giant, the people,
They say yes or no to the proposition.
Chinese running their groceries and their laundry places
Portuguese controlling the dry goods and the pawnshops
Indians saving every half of a shilling
Cutting in canefields
Breaking their backs to grow rice.
Africans tramping aback for the provisions.
Running the falls "topside" for fabulous diamonds,
Becoming the teachers, the policemen, and the Civil Servants
They are all heroes,
They make history
They are the power in the land.
And the women work patiently along with the men
And look after the children as best they can.
And the children grow
Force their way out of the slums into the professions
And stand up in the legislature.
To-day they hope
But to-morrow belongs to the people.
To-morrow they will put power behind their brow
And get skill in their hands.
They will make a hammer to smash the slums
And build the schools.
Like a River,.the people hold history in their hands
And To-morrow belongs to them.
PHILIP M. SHERLOCK
Long Mountain, rise,
Lift you' shoulder, blot the moon,
Black the stars, hide the skies,
Long Mountain, rise, lift you' shoulder high
Black of skin and white of gown
Black of night and candle light
White against the black of trees
And altar white against the gloom,
Black of mountain high up there
Long Mountain, rise,
Lift you' shoulder, blot the moon,
Black the stars, black the sky.
Africa among the trees
Asia with her mysteries
Weaving white in flowing gown
Black Long Mountain looking down
Sees the shepherd and his flock
Dance and sing and wisdom mock.
Dance and sing and falls away
All the civilised today
Dance and sing and fears let loose;
Here the ancient gods that choose
Man for victim, man for hate
Man for sacrifice to fate
Hate and fear and madness black
Dance before the altar white
Comes the circle closer still
Shepherd weave your pattern old
Africa among the trees
Asia with her mysteries.
Black of night and white of gown
White of altar, black of trees
"Swing de circle wide again
Fall and cry me sister now
Let de spirit come again
Fling away de flesh an' bone
Let de spirit have a home".
Grunting low and in the dark
White of gown and circling dance
Gone to-day and all control
Now the dead are in control
Power of the past returns
Africa among the trees
Asia with her mysteries.
Black the stars, hide the sky
Lift you' shoulder, blot the moon,
Long Mountain rise.
M. Q. SMITH
The wind breathes a mellow oboe in my ear
I from the seas of life
Have filled my cup with foam.
The tension of Time's waves has broken on
The menace is resolved in foam.
Soon the suave night's surrender
And the mass music of the dark
Falls fragment into foam.
To apprehend the foam the waves declared
And drink the milk pure from the farm of Time.
Nebular and luminous
The stars the peaks achieve
Found foam of peaks and stars-
So bracket the stars with bubble
Fill baskets of white berries from the sea
All is a rich donation
The waves are lines of epic
The sea a deep quotation
The foam the complete poem.
I hear the sea's half-breath half-moan
Sweep in fugues through me
And the wind breathes an oboe in my ear.
HAROLD M. TELEMAQUE
Who danced Saturday mornings
Between immortelle roots
And played about his palate
The mellowness of cocoa beans,
Who felt the hint of the cool river
In his blood,
The hint of the cool river
Chill and sweet.
Who followed curved shores
Between two seasons.
Who took stones in his hands.
Stones white as milk
Examining the island in his hands;
Shells as pink as frog's eyes
From the sea.
Who saw the young corn sprout
With April rain.
Who measured the young meaning
By looking at the moon.
And walked roads a footpath's width,
Cooed with mountain doves
Come morning time.
Who breathed mango odour
From his polished cheek.
Who followed the cus-cus weeders
In their rich performance.
Who heard the bamboo flute wailing
And watched the poui golden
Who with the climbing sinews
Climbed the palm
To where the wind plays most,
And saw a chasmed pilgrimage
Making agreement for his clean return.
Was heaviness of dreams,
From drowsy gifts.
Who lifted into shape
The huge stones of the pyramid;
Who formed the Sphinx of the desert.
And bid it
Look down upon the centuries like yesterday;
Who walked lithely
On the banks of the Congo,
And heard the deep rolling moan
Of the Niger;
And morning and evening
Hit the brave trail of the forest
With the lion and the elephant;
Who, when it came that they should leave
Their urns of History behind,
Left only with a sad song in their hearts;
And burst forth into soulful singing
As bloody pains of toil
Strained like a hawser at their hearts .....
To those, hail .....
H. A. VAUGHAN
There's beauty in these voices. Do not base
Your judgment purely on the affrighted street,
The howling mob, the quarrel, or repeat
Your scathing strictures on the market place.
There's beauty always urgent in this race
That baffles bondage from its sure retreat
Of song and laughter. Loud and low and sweet
There's beauty in these voices, by God's grace.
Detect two lovers underneath the stars,
Hear the lone worker as he works and sings,
The Christmas choirs whose joyous martial bars
Go forth to greet the new born King of Kings,
And, after this life's numerous frets and jars,
The friends who mourn the end of terrene things.
Turn sideways now and let them see
What loveliness escapes the schools,
Then turn again, and smile, and be
The perfect answer to those fools
Who always prate of Greece and Rome,
"The face that launched a thousand ships,"
And such like things, but keep tight lips
For burnished beauty nearer home,
Turn in the sun, my love, my love!
What palm-like grace! What poise! I swear
I prize these dusky limbs above
My life. What laughing eyes What
THE YELLOW CEMETERY
"They are alive and well somewhere
The smallest sprout shows there is really no death
And if ever there was it led forward life, and does not wait at the end
to arrest it."
All grains are the ash to ashes drowsing in the morning,
Wearing white stone. I passed them, not thankfuller to be
Their living witness, not noisy in salt like the near sea,
Because they are spaded to the dirt, our drowning.
As lovely as the living, and safer, to the bay's green mourners
They will unkeening bones, and they are happy.
Lost the candle and censer mysterytale, the swung smoke
Of dying. Could they speak more than bramble, they'd be
One in the language of the sun and the bibleling froth,
Their now bread is broken stone, their wine the absent blood
They gave to days of nails.
It is enough
And greater is no grace, no surplice more serviceable than
the lap and hood
Of the seasons that grew them, and now mother them to sleep
And you alive, speak not of the unlucky dead, the sunless
Under downs and saddles in a kingdom of worms.
Speak of the luckless living, that are gnawed by a misbegotten
Moon and memory;
It is a blessing past bounds to miss the dooms
Of the vertical fathom, at each suncrow
To know no anguish, cool in clothstones that flow.
The sleep in the bone, all weathers.
But we, each
Flapping boast of the crowing sun, turn in our linen graves,
Face stale mornings, old faces, but these dead on the beach
Are joyed at the dawn's blood skyed on their dearth of days.
We cocky populations fouling the fallow plains of heaven,
Shall find perfection in a cemetery under a hill.
For we have suffered so long, that death shall make all even
There shall the love grow again that once we would kill.
This is no place for the cater of herbs and honey, for beads,
Here are water, crops. seabirds, and yet here do not be brave,
Seek no fames, and do not too often pray to keep alive,
Against the brittle wick of wishes the wind in the clock strives
And wins. Was not your father such?
Gay in the burning faith of himself, but melted to forgetting?
Thank time for joys, but be not thankful overmuch,
The sun a clot of the wounded sky is setting,
Delve no heart in the sound of your soul, a man's speech burns
And is over; the tears melt, colden and stales the tallow,
And the story of your ash to ashes breath that the wind learns,
The bushes from your eyes will tell in a deeper yellow.
And there at sea, under the wave
The sea-dead, the legendary brave,
Under the windmaned horses of the sea
Float the bulged trampled dead, nudged by whales;
Their wicks windkilled too, by salty gales,
And they were so braver, less alarmed than we.
For we want to run, who do not want to drown where
There is no angel or angelus or another's helphand;
But they too ride easy and the nunnery of brown hair
Of the white girl of walls, shall be no more in the pardoner sand
Black man's denial. Heart, let us love all, the weeds
That feed the sea-herds, miracler than man's tallest deeds,
For here the living are blinder than the dead, ah
Look a rainbow sevencoloured wakes glory through the clouds and
Breasts sea and hill and cemetery in warning,
And the chained horses thunder white, no more adorning
The harbour that grows truculent at the sevenhued sky,
A canoe scuds home quickly, and indigo reigns.
Praise these but ask no more the meaning of mourning,
Than you ask a moral from the seven glory of the clouds, and
Go slowly to the hill as the gale breaks, crazy on the loud sand,
Do not talk of dying, you say, but all men are dead or sick,
In the brain and rib-hollow rooms
The candles of the eye burn and shorten, and how quick
The fine girl sleeps in her grave of hair, the grasshair tombs,
O look at the sane low populations of the democratic dead,
How all are doomed to a dome of mud, all brought to book,
Believing in a world for the perverse saint and the holy crook.
Love children now, for the sun will batter their thinklessness
For there, if place, He walks, who was a lifelong child,
And when the sun is spearing them in growth, pray,
There is the kingdom of heaven in the tears of a child.
The trees, alive in a wind or generations, spin a terror of grains
In the air, in the blue and froth of the weather, the branch rains
Yellow on the graves.
We, the raisers of a God against the hand,
Wonder who is made or maker, for the God our ancestors learned,
Moses of terror, burns in no bushes,
We pray only when seas are turned
Angry, and the wild wind rushes,
And love and death we cannot understand.
The signatures of a lost Heaven remain,
The beauty of the arch, the nature not sun not rain
We want our God to be. And yet were He scanned
We the long builders of beyond this flying breath would look
Beyond the written Heavens, the wide open sea, the land like a
Would find the Author and the Author's purpose.
A swallow falls, and perhaps the sole spoken prayer
Is the hand of a leaf crossing the cold curled claws.
Where is the God of the swallows, is He where
Lives the one whom you flew young from, who all life was yours?
And yet for all these gifts, the gift that I can pray,
The mountain music, the pylon words, the painting, they are
Enough, and may be all, for they add grace by day
And night give tears as harshly as a telling star.
Were there nothing, and this the only
Life, a man has still to save the cliche of his soul, to live
With, I will say it, grace, to atone for the
Sins that all the worlds awoke before he ailed alive,
Climb there, go to the hill where another Sun is warning,
That the wicks weaken and in the halls of the heartsun, love,
For love is the stone speech that outlasts our ash and mourning.
A CITY'S DEATH BY FIRE
After that hot gospeller had levelled all but the churched sky,
I wrote the tale by tallow of a city's death by fire,
Under a candle's eye that smoked in tears, I
Wanted to tell in more than wax of faiths that were snapped like wire.
All day I walked abroad among the rubbled tales,
Shocked at each wall that stood on the street like a liar,
Loud was the bird-rocked sky, and all the clouds were bales
Torn open by looting and white in spite of the fire;
By the smoking sea, where Christ walked, I asked why
Should a man wax tears when his wooden world fails.
In town leaves were paper, but the hills were a flock of faiths
To a boy who walked all day, each leaf was a green breath
Rebuilding a love I thought was dead as nails,
Blessing the death and the baptism by fire.
AS JOHN TO PATMOS
As John to Patmos, among the rocks and the blue live air houLded
His heart to peace, as here surrounded
By the strewn silver on waves, the wood's crude hair, the rounded
Breasts of the milky bays, palms, flocks, and the green and dead
Leaves, the sun's brass coin on my cheek, where
Canoes brace the sun's strength, as John in that bleak air
So am I welcomed richer by these blue scapes Greek there
So I will voyage no more from home, may I speak here.
This island is heaven away from the dustblown blood of cities
See the curve of bay, watch the straggling flower, pretty is
The winged sound of trees, the sparse powdered sky when lit is
The night. For beauty has surrounded
These black children, and freed them of homeless ditties.
As John to Patmos, among each love-leaping air,
O slave, soldier, worker under red trees sleeping, hear
What I swear now. as John did,
To praise lovelong the living and the brown dead.
Over here where our islands
Puncture the leaden sea into a chain,
And our wish inconstant like the pilloried
Sun fatigued by the clouds, here where pain
Is narcotic, blunt and dull, frenzied
We have hoped.
Not for the nurturing of a million
Varied wish or the relish of a lotus
Pleasure; not for the temporary brazen
Triumph the coin has taught or the sick
Culture which understands only the voice
Of duped builders.
Rather the ubiquitous call of the river
For the salt panting of the sea, rather
The proud turn of the leaf's neck
For the hot kiss of the sun and the weak
Reach of the hand for the strong grasp
Of the comrade.
For here we have loved
The wet mud clinging the hoemen's feet,
Here in the soil our blood is green and
In our wine the vine is parched with the
Heat of our hope; yet untamed is the spark
Of desire, strong in young strength.
Time reaches for the harp
Of history, and in the east dawn brings
Her dower of light and flings it to her
Husband day; glance in the west, the golden
Egg will break into a myriad suns and people
Look at the land, the psalms,
Singing for our sons beyond the fever of the years;
Look at the trees, the prayers,
Curtesying before the sacred scribbling of the wind,
And the clouds, the white precipitate of the sky
Like incense on the altar.
OH! PRAHALAD DEDICATED DAY
On the eve of this, Prahalad Dedicated Day,
Abeer drenched you come to me, Oh Indian girl
With your face and hands all turned crimson,
With the previous colour of your dress
And all your form reverberating an atmosphere of
You come and you sit and you sing for me, playing on the
The golden sound of your voice sending sweet stinging
darts to my heart
Then leaving it in exquisite jets clothed on wings of
The very voice felled star-apples and sapodillas from
The very voice ripened the cherries and gooseberries all
I took you and placed you under the cherry tree
On its crest a red breast was warbling her song.
Oh the sacredness of the sight!
I dare not utter a word to you
For suddenly it came upon me like the wind ruffling the
This was the very meaning of "Phagwah."
PRAY FOR RAIN
In seasons of drought the dry land cracks
Leaves turn from green to pale yellow.
On streets the asphalt reflects
The furious energy of its crystalled-burden.
"It is seasonal," the people say,
"Pray for rain."
Drought is not only an affectation
By nature to men and crops !
It is the living lie of all of us:
Young men green-vitalled
Withering to absurd anonymities ....
O comrades, perpetual drought is our heresy !
Like garbage on the downheap
We are piled : forced to exhaust
Ourselves, be divested of all our purity.
Crack, decay, and burn.
FICTION, TRAVELOGUE, HISTORY
CHRISTMAS IN THE NINETEEN-TWENTIES
P. H. DALY
When one says that Dickens invented the English Christmas, one does
not mean, of course, that he created the many forms and symbols with which
Christmas Day has ever since been sensuously as against spiritually -
enjoyed. In Pickwick Papers he gave us the exuberant Christmas of Dingley
Dell; and in The Christmas Carol, one of his five famous books on Christmas,
he drew the paradox which is the keystone of Christmas itself: that one has
reason for mirth even though one lives in squalor, provided one's heart is warm.
He gave us the paradox of Ebenezer Scrooge, who thought Christmas a nuisance,
yet fell under its magical spell.
Dickens did not create the traditional forms and symbols of the English
Christmas, which, indeed, had been lying in disdain and disarray, with the
stigma of Saturnalian opprobrium, long before he was born. These forms and
symbols of the English Christmas-yule logs, holly and mistletoe boughs,
turkey and goose, plum pudding blazing blue with lighted brandy, pantomimes
and harlequins, the Christmas Oratorio pealing from a snowbound church -
are older than Christianity itself. One recalls for the criticism which I shall
make later on the tendency of West Indian novelists to be ashamed of their
survivals, and their failure to find pleasure in proletariat idiosyncrasy at Christ-
mastime-that many of these forms and symbols are survivals of the great
Roman feast of Saturnalia, which was celebrated at the time of the year which
is our Christmastime, and in which women dressed as men and men as women,
and the slaves were the masters, and the masters the slaves. Dickens sublimated
these survivals, as an art-form and made them acceptable by the Ebenezer
Scrooges who controlled the new, urbanised and utilitarian civilization which
was sweeping over nineteenth-century England. By the peculiar brio of his
genius, he succeeded in making them reasonably imperishable. The comic
Dickens found what no West Indian novelist has yet found pleasure in pro-
letariat idiosyncrasy at Christmastime. Or is it that the West Indies have not
yet produced humorous novelists with the appetite to enjoy comic stunts like
Mother Sally and the centipede band? Novelists to extend the function of
the novel to rescuing our ancestral West Indian Christmas from decay; to make
Christmas as an art-form, a time of historic harlequinade and moral rehabilita-
Because of this convention of neglect by West Indian novelists-this
ghost of the parvenu in the West Indian novel-one fears that the ancestral
West Indian Christmas is in danger of decay. One sees, with dismay, a cracking
and splintering of the social mould of nineteen-twenties, on which one's ances-
tral Christmas had been cast. One suspects that this convention of neglect is due
to the nimbus of national consciousness which surrounds the heads of some
West Indian novelists, putting them, many of whom are from workingclass
families, on their guard against showing any appetite for proletariat idiosyncrasy,
or any sympathy for our ancestral survivals. And the vanishing Guianese
Christmas, as an ancestral institution, is built largely on proletariat foundations.
Any public notice of such an institution by some of our novelists becomes
an affront to national ambitions and West Indian nationhood. It is like a newly-
rich scullery-maid snobbing a poor relation. It is social parvenuism.
Clearly, therefore, one sees the need for throwing up protective walls
around what it left of this ancestral Christmas of ours; assailed, on the one
hand, by the intellectually respectable and socially apologetic West Indian
novel, and, on the other, by the urbanising of our rural homestead the last
ditch of the ancestral Christmas-through development programmes and so-
called 'cultivated' habits of thinking and acting. One cannot look to the
West Indian novel, at its present stage of development, to provide these pro-
tective walls. One cannot look to colonial legislators to provide these walls
either. For over colonial legislatures the same haze of national consciousness
hovers; and, in the case of Guiana, it has reached such a stage that legislation
has banished the masqueraders to areas outside the city. The West Indian
novelist is squeamish about enjoying his proletariat pleasures, such as the
centipede band and the Mother Sally. He may approach these things in a spirit
of censure or contempt, but the parvenu in him warns against approaching them
with a good appetite. To have an appetite is to relish, and one dare not relish
these things. One must keep up European appearances. When the focal point
of the West Indian novel shifts from London to Kincston. Georgetown, or
Port of Spain, one may be oneself. One may then relish, as Dickens did, pro-
letariat idiosyncrasy and tribal survivals at Christmastime.
Yet what is there for one to be ashamed of in the ancestral Guianese
Christmas of the nineteen-twenties?-one's Childhood Christmas! Those were
the Christmases of the fantasically decorated Mother Sally, or Congojumbie,
gigantically tall-I can remember seeing one lady as tall as twenty feet !-
rolling on her barrel, through street after street. To roll on a barrel for hours
along a street, oftimes turning sharp corners, flouncing on one's mobile stage,
mimicing and pantomiming, wriggling one's hips and propelling oneself, yet
retaining one's balance, it a feat of endurance and art. A tribute to the barbarian
energy of our ancestors The extinction-I write the word with a heartache-
of the Mother Sally and the centipede band, means that our Christmases are
becoming less artful and more artificial: poorer in historic pageantry. Mother
Sally was an expression of history in harlequinade. Nowadays, one almost finds
oneself observing an imported Christmas. instead of the real. rumbustious thing.
Our dictionary of colloquial terms, too, is going to the dogs. In the nineteen-
twenties one called an unusually tall, overdressed pirouetting female a 'regu-
lar Mother Sally'-a censure which never failed as a corrective.
The nineteen-twenties were the Christmases when masqueraders were
artists at wiggling and rolling their hips, and few people know that this sort of
dance was a throw-back to the Sex Dance of the slaves. The Sex Dance, the
Comfu Dance, the dance of the masqueraders, one can trace, in them, an un-
broken lineage. The centipede bands, strumming out their torrid, dynamic
disharmonies, were offshoots of the African slave dance, The masqueraders,
snapping their fingers as they wiggled and rolled their hips, used a language
as clear and concise as any spoken tongue. Few know that this finger-snapping
goes back to the ingenuity of the slaves, who used it as a language to defeat the
Dilution System. The Dilution System, as I have seen it described, was the mixing
in the gangs of slaves taken from various tribes, and speaking different dialects
to prevent them understanding one another and plotting revolts. The slaves fell
back on the device of snapping-fingers (the beating of tom-toms having been
illegalised) as a language. It was a rude form of morse; and, as the continuing
slave revolts showed, it finally rendered the Dilution System innocuous as a
conversation curb. All that is left of these survivals now is a memory-a terrain
which we can enter only in imagination: a street-corner where Mother Sally's
head knocks against the street-lamp shade; where the reality-or illusion-
of vanished epoch can be recollected only in silence and tranquillity; a sheltered
niche where the measureless amplitude of the mind can recreate the Past. To
the Past, then let us go.
With what deep stirring one heard the fist drum-beats and the rattle of
kettle drums, the clash of cymbals and the shriek of flutes, the screech of conch
shells and the deep baying of the horns, as the masqueraders came out to
practise on the first day of November. No steelband today can hit one as hard
in the emotional solar plexus as that centipede band, bringing with it lost echoes
of the tom-toms on the old slave plantation. The bands practised 'in the raw'-
to wear Christmas costume during practice would be to spoil the dramatic
suspense-the real essence of the ancestral Christmas. At the street-corner,
where, in the nineteen-twenties, big, black beetles whirled under the light,
while hundreds of others lay stunned on the ground, the bands beat out their
merry melodies. Their appearance was the signal for cottage folk-urban Cus-
todians of the Ancestral Christmas-to 'strip the house'.
Stripping the house could have been done in a day, but the dramatic
suspense must not be disturbed. So the stripping was drawn out over a month.
Stripping meant tearing the carpet from the floor, tearing paper from walls.
tearing carpets from chairs, tearing down the hanging-lamp. Having torn down
all movable property from portico and drawing-room, one turned one's attention
to the dining-room as the second week in November dawned. Names of furni-
ture now forgotten-the What-not, the dinner-wagon, the wagonette, the mata-
pee, the conquintay-box, the grinding-jug. the old easy-chair, the cowpistle,
banging high over the wagonette, all fell under blistering siege of washing soda
and soap, borax and vinegar, sandpaper and broken glass, in a frenzy of scrub-
bing, removing all traces of last December's varnish, and getting them nicely
in the nude to be varnished again. In the third week of November, the stripping
lunacy was extended to bathroom, dry closet, kitchen, fowl pens, dog kennel,
rat traps, and the top of the water vat, in a confusion of scrubbing, soaping,
sandpapering, bumping, hammering, rasping, gasping and pushing, which rival-
led the pandemonium of the band at one's favourite street corner.
Slowly, grimly, methodically, with the precision of Scottish bagpipers
performing a solemn slow march, the campaign was extended to the bedroom
as November's last week came on. The big, four-poster mahogany bed, an in-
terior skyscraper perched on its four blocks, four feet high, was pulled down,
pulled to pieces, peeped at for bugs, sniffed at where the blood of bugs stank,
purified with sandpaper, and made ready for varnishing. Now the entire cottage,
confused and topsy-turvy, lay in a state of prostration-and so lay many of the
The dawning of December was the signal to 'set' one's homemade wines.
Winemaking, as a ritual, was one of the most important ceremonies in creating
the correct, nostalgic climate of scents necessary to the ancestral Christmas.
Jamoon wine, banana wine, lime wine, orange wine, soursop wine, rice wine,
corn wine, gooseberry wine, each wine was set in its own wine jar; each jar had
a piece of black crepe over its head, all resembling a team of condemned men
with the death cap over their faces, ready for the gallows. Shoulder to shoulder,
back to the wall, faces in the sun, the wine jars stood, proclaiming to all visitors
that Christmas was near. After wine 'setting' beer making. Ginger beer, sorrel
beer, currant beer and 'fly', each beer to its jar; shoulder to shoulder, backs to
the wall, faces in the sun.
As the second week in December starts, one began the Rubric of the
Pepperpot. Into grandmother's twelve-gallon iron pot went the ingredients of the
pepperpot: cowheel, cowface, pigface, breast, oxtail, pigtail, every conceivable
kind of meat went ritualistically into the pot. The scent of wine fomenting, t'-e
scent of beer, the scent of pepperpot being stewed, the scent of Liberian coffee
beans being parched-it was a combination of pleasant aromas which now per-
vade one's cottage as the calendar reads-December 15, 1925.
On December 15, one 'set' one's rice for luck. Two dozen pots and pans
were filled with padi and water and left in the dew every night. The dank scent
of padi soaked in water was added to the scent of wine, beer, pepperpot. and
freshly ground Liberian coffee. But a fourth pungent scent was to commingle
with them all, in this fast mobilization of nostalgic aromas. This was the scent
of varnish. One hardly smells the scent of varnish now. One smells furniture
polish and furniture oil, as the ancestral Christmas slowly retreats before new-
fangled refinements. Anyway, varnishing usually began in complete reverse to
the stripping of house. That is, while one stripped from portico to rat trap. one
varnished from rat trap to portico. Why? A continuation of the process of
dramatic suspense. The portico and the drawing-room were the show-pieces of
the Christmas decoration; and the show pieces in the ancestral Christmas, like
the climax to a good short story, must be left for the last. Now one's cottage
was a nest of nostalgic scents, noticeable as far away as one's favourite street
corner, where Mother Sally's head knocked against the street lamp shade.
With December 24, came cakemaking, souse-making, and blackpudding-
making; doughboy-making, cornpone-making, and conki-making. Ah! This
was a woman's day. It was stimulating to see them at work. 'Picking' their
currants and 'picking' their prunes, and grinding them with the old ale jug on
a slab of marble grindstone. No modern mill for these cottage folk of the nine-
teen-twenties. As they ground, they hipped and dipped, now left, now right,
over and under, in a flurry of hipwork which rivalled the masqueraders outside.
As Christmas day dawned, the last nail was hammered and the last blind went
up in the portico. The air in one's cottage was now charged with scents; no,
not scents, charged with the anaesthetics of Christmas: Fresh varnish and freshly
ground coffee, pepperpot and homemade wines and beer; blackpudding and
souse and ginger beer and doughboy. One inhaled deeply, contendedly. And, if
one was tired, one sank down on grandmother's ottoman, lulled into a haze by
the anaesthetics of Christmas, to listen to the bands, at the street corer where
Mother Sally knocked her head against the lamp shade.
THE STORY OF KYKOVERAL
by VERE T. DALY
KYKOVERAL today is our oldest historical relic, and it should be
visited by all who have pride of country in their hearts. Its name was doubtless
an inspiration, for it "Looked" or "Kyked-over-al" the waters of the Essequebo,
Mazaruni and Cuyuni. Provided we have sufficient leaven of humility in our
hearts, we would do ourselves no harm to take as our watch-word "Kyk-over-al!"
It has now been established beyond reasonable doubt that Kykoveral was
founded in 1616. The trustworthiness of Major John Scott, on whose authority this
statement was first made, was once contemptuously denied; but Dr. George
Edmunston, in a series of learned articles published in the English Historical
Review, has shown, by comparison with Dutch and Spanish contemporary
records, that Scott is entirely to be trusted.
By close examination and careful deduction Dr. Edmunston has recon-
structed for us the story of the founding of Kykoveral.
Early in the seventeenth century there was at the Spanish settlement of
San Thome on the Orinoco a Dutchman by the name of Adrian Groenewegen.
He was the Spanish factor at San Thome, but when a change of policy had come
about in the little settlement, Groenewegen quit the Spanish service and went
back to his old masters in Holland.
He was at once engaged by Peter Courteen and Jan de Moor end put in
charge of an expedition to Essequebo, where on his arrival with a mixed force
of Englishmen and Zeelanders in two ships and a galiot, he built a fort and
established a settlement on the island of Kykoveral at the water-meet of the
Essequebo, Mazaruni, and Cuyuni rivers.
Until Dr. Edmunston took up the cudgel in defence of Scott (who was a
notorious swindler in his private life) every bit of the above was discredited.
But the acceptance of Scott's story has now shown how false are earlier accounts
which tell of the founding of Kykoveral between 1581 and 1598 and the finding
of an old fort of alleged Portuguese construction.
In 1621 the Dutch West India Company was formed. Its main aim being
the capture of Brazil, which belonged to the Portuguese, its first notable act
was to send an expedition of twenty-six ships to raid San Salvador. It is probable
that official attention was not paid to Essequebo before 1623, when the Zeeland
Chamber began to show special interest in the post. Jacob Canyn, a ship's
captain, was the Company's first agent. He contracted to serve for three years.
but in 1626 we find him asking to be released. It is to Jan Van der Goes must go
the honour of being the leader of the first official occupation of Essequebo.
In 1895 the question as to the respective boundaries of the Republic of
Venezuela and the Crown Colony of British Guiana caused a world-wide stir;
but war between the United States of America (acting for and on behalf of the
Republic of Venezuela) and Great Britain was averted when an arbitration
treaty was signed between the British Ambassador and Senhor Andrade at
Washington on February 2, 1897. Working on both sides were some of the ablest
professors in the world, and one of the difficulties they had to face was to decide
which of the two accounts of the founding of Kykoveral was to be accepted-
Scott's, or that which could be gleaned from the minutes of the West India
Company. In the American case, Scott's account was treated with contempt;
and in the decision handed down by the tribunal which met in Paris, it is
clear that Scott was discredited.
The apparently irreconcilable difficulty was this: If Groenewegen in
1616 had established a settlement, why was it necessary for the West India
Company to establish another sometime between 1623 and 1626. What had
happened to Groenewegen's settlement? Had it failed?
By close analysis of the documents which have come down to us Dr.
Edmunston has shown that the official occupation of Kykoveral did not disturb
the settlement under Groenewegen. Undoubtedly the old settlers must have
viewed the new ones with suspicion, and vice versa; but on the whole the
fortunes of the Company's trading post hardly affected the Courteen's colony.
How reasonable this conclusion is may easily be seen when one begins
to read of attempts made by the West India Company to suppress the activities
of a body of private traders. We find in 1634, for example, Abraham van Pere,
and the Zeeland Chamber instructing their deputies, who were being sent to a
meeting of the *Nineteen, to request, and even insist, that no colonists or
other persons shall be at liberty to navigate to the Wild Coast (Guiana) except
this Chamber and Confrater van Pere alone"; and this request having failed
we find the Zeeland Chamber the next year passing a resolution to the effect
that "the trade to the wild coast shall be done by the Company alone and by no
In 1635 the Company's settlement was in such a bad way that the Zeeland
Chamber's Committee of Commerce and Finance sat to decide whether or not
it was profitable to keep it. At that time there were in the Company's employ-
ment not more than thirty men, whose main business was that of exchanging
the articles of European make for annatto dye, which was then in great demand
in Europe for use in the manufacture of cheese and other products.
Presumably, the report of the Chamber's Committee was favourable, for
the official occupation of Essequebo continued. The discovery that sugar-cane
was growing in the Colony may have been responsible for this decision, for it is
about this time (1637) that we find the first mention of sugar in the minutes of
the Zeeland Chamber.
*The Executive of the Dutch West India Company.
But if official Essequebo was in a precarious condition, the same cannot
be said of the settlement under Groenewegen. In 1624 it was visited by one
Jesse de Forest and in 1627 by Captain Plowell, the discoverer of Barbados.
Plowell's visit was for the ostensible purpose of obtaining seeds and roots for
planting in Barbados, but his real motive was to reinforce the colony. "There
I lefte eight men," he writes, "and lefte a Cargezon of trade for that place."
In 1637, when the Zeeland Chamber had just decided not to abandon its
post, Groenewegen was leading an expedition against San Thome-a state of
affairs which shows that the Courteen's settlement was in a stronger position
than the Company's.
It is certain that the first fort built on Kykoveral by Groenewegen was
not of stone, for in 1627, and again in 1631, van der Goes was promised a fort
of brick. Failure to fulfil this and other promises caused van der Goes to return
home with the whole lot of his colonists in 1632, He was, however, re-engaged.
and by 1634 he was back at Kykoveral with two assistants. Significantly, in 1639,
he was addressed for the first time as "Commandeur," and one may reasonably
presume that this title was given him because of the fact that there were now
soldiers under him. A further conclusion that can be drawn is that the promised
fort had been completed, and that the soldiers were housed there. It was, as van
Berkel described it thirty-one years later, "of quadrangular shape, having
below the magazine, and above three apartments in which soldiers are housed,
a room for the Commandant and one for the Secretary, which at the same time
serves to store the cargoes."
Meanwhile, the rivalry between the Company and the Courteens for the
mastery of Kykoveral was gradually coming to an end. By 1645 the position
was so much easier that Groenewegen was made Governor by the West India
Company; nevertheless, in the same year, the Zeeland Chamber suggested to
the Company, that in applying for a renewal of its charter it should stipulate
that no private individuals be allowed to trade to Essequebo. This, however,
was the last protest, for in 1650 Groenewegen was not only Governor, but also
Commandeur of the troops. The two colonies finally fused in 1664, for in that
year Jan de Moor died and Groenewegen definitely became a Company's servant.
Groenewegen died at his post in 1664. He was, as Scott says, "the first
man that took a firm footing in Guiana by the good liking of the natives ....."
As an associate of Captain Plowell he was responsible for giving substantial
assistance to Barbados. A story goes that when it became known in Essequebo
that the Indians whom he had sent with Plowell to Barbados were enslaved,
he was hard put to show that he was not party to such a diabolical scheme. He
solved the situation by marrying an Indian woman by whom he had a son,
Amos Groenewegen, who was later post-holder in Demerara (circa 1680-1700).
The year after Groenewegen's death Kykoveral saw its first serious
action. Commercial rivalry had brought the English and the Dutch into conflict,
and in 1665 Major John Scott was sent by Lord Willoughby, then governor of
Barbados, to raid Dutch settlements in Guiana. After devastating Pomeroon,
Scott proceeded up the Essequebo and captured Kykoveral, leaving there twenty-
eight men under Captain Keene before returning to Barbados to boast of his
Scott mentions in his report that he was able to secure for his troops
73,788 lbs. of sugar, and this throws some light on the activities of the settlement.
That the Indian trade in anatto was still the chief occupation of the settlers
there can be no doubt; but Prince Sugar was already threatening to usurp the
throne of King Anatto.
The British occupation, however, was not destined to be long. The first
difficulty of the troops was with the Indians, who refused to give them supplies;
then the French, who were the allies of the Dutch, came and bombarded the
fort; finally, a force under Bergenaar, the Commandeur of Berbice, travelling
overland by a path that is probably now part of the Rupununi Cattle Trail, and
down the Essequebo, reached Kykoveral and recaptured it. Meanwhile, the
States of Zeeland, hearing of the fate of their beloved Essequebo, had sent
Admiral Crynssen to the rescue. Crynssen arrived after Bergenaar had effected
its recapture, but he took the colony over in the name of the States of Zeeland
and instituted one Baerland, Commandeur.
The Peace of Breda, signed in 1667, brought hostilities to a close.
Pomeroon was now completely deserted, but Kykoveral was recovering gradually
from Scott's blow.
There was now some difficulty in finding an owner for the colony, but after
long and tedious negotiations the Zeeland Chamber of the West India Company
took it over once again. Hendrick Rol was made Commandeur; and though a
third Anglo-Dutch War was fought in the meantime, Kykoveral was not
But this was not to be for long. Louis XIV's ambitions soon precipitated
Europe into more wars, and during the War of the Spanish Succession Kykoveral
was attacked (1708). To the lasting shame of Commandeur van der Heyden
Resen, it must be written that instead of sallying forth to meet the enemy he
ignominiously shut himself up with his troops in the Fort. Some resistance was
given at Plantation Vryheid (Bartica) by the owner and his slaves; but after
two had been killed and a few injured the defenders dispersed.
Captain Ferry, the leader of the French expedition, took his departure on
the receipt of a ransom of 50,000 guilders, paid in slaves, meat, provisions, and
pieces of eight. But Essequebo's cup of bitterness was not completely full.
Two more French privateers sailed up the river the next year (1709) and com-
pleted the work of destruction. They plundered and burnt to their heart's content,
took two hogshead of sugar that were being prepared for export, and left on
their departure but two sugar-mills standing.
These two raids on Kykoveral soon woke up the planters to the alarming
fact that the Fort could defend neither the colony nor the plantations. A fort,
more strongly fortified, and more strategically placed, was needed, especially
now that the fertile alluvial coastslands were attracting the planters lower and
lower down the river. Flag Island (now Fort Island) was decided upon as the
best site for the new fort, which was so advanced by 1739 that the seat of govern-
ment was transferred there.
In 1744 Fort Zeelandia (as the new fort on Flag Island was called) was
completed. Kykoveral thereafter was neglected even though it was Gravesande's
intention to have it reconditioned that very year. In 1748 it was proposed to
raze it, and in 1750 it was reported abandoned. In 1755, however, it was again
fortified, because of an expected Spanish invasion; but after the scare had
passed it was allowed to fall into a state of dilapidation again.
Kykoveral today is our oldest historical relic, and it should be visited by
all who have pride of country in their hearts. Its name was doubtless an inspira-
tion, for it "Looked" or "Kyked-over-al" the waters of the Essequebo, Mazaruni
and Cuyuni. Provided we have a sufficient leaven of humility in our hearts, we
would do ourselves no harm to take as our watch-word-"Kyk-over-al I"
by CELESTE DOLPHIN
Unlike Kwe'banna, a little Amerindian Mission at the top of its fifty
steps notched out of a red-brick hill which rises suddenly and almost straight
up out of the Waini, one comes very quietly and gradually upon Waramurie.
One crosses the Atlantic from the Pomeroon into the Moruca mouth,
and after the first three hundred yards where fallen trees impede rapid progress,
the river makes a series of hairpin turns and twists now to the right, now to the
left, so that sometimes after one has travelled for an hour in the small mail-
boat one is almost back or at some point parallel to where one started.
On either side of the river, huge giant trees overhang, casting their re-
flection into the clear, black water in a quivering cross-stitch pattern. Some-
times they bend over and clasp hands and shut out the sky, and then for a
period they would toss their heads back and so let in the sun. But one usually
comes upon Waramurie in the quiet of the afternoon, Waramurie or Warrau
worry with its white sand rising gradually from the banks of the river.
At the sound of the mail-boat horn dozens of little children can be seen
running quickly down the white sandhill to collect their letters. As they reach
the water's edge they leap into their corials, some just large enough to hold one
small brown body. Dipping paddles skilfully into the water they soon surround
the mail-boat shouting "Letter for me? Anything for me?" Then one gets a
clear idea how very significant these fortnightly mail days are to people in
remote areas. It is a lovely sight to see the gleaming brown naked bodies of the
small boys as they swim up to the sides of the mail-boat and hold out a wet
hand for their mothers' letters.
Getting out of the mail-boat with our precious food-box we made our
way slowly up to the top of the mission. The ascent though gradual was long
and the white sand soft and loose, so every three steps we made we slipped
back two. The children followed us curiously, offering to help with the bags-
visitors are always welcome at Waramurie. As we reached the top of the hill,
the Catechist met us-he was half Indian, a Cubukru,-and an Indian guide.
This Warrau Indian spoke English with exaggerated correctness and precision,
but the clipped staccato intonation of his own native Warrau made him very
pleasing to hear.
As we looked around, over there to the right of the troolie rest house was
a large mound almost a hillock crowned with a large cross. The Amerinidan
stretched out his right arm pointing to the cross "Waramurie" he said. It
seemed a little dramatic then. But the story goes that years and years ago the
Caribs and Arawaks were continuously fighting each other on this mission.
Periodically the Caribs would come stealthily down through the forest and
seek out the Arawak with bow and poisoned arrow, and a bloody battle would
ensue, after which the victors would bury the bones of the dead on that special
spot over which the cross stood. Later the Arawaks who had been able to escape
would pay a return call and come down upon the Carib crying vengeance and
they would pile up Carib bones on that very spot. This feud between the two
tribes lasted for several years until they became extinct in that area, but years
and years of piling bones on bones had grown the mound into a hill. Very much
later, the Warrau Indians came and settled on that spot. But the legend goes,
the spirits of the dead periodically troubled these new settlers and caused much
Warrau worry, until 1928 when a cross was set upon this mound of bones and
a priest blessed the spot and so forever quieted the evil spirits that troubled
It seemed a fantastic story but it is not a mound of sand and is really
composed of bricks and shells and arts of bone. When it rains, some of it is
broken away and one can pick up bits of bone skull that are said to be human.
But no one is indiscreet enough to attempt to seek these bones in the presence
of a Warrau, as they believe that would disturb the sleeping spirits and start
Warrau worry all over again.
Warrau worry troubled me.
It is a beautiful mission on a white sandy clearing with dense forest
behind. There were many houses of the usual type seen in the interior-four
bamboo uprights covered with troolie with two or three family hammocks
slung at one end. The family hammock was an ingenious contraption. Imagine
the ordinary hammock but with three of four storeys-mother and father
would occupy the top flat, boys in the second and the girls at the bottom. And
this is all held together between the same two pieces of rope as the usual one.
Walking around, the Indian guide introduced us to everyone and we were shown
over the whole mission. We saw a woman making cassava bread circles two
feet in diameter, that wou'd last the family a week. One broke off what one
needed for one meal and then the rest was hung upon a hook inside the house
until needed again.
We met an old man who was exceedingly friendly to us. He walked with
the spring of a boy of nineteen and yet he had the face of Old Kaie. I couldn't
resist asking him his age. He answered: "It was 1886. I think, when my
mother, who was wedded to my father, gave birth to a son, which is I". We
learnt that a man of 40 would give his age as anything from seventeen to ninety-
He told us how they made Cassirie and how they made Paiwarrie, the
more intoxicating of the two forest drinks. They chewed the sugar cane with
certain other herbs and fruit and berries and spat it out into a large bin and
trampled on it in a ceremonial dance of shuffling steps for hours on end and
then left it to ferment. After a period -o many days. the paiwarrie was ready,
a thick dark liquid tasting like stout. If one partook of this drink at certain
periods one wanted to remain quite happily in the bush forever. But more than
that at times of feasting and dancing, in the midst of the Culebra and the
Tengereh, as excitement grows and bodies move in frenzied patterns, a too
liberal drink of paiwarrie causes feasting to end in fighting and then Waramurie
was in danger of Warrau worry.
He talked late into the forest night, and it seemed that we had hardly
got into our hammocks when the bell ringer came up to our hut calling us to
church. The catechist walked over for us and stated that it was necessary to
hold services twice weekly as "these people" believed in "iniquity".
I wondered what sort of iniquity was peculiar only to Waramurie. He
explained the tribal belief in the Piaiman. Whatever happened was because of
the good will or bad will of the Piaiman. If the dogs did not scent danger
in time to give a warning and a tiger sneaked out of the forest and carried off a
child, they swore that the Piaiman was at work. Whatever happened-if sickness
came-if death came suddenly-if too much rain, if not enough rain it was the
Piaiman man. Oh yes, these people believed in iniquity indeed. He didn't intend
this to be funny.
It was time for the service, the men, women and children trooped in and
sat and talked to each other, quite informally. One lady had fixed her hair in
four plaits and on each was a different coloured ribbon. It was unfortunate that
the catechist had some difficulty with his 'r's" and ended all the twelve responses
in a loud voice so that everyone was sure to hear "And twust in the Lawd fow
he is gwasus". It was a little impossible to be wholly reverent.
Immediately after Church followed vigorous games of rounders, leaping
and swimming. Then a large meal of fruit. But we had to leave rather hurriedly
to catch the tide.
Over the height of Waramurie. the breeze comes in from the river, cool
and fresh smelling, and Warrau worry seemed suddenly all blown away as the
mail-boat took us back to the mouth of the Moruca.
FENCES UPON THE EARTH
by WILSON HARRIS
At noon the truck stopped at a huge clearing on the Hinterland Road.
Every body climbed out stiffly with a grand feeling of relief. A hill fell away grad.
ually from the road, and there was a path going down. After I had had my sand-
wiches I set out for a stroll. Soon I had left the clearing where the lorry had
stopped. Soon the mighty trees closed in over my head; yet not entirely, for many
bright sunbeams were clinging like innumerable butterflies to the high branches
far up at the tops of the trees.
I remember something I had read somewhere a long time ago. Something
about people hearing the trees grow in forests. And I thought that surely I would
hear the trees grow in this forest. They were so solid, so timeless. One seemed
each moment to hear them quietly settling deeper and deeper; their mighty roots
thrusting farther and farther into the ancient earth. It was all very strange and
fantastic and beautiful.
Suddenly at a turn in the path I came upon a creek at the foot of the hill.
A man was standing by the creek drinking and bathing his hands. He had not
heard me approach. The sand underfoot had muffled my footsteps. My first
impulse was to go forward and speak to him. But I was struck by something
about him. I felt I would like to stand quietly by and wa'ch him. I felt he had
something important to tell me, but not with words. Something important he
would tell me simply, by his movements, by the lift of his head, by his hands,
and by his feet moving upon the ground. I slipped quietly into the bush at the
side of the track, and hugged close against the spur of a huge tree. From there I
could watch him, without being seen.
And now what words may I use to describe the feelings that came upon
me at the sight of this man? I felt no shame that I had to stand by, hiding from
him like a robber, or a thief in the night. This was inevitable. I believed in the
rightness of my action. It was the thing to do, here and now. Drawing room con-
ventions did not hold at this pace or time. Dimensions had altered. Time had
altered. In their place each moment unfolded itself slowly and deliber-
ately, with immense secrecy, with the deep urgency of growth, a part of the
pattern of the dynamic earth.
It is important that I should say what I felt when I looked at this man
standing by the creek. But I may as well tell you here and now that this is im-
possible, because what I felt was wordless. Many happenings in this world defy
art or language, and this was one of those happenings.
I knew when I looked at this man that I was very happy watching him. I
believe looking at him, I knew in those moments the greatest happiness in my
life. For the first time that I could remember I looked upon a human being,
standing upon the earth, not falsely, by force or subterfuge, or bravado, or by
any sort of empty pretension, but very simply, as though to own the earth were
to carry the most natural and easeful burden in the world.
I saw that the man was preparing to leave, and I felt sorry that he was
going. He had picked up a few fishes he had been cleaning, emptied his
saucepan into the creek, and was stooping finally for his axe; but, at that
moment, a loud shout came from the bend in the path, where I had first seen
him. He did not show any surprise, but picking up his axe, turned very slowly,
as though he were vaguely concerned at this intrusion on his solitude. What he
saw did not perturb him much, nevertheless a slight frown had gathered be-
tween his brows.
It was John Muir who had shouted: a very angry John Muir. But
I have forgotten you may not remember John Muir. John Muir is the representa-
tive of the big mining company from South Africa or Australia or somewhere
that has taken huge concessions on this territory to work gold and diamonds.
We had both travelled on the British South American Hinterland Road
that morning and when we had stopped for lunch, and I had come on my stroll,
I had left him busy supervising the unloading of his heavy equipment.
He passed quite close to me now, and I could sense his wrath and bel-
ligerency. Anger. I thought, did not suit him. He was too corpulent. His face was
fat, and his hands were fat. And he seemed a very alien and ridiculous figure
to find in this part of the world. But when I heard what he was saying I was
shocked into urgency. I knew suddenly he was a strong man and a ruthless one,
despite appearances. I knew there was great danger in his words, that something
terrible was liable to happen. He was shouting, "You bloody fool! What in
hell d'ye mean by messing in my creek? D'ye know you're trespassing? Get to
hell off this land !"
But the man by the creek facing John Muir did not move. I had a
splendid view of him now. His face was very dusky, dusky as the bark of the
tree against which I was standing. His hair was black like coals and crisp on
his forehead. It made the duskiness of his skin seem lighter and browner by
contrast. He wore a brief vest, and shorts, and was barefooted. He stood very
easy and very quiet, as a man would, who stands by his own hearth, waiting
to greet the stranger who is within his doors. His limbs were powerful. They
had the perfection of the young trees that stand rooted in the forests, breathing
forth an ageless symmetry in their being.
The sharp, bitter words assailed him but as vet he showed no sign of
anger. He brushed them aside in his wordless fashion. He was full of patience and
dignity. He was full of magnanimity. His language was the language of poise,
of gesture. He felt that his presence was enough. It would speak for him with
finality and precision. His attitude implied that it was a bit puzzling, all the
noise and confusion. The stranger could not mean what he was saying. Surely
he would explain what it was all about without so much fuss I However it would
not do to be hasty. Haste was bad. He would wait, and listen to all the words
that were being spoken. He himself did not need words. His presence was enough.
It was final.
I saw that John Muir's anger had turned into something cold and calcula-
ting and bitter. His strong and ruthless nature could not tolerate this silent
dignity. He must shock this man into action.He must wring from him words or
protests or subservience. He must impress upon him that he was master. He
spoke horrible words. Slowly, in answer to his words, I felt that a tide of fury
had begun to rise like a flood of bitter waters. It was a wordless fury, the most
terrible fury in the world. I could have cursed John Muir for his stupidity, for
his lust, for the blindness that lay in the midst of his strength and his ruthless-
ness. Yet, after reflection, I am not sure that he was blind. Maybe he was
courting a battle of wills. Maybe he was courting violence. I am not sure. What
is there, a man may be sure of, at such moments?
And I was not so much concerned about John Muir. It was the man by
the creek that held my interest. I was afraid for him. I sm baffled to explain
the nature of my fear. But I felt he was in danger. I felt he might lose his
mastery over the earth. That mastery that had seemed to me so patent and
obvious a thing, part of his birthright, the gift of the Unknown God. I felt
that he might be swept into madness. I remembered those horrible whirlpools
one sees sometimes in dangerous rivers, and I felt he might allow himself to be
sucked down by his fury into the bottomless whirlpools of his own nature.
When suddenly I saw him lift his hands. I knew it was the end. There
was violence in those hands. John Muir would never escape. And then, as if to
precipitate the threatening disaster, John Muir spoke words that I felt must
surely seal his doom-
"I shall drive you off the land. I shall chase you and your people off the
land. I shall put up fences. Fences to keep you off, that's what. D'ye hear me?"
Surely it is plain that only a miracle could have saved John Muir after
that! Tell me. do you not agree with me? Imagine a man living on a spot of
land. He has lived there all his life. He is bound to the land by innumerable
ties. His forefathers were there before him. They lived and died on the land.
Would you dare to tell that man. you would put up fences upon his land? That
you would drive him off the land?
Only a miracle would save you after that. Only a miracle could save
John Muir. The funny thing is. the miracle happened. The miracle happened
and John Muir was saved.
The transition was baffling. The transition from fury to calmness. I felt
the shock of that transition. I saw the effort, the horror of the last few moments.
the darkness on the face of the man standing by the creek. I saw his hands filled
with a terrible eagerness, grow calm and easy again. It was over in a moment.
A moment, as the books say, that was an eternity. I know it is incredible. Few
men would believe what I say, that such fury had passed into calmness. But I
swear it. It is true. A miracle had happened. For how else can this thing be
described, but as a miracle?
Suddenly John Muir laughed, a laugh of triumph. He felt he had scored.
He felt he had won a battle of wills, and was now master. I looked at the man
by the creek, and I knew better. In a flash I saw the truth. I saw a little of the truth
behind the miracle. It is funny how one gets these flashes. Maybe it was some
trivial act performed. The man by the creek might have moved his hand on his
axe in some peculiar fashion; he might have shuffled his feet in a peculiar fashion.
It might have been the lift of his head. I do not know. But in a flash he had
spoken to me in his wordless language. What he said was this :-Let the stranger
build his fences. Something divine in me prevents me from killing him. I could
kill him easily. I could crush his flabbiness to pulp. But to what end? What is
the use of violence? There has been enough violence on the earth. Nothing can
be built or preserved by violence. I have no fences to build, I shall trust to my
destiny. I shall trust to the forces that brought me on this spot I call my home.
I shall trust to the deep things that tie me to the earth to give me my rightful
place in the sun. These things shall never fail me. I know, I believe. I keep faith
with the earth. I trust God. That is enough. There is no other way. I shall be
He turned abruptly. He swung his axe across his shoulder. I saw him take
a path, known only to himself, along the creek, in the thick forest. The trees
clustered protectingly about him. They and he spoke the same language, the
wordless language of being, the language of solidity.
When he was gone, John Muir laughed again. But his laugh to me was
hollow. A miracle had happened. I believe humbly that I had seen a little of
of the truth behind the miracle. But John Muir did not understand. I do not
know whether he will ever understand.
Suddenly I heard the impatient honk of the truck blowing far back on
the road: I guessed that my friends were impatient to be on their way again.
All around the deep forest seemed alive and whispering. Everything was still
the same as before. Even the sun-bright butterflies. I had noticed when I had
first entered the forest were still clinging to their precarious perch far up over-
head on the tops of the mighty trees of the forest.
Yes, I know what you will say. The words I have used are inadequate.
Forgive me. I know it was inevitable that it should be so. The whole thing had
been secret and wordless.
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 immediately, 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 bitterness
within him like a burning pain.
That was all she had for him, then. After all that had gone before. She
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 be-
tween 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 -ad 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 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 back.
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. Him-
self 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 recoenised this thine. and more,
they respected it alike within themselves, 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 bananas. The patch of coffee,
dark-green in the shade of their trees that were planted there before his grand-
father'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 soit of man to tolerate tres-
passers 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. I 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 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 any-
one 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 stealing?'
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
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-
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 wariness.
He felt it and it made him stop suddenly, arrested, with his intention 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 spell.
'All right,' she said, 'it's your wood, you can have it.' And she started to
But he didn't want her to go, now. There was this upsurging resolve with-
in him to find out about her, what made her act the way she did. All that. He
wanted to call her, to beg her not to go. But somehow the words refused to shape
themselves upon his lips. His throat felt suddenly hot and dry.
He saw the curve of her thigh under her short dress as she thrust against
the steepness goin, 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.
'By Christ,' he said, but without profanity.
He would take the wood up to the house after her. She would understand
by that he wasn't angry, understanding it as an overture of 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 kitchen.
Then he went slowly, thoughtfully back to his field again. But not to work.
He did not 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 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 amp'e 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 end 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; harsh against
the peaceful chirring of the crickets and the melancholy piping of the whistling
THE SYMPHONY OF MAZARUNI
by SHEIK M. SADEEK
In the days of great gold and diamond 'shouts' in the jungles of British
Guiana, the only means of travelling to these remote, and then untrodden areas
of our vast and wealthy hinterland, was a unique experience. For there was no
roadway, no air-line, and the forest then, impressed us as impenetrable.
Not quite all of us, I should say; for there were pork-knockers who were
nicknamed, because of their heroic deeds, undaunted and carefree dispositions;
'Sultan-of-Turkey', 'Tengar', 'Skybar', 'Ocean Shark' and so on.
I shall endeavour to give a vivid description of my initial journey from
Georgetown, the capital of this beautiful country, to Apaiqua, the stop before
the terminus Isseneru, hundreds of miles up the wealthy Mazaruni, a tributary
of the giant Essequibo, the most dangerous of Guiana's waterways.
The Stabroek Market's clock showed some minutes after six; when, be-
yond the boiling wake of water, the City began dwindling. Flanking the steamer
on her left until around ten-o'clock was the irregular growth of grey-green courida
trees, that fringe Guiana's coastlands. On her left muddy water lapped, and
further and yet further, Atlantic miles capped by white crests stretched until they
were lost in the misty blue of the horizon.
I knew not at what time we had started up the River Essequibo. Every-
thing seemed so muddled. But about eleven o'clock, and about an hour after we
had left Parika selling, I found myself looking at the Island that has a page in
Guiana's colourful history: The historical Fort Island, with the remains of the
old Dutch Fort 'Kyk-Over-Al'; a green fringe of wild cocoa trees in bloom on
which numerous iguanas were basking in tropical sunshine.
It was around three, when a shout went with the first sight of the flat.
mining town of Bartica lying like a stranded man at the water's edge; at the
junction of two great rivers; at the foot of a green hill.
We did not get passage up the River Mazaruni until the Friday, and dur-
ing that time we did what little shopping we had to do.
It was far from day-break when we left Bartica. On a dark beach a dim
lantern showed me a seat, and carefully I settled myself. Then, distinctly a gruff
"You heard what the Cap'n says? Cap'n says 'In boat?' And you know
who is speaking, the Sultan-of-Turkey!"
And the motors of that oval-bottom bateau, with its gunwale not more
than eight or ten inches from the water, grumbled. And the powerful propellers
tumbled, leaving a boiling wake of phosphorescence in the darkness as the
laden vessel slid against the black ebb that blurred the distant lights of Bartica.
Once more darkness was broken by the shining ball that slowly emerged
from beyond the forest boughs. For the very first time I was really breathing the
sweet, fresh air of our jungle a jungle no less cunning; no less intriguing; no
less alluring than Edgar Rice Burroughs' captivating 'Edens of Africa.'
Slowly, as though with the sun, the boat began to take on life; until a
gaiety so rare, so strangely hilarious, filled the atmosphere.
Immediately, while mooring to camp that evening about 5.30, the men
like wild monkeys, sprang ashore with their hammocks in their hands in desper-
ate efforts to secure tie-places. I came out along with the captain and soon found
myself lost. The commotion was just too much for me.
"Aah! There's a good place." I said to myself, making for the opening
where a prospecting knife's blade bit deep into the hard wood. At the same time
a partner of mine shouted.
"Com-on with the rice, Son. The fire wastin'," Quickly, I slung my ham-
mock then grabbed the calabash gourd and dashed for the water to wash the
rice. When I returned my hammock was on the ground. I looked at the rope,
and it was cut, The knife was absent from the wood. I turned, and facing me
hard was the squatty and compact Sultan.
"Is that your hammock?" He growled.
"Ye-ye-yes, Sir" I stammered politely.
"Oh Me think was any Buxtonian's"' The anger in his tone had vanished
though his jaws remained firmly set.
Later that day, I got to know that Sultan was a native of Plaisance, a
neighboring village of Buxton, on the east coast of Demerara. And that pork-
knockers of these two villages never agreed. They were constantly trying to out-
wit each other.
That was the character I had heard so much about A character that
was rapidly becoming a legendary figure. Until deep into the night the form of
that broad-shouldered man, every inch a typical African kept dancing before
my eyes. The camp-fire was burning low. Beyond the fire a hammock creaked.
Yes, that's Tengar, I mused, jovial Tengar. There must be a way to get on with
Sultan, Tengar does, a murmur escaped my lips as I rolled over for God's good
It was a hubbub early the following morning to me: The men, scrambling
and dashing, each with his own job hustling to be in time. The mist had not
cleared yet; a damp a depressing silence reigned throughout the whole forest.
Only the eternal falling of a fall was heard roaring in the distance, when again
that gruff, commanding voice repeated the captain's order as his broad, thick
palm slapped repeatedly his thick chest in stress of utterance:
"In boat! The Sultan-of-Turkey speaks."
Tengar took that day: Tall, broad and full-faced Tengar. His intelligent
look was not deceiving. He was the strong, country-type, West Indian Negro who
entertained us perfectly throughout our journey with his numerous bush-yarns
about 'Di-Dies' huge, ape-like monsters of the treacherous jungles; and 'Masa-
kurumans' legendary demons of the black waters. And at times he would swing
to such colourful subjects as: Fairies and Rainbows and flowers. Believe me he
was a rare type.
Pulling paddles and hauling the boat over the rapids to the lusty rhythms
of deep-throated shanties, one of which ran thus:
"Buxton gals ah wash dem bed -;
Wash dem beddin's;
Only when the rain come down -;
The rain come down.
Shanty maan!!! Oh, shanty m.....a......a......n!!"
was real fun. I felt wonderful.
Slowly, another day went by. From the men's reactions I knew it was a
typical day. But not for me: For never in my young life had I seen such magnifi-
cence. I watched, with an ever-growing glut for nature, and saw my country
break rugged and knew with each turn, each twist. Never had I dreamt of such
misty headlines; of those hazy, blue-capped mountains that ranged one beyond
the other to the far end of the earth.
Gazing around me, while the boat vibrated to the strain of the engine, I
saw a forest so green that its colour looked fictitious. Flowers of different hues,
even gold, played on the trunks of giant moras, greenhearts and other timber
trees; or waved mid-air on vines, or even trailed in the black water where a
musty smell mingled with their heavy sweetness.
It was yet early when again we camped. But we had to, for it was at the
foot of Tobouku, the great waterfall before Apaiqua.
Another morning From behind the towering, foggy summits the fickle
sun peeped mockingly, piercing the dew drops as tho' hate that only enhanced
the beauty of this scenic country. Before tropic mist had retreated, those ram-
stams those vigorous ruffians of the gold and diamond 'diggins' were already
stretching their ropey muscles knee-high, waist-high, even chest-high in the
roaring waters of the fall on the boat-lines. Their broad flat feet with claw-like
toes, panted with death-like grips on the rip-rap of Tobouku's jaws.
In that struggle for life, someone called aloud in a voice, commanding,
yet imploring, as though Venus and Hercules were at war:
"Shantie ma......a......a.....n!! Shan............" The voice was muffled. A stifled
scream followed. The man kept rolling over death like a battered buoy pressed
against the boiling current; tacked to life by two weakened hands, getting weaker
and weaker under its unique ordeal:
"H.....ee......lp!" The voice was lost as worn fingers refused to grip life,
that was a bubble. We only glanced at Cuffy. What else could we have done
without sharing his fate? He went off like an ant milling in a late stream.
We were more than half-way up the fall, and it was around nine a.m.
"Keep it up, Fred." The captain shouted to the bowman. At that very
instant, Fred had eased his paddle to refresh his hold. In a split-second the boat
had swerved broadside, sweeping us. Quickly she flooded, rolled a little, then
the under-current took charge as light cargoes went express. In a matter of
seconds everything was reduced to scattered chunks of wreckage; momentarily
visible amid the froth, or rolling upon rocks covered with green, grey or black
mosses, pointing jagged ends to the sky; leaving the men, bubbling shouts and
screams in the foaming jaws of the master-criminal Tobouku.
A few seconds after I had lost footing I found myself dashed on a rock.
About ten yards from me, was Sultan on another rock.
One after the other the drowning souls passed-passed in thundering foams
and churning foams. In hissing crests which the rocks and wind shattered into
shimmering, cascading sprays.
Then one man came passing very near to Sultan. Not that I had expected
him to stretch his hand to the man, for even a madman wouldn't risk such a
thing in Tobouku. But I did expect him to be a bit serious towards precious
life at such a time and place. Imagine hearing these words coming clearly, majes-
tically above the roar of the thunderous fall.
"Passeth thy way, Padna, from mortality to eternity; For if the Lord had
wanted thee to be saved, he would have provided a rock for thee as he hath pro-
vided one for me," and slapping his hairy chest in emphasis, concluded, "The
Surely, the drowning man did not hear a single word of what he said and
Sultan did not care either; for he was that kind of character was never really
serious towards life. He believed in destiny; so everything was fun everything.
Under the blistering sun, for nearly two hours we remained on the rocks
while the angry waters tumbled and splashed around us.
It was about one o'clock when the throbbing of an engine was heard as
its boat crawled inch after inch up the rocky rapids. Then they flung lines for
us, and thus we were rescued. In the boat were seven other survivors of our boat.
The rest had suffered the horrible fate in the black waters of Mazaruni. The
next day we reached Apaiqua. And the first thing I did was to write home. For 1
knew news of the washing-away wouldn't take long to reach Bartica.
And, as I started to write the letter, as when I started to write this,
the faint music of a new-born symphony began like an autumn leaf it floated
down through the still, jungle air to rest on a dormant pool, Gradually, the pool
took on life. Gradually, it increaesd, holding Autumn in a whirlpool and I wasn't
my own self. Soon unconsciously, I was writing a travelogue I was reliving
the most thrilling, the most eventful chapter of my life.
It was a symphony of quaint old Georgetown: The determination of a
fearless youth after a fortune of gold or diamonds. It was a page of Guiana's
colourful history, and fear on a dark beach. It was the grumbling of motors and
the tumbling of propellers.
It was the breathing of the sweet, fresh air of a cunning, an intriguing, an
alluring jungle. It was the hilarity of a rare gaiety.
It was the chattering of monkeys, the creaking of hammocks, the com-
motion of a mining camp in a bedewed and misty morning. It was the pulling of
paddles to the lusty rhythms of deep-throated shanties. It was the many colours.
the many awe-inspiring things of a tropical jungle.
It was the screeching of parakeets and macaws. It was toucans on turu
palms and iguanas basking in the sun.
It was the struggle for life in the tumbling, the roaring, the falling, the
splashing, the the hissing, the black, hostile waters of the water-falls. It was man,
with an unmatched, ruthless sense-of-humour.
It was life resurrected to live in a jungle endowed with the calls, spells
and charms needed to hold captive all those who dared enter it.