9 / ii .3CIS1~
QUARTERLY OF THE INSTITUTE OF JAMAICA
SEPTEMBER '69 VOL. 3 NO. 3
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Reader's Comment and Editor's Note .. ....
HISTORY and the Institute .. ....
Bernardo de Balbuena, Abbot of Jamaica ..
Walter Augustus Feurtado and His Manuscript. .
SCIENCE for the Layman . . . ..
The Sea Fisheries of Jamaica . . . . .
Prediction and Change in-Jamaican Rainfall .
ART LITERATURE MUSIC ......
During Lunch Time They Had The Revolution (Pla
Osmond Watson Talks to Alex Gradussov . .
The Exister . . . . . . . .
Sweet Chariot . . . . . . An
Art and Craft . . . . . . . .
Poetry Simple and Subtle . . . An
An Ode to A Soldier . . . .
Noah . . . . .
Guard Ring . . . . . .
Pages From A Journal . . . .
Country House . . . . . .
The Lonely Land .
Jamaican Boy . .
Applause . . .
Reflections of Death .
Hang On Sloopy . .
Greek Theatre . .
. Sylvia Wynter
.Jean M. King
. . . 16
J.L. Munroe 16
SJohn Fermor 23
. . .. . 27
y) Carmen Lyons. 27
. . . . 47
. Tessa Dow 43
ne-Marie Isachsen 54
. . . 36
ne-Marie Isachsen 40
SPetra Milner 40
SWayne Brown, 41
Dennis Scott 42
SDennis Scott 42
J.B. Kidd 26
... R. Murray
... R. Murray
... V. T. Higgins
S. A.C. Voorhoeve
.. F. J. Wotton.
NEXT ISSUE will include: Carol Reckord & Allistair Mclntyre Sugar,
R. M. Murray Ethiopia.
Cover Photo Rose Murray
Festival Prize Winner
As newcomers to Jamaica, we realize that we have a great deal to learn about the
country. One of the ways in which we are gaining background knowledge is to read
widely of Jamaican living and Jamaican affairs. In this context, we were interested in the
June issue of the new Jamaica Journal.
In your article, "Notes for an Industrial Revolution," we were cited as newcomers but
the introduction to your readers didn't really clarify our identity. In the interest of
setting the record straight, we would like your readers to know that far from "having
been forced out of copper by the current world crisis in that metal," we are a very large
and very active factor in the copper fabricating field.
Our company was established in 1801 by the Revolutionary patriot, Paul Revere, and
our brass and copper fabricating operations have thrived and grown ever since. We
have only recently completed a $20,000,000 expansion of our facilities and have, at
Rome, New York, the largest copper and brass rooling mill in the world.
We have been fabricators of aluminum for many decades and prime producers since
Our versatility in non-ferrous metals is the basic strength of our marketing capabilities
and an integral part of our corporate identity. We like to have our name properly
associated with our products thus, my note to you.
With best wishes for success to you and the Journal,
o IKJohn H. Eikenberg
Chairman of the Board
REVERE COPPER AND BRASS INCORPORATED
This is the eighth issue of Jamaica Journal. Two years of experience, two years of
satisfaction, two years of disappointment.
The Editor promised in the first issue certain things, and those readers who are
critical will find certain promises still unfulfilled. But this we have done:
We have tried to set a standard which is indigenous.
We have tried to give everyone a chance.
And we have always appeared on time.
No doubt that is not much but then two years in the life of a journal is not much
either. There are certain smaller things that we have achieved, too. We have, for instance,
shown that with effort things can be produced and printed in Jamaica that are not neces-
sarily inferior to products of developed countries. That may not be true of all pages and
numbers, and that is something that we must remedy.
The greatest problem, as briefly mentioned before and still remains, is that of finding
illustrators. We have many fine academically trained artists some of whom are making
some sort of a living out of their art. We have other artists who are self-taught and at
times magnificently original. But the gulf between commercial art and the independent
artist is still wide. And so when in this artistic climate the Editor approaches an artist to
do an illustration for him there is hesitancy because the artist does not know what is
required of him. And there is a feeling of being let down when the minute fee is men-
tioned. The Editor wishes to state categorically that the Journal is a cultural medium, not
an advertising medium, hence the artist does not have to supply the "goods" that the
Editor wants to buy. He has to rather respond to the ideas expressed in the short story
or article and has to translate that response into shapes and forms. The fee is no reflec-
tion on the artist's skill and effort, it is rather a token of gratitude.
The future of the Journal will be as bright or as dim as its contributors will make it.
If, as in the past, there is a mass of material to choose from, we shall be able to maintain
and extend the policy of presenting the best in Jamaican art and letters.
From "A Survey of the West Indies" by Thomas Gage 1699 WIRL
BERNARDO DE BALBUENA
Epic Poet and Abbot of Jamaica 1562-1627
by Sylvia Wynter
"With my pen, to reach the heights
that I desire,
There, with Homer second I to be the
first would then aspire." 1
"Now its author can say that he is
newly come into the world again, from
the soledades (desert place/solitudes) of
Jamaica, where all this while he has lived
as one encantado (betwitched/enchanted"
BERNARDO DE BALBUENA, writing
from Puerto Rico, 1623 1624.
"I had never wanted to stay in Trini-
dad. When I was in the fourth form I
wrote a vow. . to leave within five years.
I left after six; and for many years after -
1 Freely translated as indeed are all transla-
tions from his poetry in these articles from
his Epic or Heroic Poem, EL BERNARDO -
The Bernard Bk. III. Stanza, 174.
wards in England, falling asleep in bed-
sitters with the electric fire on, I had been
awakened by the nightmare that I was
back in tropical Trinidad."
VIDIA NAIPAUL, writing from England
Two voices across three centuries, one,
a poet and a Mexican-Spaniard, the other
a novelist and Trinidadian-Indian, yet
both moved by the same compulsion -
the urge to escape from a reality which
seems bewitched to the first, and a night-
mare to the second. Spain, in her
conquest and settlement of the New
World, transplanted, her laws, system of
government, military-feudal complex, ab-
ove all her dominant religious motif, and
the culture based on it. In the early
seventeenth century, a Balbuena, only had
to leave Jamaica for Puerto Rico to
find himself in touch, however tenuously,
with what was to him, a civilized reality.
With the later British colonization of the
New World, a colonization whose raison
d'etre was purely economic, the twentieth
century Naipaul, to find a cultural metro-
politan centre, had to go thousands of
miles to London, to sit and shiver beside
an electric fire.
NO LONGER TO SUFFER IN THIS
Bernardo de Balbuena was not the first
Abbot to feel anguish at the thought of
the years he had spent -or misspent -
in Jamaica. His predecessor, Francisco
Marquez de Villalobos, wrote his King,
Phillip III of Spain, pleading that he be
sent elsewhere, that he be no longer
allowed 'to suffer in this exile'. His
letter was dated March, 1606. By August,
purgatory was ended, Marquez de Villa-
lobos was dead. He was buried at the
hour of High Mass, at one side of the Main
Altar of the principal Church which stood
in the Plaza Mayor (the main square) in
Villa de la Vega, today's Spanish Town.
In his will Marquez de Villalobos left, to a
friend who had cared for him in his last
illness, all that he had to leave his
twenty-four years of service to the King
as Abbot of Jamaica. After twenty-four
years of a kind of martyrdom not even his
bones would lie in his beloved Spain again.
Worse than that, with the English occu-
pation of the island, and the consequent
erasing of the Spanish presence, the Eng-
lish would build their Cathedral on the
site of his faith and altar and temple.
They would bury their dead and erect
their tombs, and mingle his reluctant
dust with their heretical own.
In quite a few respects, Bernardo de
Balbuena was to be far luckier than his
predecessor. He got out of Jamaica to
become Bishop of Puerto Rico. When he
died there a few years later (1627) his
worldly goods were substantial enough to
lead to a violent scene about his deathbed.
Church and State, the Dean of the Cath-
edral and the Governor of Puerto Rico,
wrangled as to which should inherit his
possessions, as to whether the will that the
dying man had just signed was valid or
not. Had Balbuena survived his sickbed,
he might have converted the scene into
literature. He came of a culture and at a
time when the commander of a Spanish
squadron, at the height of a terrible storm
which wreaked havoc with ships and crew,
could turn to a fellow-hidalgo, and show
him with pride a new sonnet written by
Lope de Vega, Spain's Shakespeare; a
sonnet which he said, Lope de Vega, had
given him just before he left the Court in
Madrid. After reading the sonnet aloud,
with the winds shrieking, he followed this
with a critical appraisal of the sonnet, as
if, his fellow-hidalgo narrates, 'he had
been criticizing it in a serene Academy of
letters." What men dreamt and wrote,
and what they lived coexisted side by
side. Literature realized itself in life, and
life surprised itself as literature, in what a
famous critic has called, 'the literaturi-
zation of life'.
For in another, and more fundamental
sense, Bernardo de Balbuena differed from
his predecessor, Balbuena was a poet. And
this was the esse of his being. Not only
was he a poet, but he aspired to rank
himself among those poets who wrote,
what was in his culture, the culture of
Western Man, the noblest form of poetry -
the epic. In this respect too, Bernardo
de Balbuena, was lucky. In 1624, three
years before his death, his epic poem,
EL BERNARDO (THE BERNARD liter-
ally) was published in Madrid. A copy
of the princeps edition can be seen in the
Institute of Jamaica where it bears the
"The earliest book published by a resident
HE WILL GO TO FOUND A CHANCERY
IN JALISCO 2
How did a poet, and an epic poet, at
that, come to be a resident in Jamaica.
The explanation is inseparable from the
manner of the Spanish conquest and
settlement of the New World. In his epic
poem, a form of poetry, which, even as
late as the end of the seventeenth century
Dryden could class as "undoubtedly the
greatest work which the soul of man is
capable to perform" Balbuena gives the
elevated and poetic facts about his father's
emigration to Mexico. In the prologue to
his EL BERNARDO, he engages in one
of the most passionate debates of his age,
the validity of poetic truth as distinct
from historical truth. This tension bet-
ween poetic truth and reality was basic to
the Spanish experience in the New World;
and his own.
His father, of the same name -Bernardo
de Balbuena- is believed to have been
born about 1522 one year after Cortes
2 The Bernardo, Bk. XIX Stanza 225.
"Great Tenochtitlin" Mural
by Diego Rivera in the
Palacio Nacional, Mexico City.
By courtesy Colegio National
de Arquitectos de Mexico
de Arquitectos Mexicanos
had conquered the city of the Aztecs -
Tenochtitlan, the centre of their great
empire, razed it to the ground, and began
the rebuilding of what is today's Mexico
City. Some of his family that is, of
Balbuena father are supposed to have
gone out to Mexico in the early days of
raw adventure. Their patron was Nuno
Beltran de Guzman, who had been appoin-
ted President of the Royal Audiencia, a
Council consisting of magistrates through
which the Government was carried on.
Nuno Beltran de Guzrhan was also Gover-
nor of Panuco; he left behind him a
legend of cruelty that was surpassed by
few. A terrible hunter of gold and of
Indians to sell as slaves, his name became
a byword even in a desperate age. But
Spain sent two kinds of conquistadores to
the New World the conquistadores of the
flesh; and those of the spirit. Those who
came to conquer with the gun, and those
who came to conquer with the Cross of
Christ There were times even in the
early stage when these only bolstered and
supported one another. There would be a
later time when the Cross would take it
for granted that it would survive in the
Sgun's shadow. But there was a heroic age,
an epic age of Spanish missionary priests,
like Bartolome de Las Casas, Motolinia,
and the Franciscan Zumarraga of Mexico,
as well as others, who saw the New World
not as a source of gold nor slaves; but as
souls waiting to be garnered for God, to
Sbe brought into the brotherhood of Christ.
The New World were for these conquis-
tadores, the prefiguration of what a later
Spanish soldier/poet would write of with
O great, oh most rich conquests
Of the Indies of God, of that great
Hidden from human eyes......
But for Cortes and the other conquista-
dores, the issue was simple and the issue
was different. They had endured incre-
dible hardships, performed unimaginable
feats of valour to get and capture a land
whose name would now become the
synonym for earthly riches.
"I came," said Cortes, "to get gold,
not to till the soil like a peasant. "
The get-rich-quick attitude would win
out, Midas would in the end, if not defeat
S Christ, at least, keep him cornered. But
in the early days the missionaries fought
back. A Zumarraga, was able to get a
Nuno Beltran de Guzman recalled as
Governor and President of the Audiencia,
for his brutality to the Indians. But
Beltran de Guzman returned as a private
citizen, and the Balbuena family stayed
on. When the young Balbuena-senior,
came out to New Galicia in Mexico, he too
had come, not to till the soil like a
peasant. That was what Indians were for.
Most possibly, through the influence of
his family who were now settled as
landowners, he obtained a post in the
Chancery of New Galicia, the then name
for the province of Mexico which today
comprises Jalisco, Aguas Calientes, and
part of Durango. Zacatecas and San Luis
Potosi. He eventually became Secretary
to the Audiencia, or Chancery of Compo-
stela in 1548. There was then, factual
truth in the verse in which, Balbuena the
epic poet, having created for himself in
Book X1X of his Heroic poem, EL
BERNARDO, a most noble and magnifi-
cent family tree refers to his father, as one
branch of a famous, Christian and warrior
family, one who,
.. .where the sun gilds itself with
When, on this land, it does not, as yet
With the power, grand and great, of the
To Jalisco will go, there to establish a
royal Chancery. "
But the epic poet selects his truth. He
would owe his being born in Spain to a
series of sordid facts, which epic poetry
would have had to transmute into alle-
gory. In the Bernardo, one of the constant
allegories, is that of the power of Avarice.
Balbuena-senior was a man of his times,
and of the frontier gold rush atmosphere.
As part of the Spanish organization of the
New World, it was customary for all
administrative officers, at the end of their
term of office, to submit to a 'residencia',
i.e., an investigation into their conduct of
their particular office. During this invest-
igation, all persons who had grievances
could make formal complaints. In 1557,
many charges were presented against Bal-
buena-senior, and some of his colleagues:
HE CUT HIS NA VEL STRING IN THE
HOUSE OF CONTRERAS:
According to these charges, Balbuena-
senior had been negligent, avaricious and
unjust in his conduct of office. As a
magistrate, he was said to have delayed
and deferred cases in favour of his intimate
friend and fellow magistrate, Contreras.
Not only did he charge excessive -fees for
his services, but he neglected to perform
these services, spending day and night, in
the house of his friend, Contreras, playing
at cards and chess. In fact, as one witness
put it, 'he seemed to have cut his navel
string in the house of Contreras.'
Besides, his official post, Balbuena-
senior owed a property at San Pedro
Lagunillas where his son would later be
parish priest. Some witnesses accused him
of having used the Indians who had been
officially designated to work on public
projects in Compostela, as additional
labour on his property. In addition he was
accused, as a citizen, of brutal treatment
of those Indian who had been allotted to
him to work under the 'encomienda'
Under this system, groups of Indians
were placed in trust to each 'settler', and
were to work for the settler who should
see to the well being of their soul and
body. But the encomiendas, a system
which had been used by Spain in her
reconquest of Spanish territory from the
Moors, did not have the checks and
balances, and the immediate royal and
governmental presence. It meant only
out-right slavery in the Indies. Urged by
the missionary priests, the Crown, in
Spain promulgated in 1542, a whole code
of New Laws, "for the governing of the
Indies, and the protection of the Indians."
But as Peter Martyr humanist Italian,
settled in Spain, a member of the Gover-
ning Council of the Indies, and an early
predecessor, of Balbuena, the poet, as
Abbot of Jamaica, clearsightedly wrote:
"All these instructions have been
thought out by prudent and humane
juris consults, and sanctioned by religious
men. But what of that? When our com-
patriots reach that remote world, so far
away, and so removed from us, beyond
the ocean, whose courses imitate the
changing heavens, they find themselves
distant from any judge. Carried away by
love ofgold, they become ravenous wolves
instead of gentle lambs, and heedless of
Balbuena, senior, was like all the others
carried away by love of gold. One of the
charges brought against him was that he
had left his job and gone off with some
thirteen or fourteen neighbours to look
for rich mines in Jocotlan. He nearly
paid with his life. Some Indians, attacked
the group. Only Balbuena-senior and a
Negro slave of his escaped.
THEY VIEW THE WEALTH OF
Balbuena had also been closely con-
nected with the founders of the city of
Zacatecas, capital of the province that was
rich with mineral wealth. In a document
in which some of these founders take pos-
session of a mine in that city, Balbuena-
senior was the notary. Why should he
too then not own a mine for himself? The
wealth of the region and the proliferation
of its mines, was to figure in the herioc
poem of his son. In one of the most in-
teresting passages of the Bernado, the
magician-enchanter, Malgesi, with two
companions, Reinaldos, a French paladin
and Orimandro, King of Persia, make an
aerial voyage in a flying boat over Europe
and Spain, to the Moon, and then over to
the, as yet undiscovered, New World, across
'the deep dark immensity of the sea' to the
lands which, the author prophesies, one
day will pay
tribute to Spain, and pour out
Turned into silver, the blood of its
Among other places, over which they fly
marvelling the poet speaks of the wealth
and treasure of Zacatecas, still buried in
its earth. Balbuena-senior failed to get the
quick treasure that he sought. The poet,
his son found in poetry the Midas touch,
where all the wonder of the New World
could be turned into epic verse.
Avarice and neglect and cruelty to his
Indians, were not the only charges brought
against Balbuena-senior. He was also
accused of living in concubinage with a
certain Maria de Jaramilla, an Indian
woman and of having had a mestizo son
called Pedro, with her. In fact, his
accusers said he was seeking to marry this
Maria. It is possible that like many others
Balbuena-senior may have left a wife in
Spain. In 1557 he was found guilty of all
the charges laid against him and suspended
from office, together with his cronies, in-
cluding Contreras. In 1560, he went off
to Spain to fight against the judgement on
behalf of his friends and himself. Whilst
there he had an affair with Francisca
Sanchez de Velasco. From this union,
Bernardo de Balbuena, the poet, was born,
in Valdepenas, in the province of Ciudad
Real somewhere between 1561-1562. Like
his mestizo half-brother, Pedro, he was of
illegitimate birth. His illegitimacy was to
have a profound influence on his life. His
inordinate ambition, his almost physical
hunger and thirst for honour, and position
in life, for fame and renown can be
traced to this deep wound. Always Bal-
buena would want to prove himself beyond
the best against the best, and like Icarus,
to soar beyond the sun. Both as cleric and
as poet Balbuena aimed at nothing but the
A SWAN WILL SPRING WITH TENDER
In 1564, Balbuena-senior returned to
Mexico. We know that he returned to
public office so his representations in
Spain must have borne fruit. We do not
know at what date Bernardo the poet,
came to Mexico, but he came as a child,
separated from his mother, and spent his
childhood and adolescence in Guadala-
jara, Compostela and San Pedro Lagunillas
where his father had property and employ-
ment. Yet, as we shall see,the landscape
of these places, are important to him,
only in so far as they attest to the great-
ness of Spain. Bernardo had cut his
navel string in Spain, and the New World
had importance for him only in so far as
it was her reflection across the seas. He
began his studies in Guadalajara, and in
1580 went to continue studies in Mexico
City. Balbuena's love for Mexico City
and its 'culture' as opposed to the 'sole-
dades', of the rural areas, and provincial
towns, was due to the fact that in Mexico
City he found himself in a culturally
In the New World, the Spaniards
followed the Roman imperial tradition,
by using the city -urbs as the unit of
imperial expansion. This of course res-
ponded to the Spanish reality at home,
where the city state with its municipal
cabildo or town council governed a
considerable surrounding area. But the
speed with which the intellectual and
cultural life of Spain was brought to
Mexico City, was remarkable. With the
coming of the first Viceroy, Antonio de
Mendoza, 1535, schools were at once set up
and the printing press began operation in
1536. By 1553 courses had begun at the
University of Mexico, an exact replica of
those in Spain. First rate humanists and
theologians came out, and first rank was
given to the Chair of Scholastic Theology.
Apart from the University there were
Dominican and Jesuit colleges, and the
latter, in particular offered their students
a Christian humanist education. It is
believed from what Balbuena tells us in
his first published book The Grandeur of
Mexico that he studied at one of these
Jesuit colleges and attended classes at the
University. Certainly he graduated with a
Balbuena was born and grew up in
that era when Roman Catholicism, which
saw itself as the universal religion found
itself on the defensive against the attacks
of the growing Protestant spirit. Spain
spear-headed, the resistance to this heresy.
The militant order of the Jesuits, founded
by Loyola, was one of the weapons with
which Catholicism fought back in the
movement known as the Counter-refor-
mation. One of the results of this
movement was that letters and learning
were seen to be only valid in so far as
they strengthened the Catholic faith; in
so far as they were not an end in them-
selves, but subserved the salvation of man,
directing his life on earth to its eternal end
in Heaven. Since 'humanism' itself had
come to flower in the expanding economy
of the commercial city-states of Italy,
where a professional class of writers,
turning back to intensive study of the
Greek-Roman world and of the pagan
thought of the ancients had brought about
that change of perspective in which man
sought to achieve moral perfection on
earth for its own sake; and since the very
idea of humanist studies and disciplines
sprang from the belief that such perfec-
tion could be found in the study of the
letters and philosophy of the ancient
world, there was bound to be a paradox
and a tension in the very concept of
Christian humanism. Yet out of this
tension much of the literature of Spain's
Golden Age would spring. In this tension
and paradox, as Christian priest and
humanist poet, Balbuena himself would
write and live.
The basic idea of humanist studies
was to give an education that would enable
the student to conform to an ideal human
type. In such an education the study of
the Greek epic poems of Homer, and the
Latin epic of Vergil was a sine qua non.
In the Christian-Catholic interpretation,
the heroes of Homer and of Vergil could
be studied as ideal types of human
behaviour, before the coming and revela-
"The Royal and Pontifical University of Mexico".
The first in America, founded in 1553.
This is the third building occupied
by the University.
By courtesy Colegio National de Arquitectos
de Mexico and Sociedad
de Arquitectos Mexicanos.
,-.-- -,-. -
This building housed the first Printing Plant in the America's (1539).
By courtesy Colegio National de Arquitectos and Sociedad de Arquitectos Mexicanos.
tion of Christ. Just as the Greek and Latin
pagan gods were transformed, during the
Middle Ages into allegorical myths to
explain the Christian mysteries, so now
the epic heroes of the past were studied
as prefigurations of Christ, who was now
the ideal and model for all human beha-
viour. It was impossible then to receive
such an education and not come to be-
lieve that the greatest aspiration of a
writer would be to write an epic at once
Christian and humanist, to fulfil the dual
purpose of moral perfection on earth,
and eternal salvation in Heaven. For a
Balbuena, as for the men of his age, an
epic poet imitated God the creator; and
an epic poem, as Dryden expresses it,
could have no nobler end;
"The design of it is to form the mind
to heroic virtue by example; 'tis con-
veyed in verse, that it may delight, while
To be an epic poet, was no light mat-
ter. It was a vocation, a calling, needing
years of study, practise and dedication,
both moral and literary. It was a destiny,
And, in the epic poem itself, as Malgesi
and his companions travel in the flying
ship over Spain, Balbuena's birthplace is
pointed out, (Bk.XVI) prophetically, his
poet's stable, marked if not with a star,
with a poetic verse:
From that most pleasant valley, ringed
Where humble shepherds' huts now
Where the river Javalon, the thick
Dresses with roses and with radiant
A swan will spring with tender wings
Which, if with time, extend their reach
Fame will make of them, in memory
Of your valour, an immortal history.
His poet's destiny is to straddle two
worlds with his poetry as his magician
Malgesi is able to do with his magic.
And as the height and crown of my
I see him cross two worlds the Old
Yoking from both, for his grave verse,
All that is best for his substance and
Everything ends with the different
ebb and flow of Time fine robes, gold
rich jewels, treasures of all kinds
Not that immortal name which poetry
BALBUENA, translating Ovid, in THE
GRANDEUR OF MEXICO, published
The literary competition in Spanish,
certamen, was a part of the literary life
of Spain, which had been transplanted to
Mexico City. These competitions spring-
ing out of the chivalresque concept of
life and literature, were modelled on the
idea of knightly tourneys or jousts. But
they were the arts of peace, and not of
war; and were promoted by State and
Church. These festival-competitions began
in Mexico City from the very earliest
times. We have a description of one
which was held in the sixteenth century.
Promoted by the Royal Chancery, the
Festival was held with pomp and circum-
stance. A Herald, carrying the Arms of
the City of Mexico, went through all the
streets, blowing a trumpet. As he went
along, he announced the themes of the
competition, and the prizes that were to
be given. The Presidents of the Festival
were members of the Chancery. The
Judges included a representative of the
Archbishop, one of the Chancellor of the
University, and in his own person, a
Professor of Philosophy. Each Judge
privately judged the entries, then wrote a
report, justifying.his judgement and signed
it. When they met, the Secretary of the
Competition, usually a Jesuit theologian,
counted the votes in their reports, and the
winners were decided upon. On the day
of the prizegiving, sometimes held in the
hall of the Jesuit College of St Peter and
St Paul, the walls were decorated with the
poets' entries. The four top prize-winners
selected for the elegance of their style,
and the thought and knowledge displayed
in their content, were crowned with
laurel before the audience; and were pro-
claimed in the name and by the authority
of the Royal Chancery to be 'poets
WHO COULD COMPETE WITH THE
BEST IN THE WORLD
Balbuena's poetic vocation was pro-
claimed with his entries in several liter-
ary competitions. From 1585, whilst
still studying in Mexico, until 1590 when
he had already graduated, been ordained a
priest and was already filling his first post,
he entered four competitions, and won a
3 Scindentur vestes gemma frangentur et
Carmina quam tribuent fama perennis erit.
(Ovid, 10th Elegy Bk 1).
Todo se acabara con los diversos
cursos del tiempo, el oro, los vestidos,
las joyas y tesoros mas validos,
y no el nombre inmortal que dan los versos.
(BALBUENA LA GRANDEZA MEXICANA)
prize in each. His prizewinning entries 4
were published in his first book The
Grandeur of Mexico. In the same book,
he tells us that in 1586 in the competi-
tion held as part of the celebrations to
welcome the new Viceroy of Mexico, he
received first prize from among a field of
"three hundred entrants, all exceed-
ingly talented in the poetic art, and
who could compete with the best in
A man would find fame through poetry,
but he could not live by it in Mexico. Nor
for that matter in Spain. Geniuses like
Cervantes and Lope De Vega had to turn
their hands to several things to make ends
meet. Balbuena's bread and butter offi-
cial career had, in a sense, been decided
for him. For the bureaucracy of the
Church was the one career open to a
man of talent, and of illegitimate birth.
And so, somewhere about that time,
he began his priestly career, as Chaplain
to the Chancery of Guadalajara, no doubt
due to his father's influence. His life in
the small towns and villages, which he was
to loathe, the 'soledades' in which he felt
himself bewitched, began. He did not cut
his literary ties with Mexico City however.
In 1590, on the arrival of a new Viceroy,
Don Luis de Velasco, he entered a laud-
atory poem about the Viceroy which won
the prize. The same year he won another
prize with a virtuose acrostic-type poem.
His stay in the capital would have incre-
ased his discontent with the provincial
town of Guadalajara. But worse was yet
to come. In 1592 he was promoted to be
Parish Priest of San Pedro Lagunillas, and
Minas del Espiritu Santo, two small vill-
ages to the north of Guadalajara.
Balbuena must have felt despair closing
in on him; the same despair which the
Guyanese writer Mittelholzer pictures so
vividly, at feeling himself trapped in
drowsy provincial New Amsterdam. be-
hind God's back. And like Mittelholzer,
Balbuena never ceased his efforts to escape
the trap. In the same manner that Mittel-
holzer posted off manuscript after manu-
script to English publishers, so too did Bal-
buena, open fire on two fronts. To escape
the provinces, the backwoods and oblivion,
he could use one, or both paths his
priestly and his literary vocation. So in
1592, he 'filed an application for a post
in Mexico City. His application was filed
at Guadalajara, from where it was sent on
to Seville, the centre of colonial adminis-
tration in Spain; where it was registered,
gathering dust for many years. According
to the conventions of what was called the
royal patronato' the King, through the
Council of the Indies, made all appoint-
4 These entries were:-
I A poem in which Christ Consoles the Soul,
written for Corpus Christi. (1585).
2 A poem written on the theme of the psalm -
Super flumina Babylonis (i.e. Psalm 137)"By
the Rivers of Babylon, I sat me down and wept
How shall I sing the Lord's song in a strange
land?" This was written for the arrival of the
The other two entries are mentioned in the text.
ments to the administrative positions in
the Church of the New World.
THE GREAT VOLCANO OF XALA, THE
TORCH BY WHICH I WRITE:
From 1592-1602, with the exceptions
of a few trips to other places, and perhaps
to Mexico City, Balbuena remained in,
what was to him, exile in the remote
places of Mexico. In the Grandeur of
Mexico, published in 1604, the contrast
between his enthusiastic praise of Mexico
City, and his contempt for the provincial
places could not be more pronounced. In
his panegyric about Mexico City, a clas-
sical form widely practised in Renaissance
and post-Renaissance Europe, he starts off
in praise of the city:
"Of famous Mexico I sing the site
The origins and grandeur of its build-
Its horses, streets, manners, courtesy,
Letters, virtues, variety of calling...
In contrast, in the same book he describes
the provincial milieu in which he had
". .. this narrow and small world,
large in land, and small in people. And
outside of this rich city (Mexico City)
almost a desert, almost the end of the
world in what pertains to learning and
letters, good taste, cultured intercourse
and the play of the mind.... The urge
for profits from their lands, and greed
for gain, having tyrannized and claimed
the best minds (or thoughts) for their
Some three hundred and fifty years
later, Naipaul, in describing Trinidad, pic-
tures the same cultural bankruptcy, the
same misdirection of talent and the mind.
His description of Trinidad can easily
make do for Jamaica; as could, so long
ago, Balbuena's. "In the Middle Passage"
"I knew Trinidad to be unimportant
uncreative, cynical .. and the most
successful people were commission
agents, bank managers and members
of the distributive trade.. "
From Solis, "History of Mexico", English Edition 1724, WIRL, The Lake of Mexico
The City of Mexico. From Solis,
"History of Mexico"
English Edition 1724, WIRL.
Where Naipaul goes on to say,
"Power was recognized but dignity was
allowed to no one.
"Every person of eminence was held
to be crooked and contemptible. We
lived in a society which denied itself
Balbuena says it in verse,
In little narrow towns all is strife
All is gossip, rumours, evil tales,
Lies, envy, hate all pertaining to
And yet, it was out of Trinidadian society
"that Naipaul was to write Biswas. And it
was in these little narrow towns that Bal-
buena was to have the most creative
period of his life.
He wrote there his pastoral novel-The
Golden Age in the Woods of Erifile -
whose importance for our purpose lies in
several aspects. One, that he was, as al-
ways, in touch with and following the
literary vogues of contemporary Italy and
metropolitan Spain; yet always with that
delay in fashion which is the fate of all
provinces, provinces that are doomed to
borrow Levi-Strauss' phrase to be 'not so
much exotic as out of date' By the time
Balbuena published his in Madrid, in 1608,
the vogue for the pastoral had passed its
peak, but was not entirely dead. His wide
and assiduous reading of the latest publi-
cations in Italy and Spain are attested to
be the widespread influences of Italians
and contemporary Spaniards on his work.
As critics have pointed out, Balbuena dis-
plays a facility of invention and a talent
for versifying not inferior to other prac-
titioners of the art. It is clear therefore
that in the isolation of these remote places,
he lived with books and could have said
as the somewhat younger, greater Spanish
poet, Quevedo did:
Retired in the peace of these deserts
I live conversing with the dead
And listen with my eyes to men who're
Yet, who in silent counterpoint of
Awake, cry out to the dream of life.."
But a Quevedo, living at the heart of
Empire, had no illusions about the defeat
of the dream of Empire, and the crum-
bling away of its reality. For him the
'soledad, outside the centre and the court
alone held peace. For Balbuena, the
court, the city, tlhe Centre of Empire alone
The pastoral was an aristocratic mode
of literature, which, pictured in poetry,
prose, or a mixture of both, the idealized
life of aristocratic lovers disguised as shep-
herds, singing of the pains of love and the
joys; never, of course, tending sheep. In
the commercial expansion of Europe, with
its rapid social mobility, for the rising
bourgeoisie, anxious to identify with the
leisured pastimes of the aristocratic class
the pastoral form became a must. In the
pastoral, there is a pretence of despising
the corrupt agitated life of the Court and
therefore valuing life in a tamed idealized
and idyllic natural setting. A 'cultured'
imaginary soledad in fact redeemed by
art. Balbuena, caught by the difficulty of
idealizing the Nature of Mexico, that sur-
rounded him, perhaps subconsciously
aware that the Indian, unlike European
rustics could not be transmuted into liter-
ary shepherd, since the forest and the
trees were still too newly spattered with
their blood, set his pastoral in a valley of
his beloved Spain, near his birthplace.
Only one interlude is imagined to take
place in Mexico. The artifice works in a
form that is completely 'artificial' But
if this had been his only work, Balbuena
5. Francisco Gomez de Quevedo y Villegas
would have just managed to survive ob-
According to his Mexican biographer*
in the pastoral novel, Balbuena shows his
love for Dona Ysabel de Tobar, whom he
had known in his student days,who later
married, and then was left a youngish
widow. It is possible that he did.genuinely
love her; or it might be that she was,
according to the custom of love poets of
the day, a literary excuse for some rather
fine love sonnets The fact that she came of a
powerful and influential family would not
have hindered his taking her as his earthly
muse. To survive in a society based on
power, largely outside or on the margin
of the law, one had to know hdw to keep
a weather eye open for those friendships
which could help to keep one afloat.
Above all the pastoral poem served as
a preliminary exercise for the epic poem
which was in the process of being written
in those ten years. At the end of the poem,
through a warlike figure called Selvaggio
announces that, if the divine breath fills
his flute with power enough to make the
sun stop in the sky, he will sing a song of
Mars and War, a song of Spain's valour
that will astonish the world from the
Indian to the Moor. A song that will
cause Time to conserve his memory and
bring him an envied glory, dealing as it
"The Arms of that New Achilles
The great Bernardo, honor, glory exem--
Of gallant deeds and noble hearts!"
C.S. Lewis quotes Goethe who, in
speaking of the epic, pointed out that
formalized diction of the epic, is a
"Language which does your thinking and
poetizing' for you" The poet, moving
within the tradition of the epic, approaches
what they called the 'universal truth' of
poetry. He is compelled by his form, by
its accumulated tradition, to see things
sub specie aeternitatis. The treatment of
the enemy, for example beginning with
Homer, is significant. The nobility of the
enemy is showed to the same extent as
that of one's own side, or rather of the
side from which one is singing one's song.
Baseness is on both sides. The cheap and
vulgar nationalism of history would be
for epic poetry, the original sin. The
enemy in the epic is each man's potential-
ity for baseness; the hero, each man's
potentiality for greatness.6 Not only the
human beings but the landscape comes
within the epic context. In Homer for
example, the sea had always been Poseidon
the great god, 'the shaker of earth', the
constant the enduring reality against which
man cast his shadow, doomed to mortality.
So, Balbuena, inshis epic poem looks at the
landscapes which he had loathed, and for-
got the small petty accidents which had
bruised his spirit, remembering only the
essence, that which remains when every-
Thus as the magician Malgesi and the
others fly over Mexico the poet describes
what they see with an epic eye, the high
mountains of Jalisco and Jala, full of sweet
honey, the gardens of the valleys of Vand-
eras, the sea breaking on the wild shore.
And the great volcano of Jala today
called Ceboruco in the state of Nayarit -
flaming with fire was, the poet admits
the torch by whose light he wrote his poem
catching epic grandeur from the sight.
Here in the peace and quiet, the small
fountain began that would end in the
river of his poem; here where his desire
for fame first urged him on.
In 1602, finding him-self forty years
old, with nothing published, and still only
the parish priest of two remote villages, he
had had enough. He decided to cut his
losses and leave for Mexico City. Before
leaving he went north to San Miguel de
Culiacan to say goodbye to Dona Ysabel
de Tobar. She had decided to take the
veil and enter a convent. Before leaving,
he promised her to write and tell her
about the city of Mexico as she had
requested. With this as his literary excuse,
6 We see in Balbuena's own work, this contrast
between the 'historical' fact and the epic fact.
As a second third generation settler, Bal-
buena's attitude to the Indian of Mexico, as can
be deduced from his most 'factual' book, the
Grandeur of Mexico, is one of contempt for the
'incluto', the brute man. Here he seems to
accept the line of argument that was based on
Aristotle's statement that some men are naturally
inferior. In this his first published book he
presents an image of an Indian pursuing a wild
east, and says that 'the beast was less intract-
able and ferocious than the soul which pursued
it." Yet in the epic, the Bernardo, the Tlascalan
Indian magician whose magic and wisdom are
powerful enough to pull down the French
magician's Malgesi's flying boat from the air and
down into his cave, is shown as the equal if not
the superior, of Malgesi. Of course, Malgesi was
French, not Spanish; and the Tlascalan Indians,
a powerful tribe and the traditional enemies of
the Aztec Empire, were the allies, who made it
possible for Cortes to conquer Mexico. But the
contrast between "the savage Indian" of the
Grandeur of Mexico and "the wise and powerful
Indian" of the epic is still there.
Balbuena arriving in the city, wrote and
published in 1604, his first book THE
GRANDEUR OF MEXICO. From now
on, everything that he did, would be
directed towards the twin goals of advance-
ment in one career, and fame in the other.
He was determined to get out of the 'small
narrow world' in which he had lived until
now. The publication of his book was
one manoeuvre in the battle to escape; in
that same year too, he took his second
degree and became a licentiate of the
University. In the same year he began to
prepare an application asking for a position
or canonry in the churches of Mexico
City or Tlascala.
STARTING WITH ARISTOTLE,
ENDING WITH XENOPHON
In its basic intention then, the Grand-
eur of Mexico was to be a bread-and-
butter-singing-for-supper and a position
in the church hierarchy. But the poetic
end, here and there, goes beyond the
prose purpose. Much of the material of
the book is designed to show Balbuena's
academic learning; and therefore to prove
to his peers his fitness for high position in
the Church. In the first edition, besides
the customary laudaroty sonnets from his
small learned circle of friends, the book
contains first a Letter to the Archdeacon
of New Galicia, Doctor Don Antonio de
Avila y Cadena; the letter itself consists of
a short prologue in prose, a poem in praise
of the new Archbishop of Mexico,3a gloss
or learned explanation in prose on the
poem, dated, October 1602, a few days
after the arrival of the Archbishop in
Mexico. After this comes the main text
of the book written in the Italianate
verse of the terza rima7, and in the form
of a poetic letter epistola to Dona
Ysabel de Tobar. In the first twenty.
tercets, he priases Dona Ysabel as a flower
born to blush unseen; he also praises her
noble lineage, pointing out her distant kin-
ship to the Duke of Lerma, the powerful and
corrupt favourite of Phillip III of Spain.
Balbuena's Mexican biographer-Rojas
Garciduenas-points out that at the end
of the XVIth century,the Tobar family was
important in Galicia; and that some of its
branches may have been related to the
Balbuena's. And as Rojas Garciduenas
remarks, Balbuena had an almost servile
respect for power. But this servility was a
constant of his time, and Balbuena was
in all respects, except in his epic poem, a
conventional man, who wanted to get on.
7 Rojas Garciduenas, his biographer, surmises
that the poem to the Archbishop would have
been recited aloud by the Children of the
Cathedral Choir when the Archbishop was form-
ally welcomed. The poem to the Archbishop
begins with a gloss on an ode of the Latin poet
Horace Laudabunt alii claram Rhodam -
"Let others sing the sacred place of Delphos
Of great Thebes its walls and edifices,
And of rich Corinth the two seas... "
He sings the greatness of the lineage and of the
person of the Archbishop, concluding that
Mexico City, blessed with its new Shepherd can
now compare itself with all the famous cities of
Greek Latin Antiquity. Here we see the
fusion of the Christian actuality with the pagan
He therefore praises the Duke of Lerma
as he who,
"... today serves as base and column
to the great weight of the world. .. "
As Van Horne says, this poem, the Gran-
deur ofMexica is the one in which Bal-
buena most nearly approaches 'realism' as
we know it today. In his pastoral novel,
Dona Ysabel appears only as the beloved
nymph, from whom her shepherd must
part, each one after that "to inhabit
strange and distant kingdoms."; in his
epic she appears as the nymph, inseparable
from and elevated into his Muse, (Bk. XIX
St.) whilst Culiacan is seen from the aerial
heights of the flying ship (Bk XVIII)
as the place which,
"created the flower of the world's
In the Grandeur of Mexico, under all tle
blandishments, she appears as a possible
weapon in his search for patronage. Al-
ready his eyes were fixed on Spain, the
centre of power; where the Duke of
Lerma, and the Count of Lemos, were
two .of those who exercised this power
and dispensed shares in its benefits.
The second edition, which came out in[
Mexico City and also bears the date 1604
on its title page 8was most likely intended to
have been published in Spain. It is dedi-
acted with a long poem to "the most Ec-
cellent Count of Lemos and Andrade
Marquis of Sarria, President of the Royal
Council of the Indies". This poem also
had brief explanatory notes or glosses in
prose. Also in both editions, coming it
the end of the book, is an essay entitled,
"An Apologetic Compendium in Praise of
Poetry." Van Home, has called all of this
additional 'apparatus' the 'essence ofped-
antry', the kind of pedantry mocked ly
the genial Cervantes in his Prologue o
Don Quixote, whose first part appeared n
1605.In his Prologue, Cervantes ironic -
ly speaks of the author's despair at his
lack of learning, and therefore at the
academic bareness of his work:
"My book will lack all this; for I have
nothing to quote in the margin or to note
at the end. Nor do I even know what
authors I am following in it; and so I can-
not set their names at the beginning in
alphabetical order, as they all do, starting
with Aristotle and ending with Xenophort."
But a friend consoled him, advising hin
to make up his own quotes, write his own
verses, and make up too, the learned
names of their authors, for even if,
some pedants and graduates
turned up to snap andgrowl at you behind
8 Van Horne believes that although the title
page of the second edition holds the date 1634,
it might not have appeared until 1606 when
with the death of the Archbishop, Balbuern,
would have lost hope of patronage fiom tla'
quarter and therefore dedicated it to Lemros
your back in the name of truth, you need
not bother about them a bit;for... they
cannot cut off the hand you wrote it
It was all very well for Cervantes to
laugh in his Prologue, in real life the
pedants and graduates, firmly esconced as
they always are, in the higher branches of
the bureaucracy can cut off the limbs, on
which an aspirant, especially a New World
upstart, tries to sit. Balbuena, living in a
cultural colony, haunted by that self-
contempt and fear of inadequacy, which is
inherent in our marginality, was too deter-
mined to show with the best of them, his
wide reading from A to Z. With his enor-
mous energy he puts on display his human-
ist classical learning, as well as his theologi-
cal knowledge and orthodoxy, Van Home
quotes only some of the names our poet
cites amongst them, Strabo, Ovid, Hor-
ace, Vergil, Martial Macrobius, Tibullus, Pro-
pertius, Juvenal, Seneca, Lucan, Aristotle,
Justin Hyginus, Herodotus, Varro, Vitru-
vius, Diodurus, Siculus, Pindar, Homer, He-
siod, Solinus, Lactantius, Bernard, Gregory,
Basil, Jerome etc. etc. Some critics have
termed this effusion bad taste; some have
slyly pointed out that he could have culled
his quotations from several encyclopedic
manuals that were common at the time. But
whatever the case may be, the quotations
made his point.
The long essay in praise of poetry at the
end of the book, also full of pedantry, had
a further point to make. It set out to de-
fend poetry against those academic theo-
logians who considered poetry inferior to
theology, philosophy and history; condemn-
ing it as a flighty occupation. He set out
to justify the seriousness of poetry to just-
ify his own seriousness in writing it, and to
argue the point that there was nothing to
prevent a poet, sharing in the plums of
office as a high church dignitary.
THE UNIVERSE IS A LINE OF VERSE
As with every form of writing that
Balbuena practised, his Apologetic Com-
pendium in Praise of Poetry was neither
new nor original. Originality as
such was not accounted a virtue in the
cultural climate in which he moved. The
Aristotelian doctrine of 'imitation', came
to mean, for the theorists and the writers
of the Renaissance and the post-Renais-
sance, the imitation of the ancient clas-
sical models or of modern writers who, by
their excellence had attained the rank of
classics. We would not begin to under-
stand the formation and the structure of
Balbuena's epic poem, if we did not bear
in mind, stretching behind him, both as
model and sources, the Greek Homer, the
Roman Vergil, Italians of the fifteenth
and sixteenth century such as Boiardo,
Ariosto, Tasso, Girolamo Vida, and other
Spanish contemporaries or near contem-
poraries. The citing of names also showed
that Balbuena was a disciplined and stu-
dious poet who had studied in order to
In his Praise of Poetry, Balbuena,
therefore, expresses ideas that had sprung
from the fusion made by Italian theorists,
in the 1550's of the theory of poetics of
the Greek Aristotle, with those of the
Roman Horace. Out of this they had come
up with a basic maxim that poetry should
both delight and instruct. This had helped
to dispel the uneasiness of Christian theo-
logians, who had felt it difficult to acco-
modate the truth of poetry which was
'fiction' with the truth of Christian doc-
trine which they held to be absolute.
Spain did not acclimatize this theory until
the 1590's Before that there had been
defences of poetry, but as one critic points
out, they tended to be strident, since they
lacked cogent arguments as to the "high
seriouness of poetry". With the doctrine
of teaching and delighting poetic fiction
could be made to illustrate Christian truths;
or, in countries where the secular notion
of truth was gradually replacing that of
religious truth, poetry could still be made
to illustrate universal and absolute truth.
All over Europe, apologies for and de-
fences of poetry appeared, based now on
the doctrine of delight and instruction. Sid-
ney in England writes his Apology (1595)
of poetry praising "that delightful teach-
ing which is the end of poetry". Bal-
buena's arguments, are the commonplaces of
his time; and as usual he was provincially
behind the vogue.
But, Balbuena, unlike his European
counterparts, had to fight his battle on
two fronts. He has to defend poetry
and assert the existence of Poetry in its
own right, in a society for whom the only
poetry was gold, silver and the products
of the land. In his Grandeur of Mexico
Balbuena had pointed out how greed for
gain in the smaller places lead to a lack of
care and concern for culture. Even, in his
praise for Mexico City itself, we divine a
canker of doubt. Whilst he lauds to the
skies the wealth and thriving commerce of
Mexico, and the culture and cultivation of
letters that is based on it, there is a certain
ambivalence as far as the wealth is con-
For Balbuena, within the conventional
form of the Renaissance panegyric, gives
us a new reality; and his description of
Mexico City, vivid, acute, breaks out of
the idealized form of the panegyric, as if
it suspects that it is describing the begin-
ning of a process whose end will make
idealism, once and for all, irrelevant.
Mexico City's raison d'etre as Balbuena
describes it for us, is the private interest,
the self-interest of each citizen. The Law-
yer, the arrogant quack of a doctor, the
actor acting, the beggar begging, the Prior
preaching, the merchants in the shops, all
buying or selling all moved by self-
interest the self-love which is the city's
motor. In the Scholastic theology in
which Balbuena had been indoctrinated,
'the institution of property, and the trans-
actions of the market-place' all had to be,
in Tawney's words "Justified at the bar
of religion". Economic man was rapidly
replacing religious man all over Europe,
and in all the places touched by Europe's
imperial expansion. But in Europe and
particularly in Spain, the strength of tra-
dition, and of the religious motive, made
the transition not quite so naked, not
quite so transparent. In the New World,
a man touched in order to turn to gold;
man diverted his best energies into trans-
forming everything into a commodity that
No one, says Balbuena, having money
in his pocket can pass a bad day in that
city. But the great sin, which once, in
the Scholastic context, was the appetitus
divitiarum infinitus- the excessive appe-
tite for riches is not now a sin. The sin
is Poverty and this is how Balbuena des-
"Poverty wherever it lives is a naked
Wretched, miserable and savage
With ugly face and uglier manners..."
Van Home takes Balbuena seriously
and with a straight face when in the letter
to the Archdeacon he argues that to be
rich is to be a worthy man and to be poor
is dishonourable. Without being able to
see the exact text, it seems to me that here
he has his tongue in his cheek, as did
Sancho Panza's grandmother when she said
that there are two classes of people in the
world, the have and the have nots; and
like a contemporary anonymous Spanish
pamphleteer who wrote that men call the
rich man honourable, because he has
enough to eat. It was a world, which
foreshadowed our own, a world in which
already as Marcuse puts it,
". they bring these realms of culture
to their common denominator the com-
modity form. The music of the soul is
also the music of salesmanship. Exchange
value not truth value counts. On it centres
the rationality of the status quo, and all
alien rationality is bent to it...."
In a world in which this process had
already begun, Balbuena set out to defend
poetry and repeating an old commonplace
in a new reality, to insist that the cosmos
itself is nothing else then a line of har-
monious verse that, in fact, to paraphrase
the Universe itself was a line of verse.
His basic line of argument was that
poetry was as old as the world, that it
could be traced back to the ancient bibli-
cal prophets, back to the psalms of David
and therefore had a legitimate origin since
it was a divine gift. All men shared in
poetry, even the Aztec Indians, had
poetry for their joy and comfort and
poetry had always been and could be a
stimulus to virtue. It is the fault of bad
poets that poetry bears an ill-name, for
poetry properly handled could be a path
to salvation. Poetry is like music, not
earthly music alone, but like the imperish-
able 'music of the spheres. Here he uses a
worn metaphor, based on the Ptolemaic
concept, that the universe consisted of a
series of concentric spheres which, revol-
ving around the fixed earth in the centre,
harmonize in a divine music which man
could hear not with his senses, but with
his reason. Poetry therefore, was far too
lofty to deal with light matters like love.
It should concern itself with "serious sub-
jects, complete, wise and full of morality
and philosophy ".
LET OTHERS SING THE BRAVERY OF
He praises poets who have done this,
naming among them don Alonso de
Ercilla y Zuniga, whose epic poem The
Aracuana, published in two parts, 1569
and 1589 was already highly acclaimed
Ercilla was a Spaniard of noble birthat the
time of the Conquest and fought in the
campaigns against the warlike Araucanian
Indians. He returned home to Spain, and
wrote his epic poem in which the bravery
of the enemy, was as great, if not more,
than the bravery of the Spaniards. In fact
he had been sharply criticized by some
Spaniards for what they considered his
over-praise of the Araucanians, and his
neglect of his own countrymen. Balbuena
whilst mentioning him with praise hastens
to insist how different his epic subject will
be. Van Horne has pointed out how in-
tensely Balbuena embraces the motif. In
contrast to the first wave of Spanish who
had enthusiastically seized on the themes
of the New World, Balbuena, with a cer-
tain disdain, turns his back on these. He
vows in his poem to the Count of Lemos
"No longer will my pen be busied
To raise up shadows, sketch the great-
Of this most desert region. ..........
Nor of the brute barbarians, the fero-
Let others sing the bravery of the Arau-
He will sing instead, he promises,
". .......... the ancient prowess
The deeds and victories of your Span-
Unlike the first generation of Span-
iards, Balbuena was a Spaniard overseas, a
spiritual 'colon', for whom Spanishness
was a necessity, of survival. As a young
Argentian writer has said of Luis Borges,
"What could he be except an Argen-
tinian? He is a typical national product.
Even his European is national A Euro-
pean is not Europeanist. He is simply a
The nostalgia for somewhere else, the
backward glance, the idealized mythical
cultural home' is a constant of the New
World experience. The hordes of Carib-
bean and Latin American writers at pre-
sent living metropolitan lives, shivering be-
sides fires, despising the soledades they
have left behind, bears this out. Among
the complex meaning of the Spanish word,
'soledad, is one which is equivalent to
the Portuguese saudade indicating separa-
tion from the desired place, and the con-
sequent longing for that place. Distant
from one's country, one's tierra, one lives
in a state ofsoledad, spiritual and physical.
When one's home country becomes a hated
nightmare, as it has for Naipaul and so
many other New World writers, then one
is indeed trapped in placelessness. One
can have nostalgia for nowhere.
In 1606, Balbuena, having failed to
get any reply to his application for a post
in the churches of Mexico orTlaxcala
sailed from Mexico City for Spain. His
father had died in 1593, and he left his
affairs in the hands of a half brother,
Francisco de Balbuena y Estrada, who
seems to have been a legitimate son. Bal-
buena, not oversupplied with funds, took
with him, as his only servant, a nine year
old mulatto boy, not a slave, but free,
called Christopher. He had gone in search
of fame, and a post in a civilized part of
the Empire. He was going now from the
remote confines of the New World, to the
very centre of that Christian Dominion,
whose king he had saluted in the Grandeur
of Mexico, as,
"Sacred, Catholic, RoyalMajesty, whom
God has made a Deity on earth."
There, at the centre, he was, determined
to make his way to the top. But the way
to the top is fraught with ironical twists
and turns. Balbuena would go to Spain
and obtain a post; but his post would be in
the island of Jamaica, surely the most re-
mote 'soledades' of them all.
ROJAS GARCIDUENAS, J.
BERNARDO DE BALBUENA, VIDA
OBRA (i.e. LIFE AND WORK) The
National University of Mexico, 1958.
VAN HORNE, J.
EL BERNARDO OF BERNARDO DE
BALBUENA, The University of Illinois, -
BERNARDO DE BALBUENA, BIOGRA-
FIA Y CRITICAL. (i.e. BIOGRAPHY
AND CRITICISM) Guadalajara, Mexico,
BERNARDO DE BALBUENA IN JAM-
AICA, published as an article in the Daily
GOMEZ ROBLEDO, Xavier
HUMANISMO EN MEXICO EN EL
SIGLO XVI, El Sistema del Colegio de
San Pedro y San Pablo. (i.e. HUMANISM
IN MEXICO IN THE XVIth CENTURY
The System of Education in the College
of St. Peter and St. Paul.) Editorial Jus.
LEWIS, C. S.
A PREFACE TO PARADISE LOST,
Oxford Paperbacks, September, 1960.
AN APOLOGY FOR POETRY, in Eng-
lish Ctitical Essays' (Sixteenth, Seven-
teenth and Eighteenth Centuries) selected
and edited by E.D. Jones, Oxford Uni-
versity Press, 1922 reprinted 1947.
THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY BACK-
GROUND, THE THOUGHT OF THE
AGE IN RELATION TO RELIGION &
POETRY. Anchor Book edition, New
A HISTORY OF LATIN AMERICA
FROM THE BEGINNING TO THE PRES
FROM THE BEGINNING TO THE PRES-
ENT, KNOpf, New York, 1956.
MORALES PADRON, F.
JAMAICA ESPANOLA, (i.e. SPANISH
JAMAICA) Seville 1952.
BERNARDO DE BALBUENA
EL BERNARDO etc. Biblioteca de Aut-
ores Espanoles, Madrid, 1945.
ONE DIMENSION MAN,
PRESS, Boston, 1968.
This issue of Jamaica Journal a Festival
issue features in its Art and Literature section,
the prizewinning entries of the 1969 Festival
Literary Competitions. Those competitions, as
a national element of our life, began in 1964,
only after we had attained independence. It is
interesting to know that they belong to one of
the earliest and one of the more valid -
traditions that the Spanish settlers brought to the
New World. Called a 'certamen' the literary
competition came to be an important part of the
people of Mexico City from the sixteenth cen-
tury onwards. The writing of poetry on reli-
gious and classical themes was the main feature
of these competitions, which were held at reli-
gious festivals Corpus Christi etc, or at the
arrival of a new Archbishop or a new Viceroy.
Bernardo de Balbuena, epic poet and a
seventeenth century Abbot of Jamaica he was
appointed in 1608 and left the island around
1620 began his poetic vocation by entering
poems in four of these literary competitions -
one in 1585, another in 1566, two in 1590 -
and winning prizes in all. His early exercises
bore fruit eventually in his epic poem a long
narrative poem considered one of the three
best epic poems written in Spanish. The Insti-
tute of Jamaica, has, among its many prized
items, a princeps edition published in 1624 in
Madrid. The interesting Prologue in which Bal-
buena discusses the concept of poetic truth
versus historical truth, an important question in
his day, and perhaps in any age, was written in
1615, in Villa de La Vega, today's Spanish Town,
the capital of Spanish Jamaica. This Prologue
is the recorded beginning of any kind of literary
activity, of any obsession with ideas rather then
with gold, and greed for gain, among the men
who came to settle, or to work in Jamaica.
Because of his old relevance to our new
purpose, Jamaica Journal is happy to feature
his life and work, as poet and Abbot in two
issues of this Journal. In this first part, the
early years of his life and of his poetic forma-
tion in Mexico City are shown; his years as poet
and priest in rural and provincial Mexico; his
determination, to get out of the 'backwoods' to
seek high position in the Church of Mexico or
Tlascala, and to gain that fame as a poet, which
was his obsession. The second part nearer to us,
will deal with his life in early seventeenth cen-
tury as Abbott, and as epic poet.
And His Manuscript
by Jean M. King
"Mr. Totterdell was expelled from the House, in 1704, for
words spoken against the Lieut Governor Thomas Handaryd
Esquire. vz. "that he desired that others might be called dog
and rascal in their turns by the Governor... and that the first
good dinner the Governor had eaten in this Island, was at his
"He met, I understood, with a rather melancholy death.
During some mad spree his friends wrapped him in a blanket
saturated with proof rum and set it on fire. The friends who
were implicated in this unfortunate circumstance ran away
from Jamaica and settled in the United States of America."
Who were Hugh Totterdell and Richard Tuthill? They were
among the men who held minor government posts, the land-
owners whose names are not as familiar to us as Roger Hope
Elletson of Hope Estate or Barrett of Cinnamon Hill. One man,
Walter Augustus Feurtado, who gives this information, compiled
the fifty-eight volumes of manuscript known as Official person-
ages of Jamaica. He patiently, year after year, collected
snippets of information, put them together and laboriously,
volume after volume, transcribed them into a work with a span
of over two centuries, a work which is valuable not only as a
source of information on individuals, but provides an inter-
esting social history for those who care to read between the lines.
Feurtado was too conscientious a genealogist to omit his
own family from his list, and too modest to supply more than
sometimes tantalizing glimpses of his own background. Walter
Augustus Feurtado was born in 1839, in Spanish Town, the
grandson of Isaac David Feurtado, a Jew, and his wife formerly
Miss Henriques. One of the sons of their marriage, Augustus,
was the father of Walter Augustus. His mother also seems to
have had Jewish connections, for the entry under Solomon
Myers in the manuscript reads.
Treasurer English and German synagogue 1826, Secretary
Ib. 1841. "
He was the maternal grandfather of the compiler of the
work. The "maternal grandmother of the compiler" Eliza
Brooks however, does not seem to have been quite of the same
social background as Solomon Myers, for it is recorded that
she was Matron of the Surry Gaol in 1850. It is probably with
her that the break with the Jewish faith occurred, and Feur-
tado tells us, not in the Official personages but in his book
A 45 years reminiscence of the Characteristics and characters
of Spanish Town, that he was christened by the Rector of the
Cathedral, the Rev. Walter Scott Coward, and indeed his first
name was due to the efforts of the Rector to acquire a name-
sake. His boyhood does not appear to have been heavily
weighted on the scholarly side. He attended at first a school
kept by the clerk of the cathedral2 and then later a school
kept by David McPherson on the premises of the Wesleyan
chapel.3 School days did not last for long, and by 1853, at
the age of fourteen, young Walter Augustus along with his three
brothers, was employed by the Railway, as a third class ticket
seller of Spanish Town.4 Later he worked as a clerk in the
Island Secretary's Office, where he tells us that he was "em-
ployed in making searches for over ten years."5 He was also in
the foot volunteers during a period which covered the time of
the 1865 Rebellion. Feurtado later became an accountant in
the law firm of Harvey and Bourke. He says of Wellesley
Bourke, in the manuscript that he was ". .. partner of the firm
of Harvey and Bourke, solicitors in whose office the compiler
of this work has been employed from the year 1869 as
accountant." It was during that period that Feurtado did the
major part of the research which resulted in the Official
Personages, research which involved examination of a number
of original sources as well as some secondary ones.
The main sources of Feurtado's information were the
Jamaica Almanacks. These forerunners of the Handbook of
Jamaica gave lists of people who held government paid posts,
the clergymen of the various religious denominations, Lodge
officials, officers in the militia and other similar office holders.
In many cases, Feurtado was able to trace the career of a man
through the militia, such as the career of Edward Delpratt,
whose entry runs thus:-
"Ensign St. Thos. East and St. David militia 1795, Lieut.
1803, Captn. 1806. Major 1815, Lieut. Col. 1818, Col. 1822."
Feurtado also made use of the newspapers for more personal
information. Births, marriages and deaths from the St. Jago de
la Vega Gazette were added to the basic information provided
by the Almanacks. It is possible, over a period of time to trace
a man's early marriage, the death of the first wife, and fre-
quently in those days of high infant mortality, the death of the
first child. The second marriage, and later the marriages of the
children which often took place in England are also recorded.
Alexander Holmes, who was Harbour Master in St. James in
1843, is an illustration of this. His wife died at Margaret Hall
near Montego Bay on 21 April 1830. He then married Frances
youngest daughter of the late Thomas Joseph Gray Esqre, 8
June 1837 at Prospect Hill near Montego Bay, On 15 Septem-
ber 1846 the daughter of the first marriage, Eliza Louisa, was
married to William Kerr Esquire.
It is not only the church-solemnized unions that are men-
tioned, however. Even when the children of white men and
negro slave women had been freed by their fathers, as fre-
quently happened, they did not by reason of the manumission
receive full civil rights. Private acts were therefore passed in the
Assembly, at the instigation of some person who had reason to
be interested in the case of a particualr coloured individual.
granting to the person "the same rights and privileges with
British subjects born of white parents.".
The entry for George Brooks of St. Elizabeth reads thus:-
Brooks, George (St. Elizabeth)
In 1775, a private act was passed to authorize and enable
him to settle and dispose of his estate in such manner as he
should think proper notwithstanding the law of disabilities,
and also to entitle his reputed son by Mary Powell to the same
1. W.A. Feurtado, A Forty five years reminiscence of the character-
istics and characters of Spanish Town. Kingston, W.A. Alex. Feur-
tado, printer, 1890. p.21.
2. Ibid p.22 3. Ibid p.25 4. Ibid p.31 5. Ibid p.28
rights &c., with English subjects. In 1769 a similar act was
passed to entitle his reputed children by Mary Powell. 6
George Brooks snr (Supposed to be descended from Sir
Richard Brooke of Norton Co Chester a knight of Rhodes or
St. John of Jerusalem) names in his will dated 1748 recorded in
Jamaica 1750 Elizabeth his wife, six sons viz Samuel, John
George, Christopher, Thomas, Francis, and four daughters viz
Anna (md Lewis Williams) Elizabeth, presumably md a Cham-
bers, Bonella, presumably md another Chambers, and Catherine
md Francis Smyth whose tomb is at Lacovia, died 1760.
George Brooks snr died at Santa Cruz Park, St. Elizabeth
1750 aged 62 years. Mrs. Elizabeth Chambers died there 1772
aged 52 years. Mrs. Bonella Chambers died there 1772 aged 31
Far more unusual was the case of Godfrey Shreyer of St.
Mary, a planter, for whom a private act was passed in 1745 to
entitle his wife and children to the same rights with English
subjects. We have no way of knowing if Shreyer himself was
white or coloured, but coloured planters were unusual at this
period, so it is possible that he was a white man who defied the
social taboos of his time and married a coloured woman.
Not all of the free men of colour were uneducated or held
minor official posts. They do appear more frequently as col-
lecting constables, merchants and the like, but as early as 1806
William Pierson had a private act passed to entitle him to prac-
tise as a solicitor, and William Peart, Postmaster at May Hill in
1824 had risen to the ranks of Vestryman, Justice of the Peace
and Assistant Judge of the Court of Common Pleas in 1833. In
the interim between these two, however, in 1827, a private
act was passed to entitle William Peart of Manchester to certain
Gradations of social standing within the ranks of the white
population are also revealed in the manuscript. This is largely
due to the refusal of the newspapers of the first half of the
nineteenth century to award the use of Esquire to people who
were not in possession of armorial bearings. Hence a marriage
up or down in the social scale is clearly indicated, like Elizabeth,
the daughter of William Tinker Esquire, who married Mr.
George Alexander. Sometimes a man managed to acquire this
title during the course of his life, though these isolated cases
might be possibly more an indication of a rise in-social status
due to increased wealth, or entry into the professional classes.
Moses Delgado, the president of the Spanish and Portuguese
Synagogue in Kingston in 1829 was one of those who acquired
the title during his lifetime. When he married Miss Leah Depass
in January 1811 he was plain Mr. M. Delgado. By 1837, when
his daughter Angelina was married to George Silvera of Bath,
he had become M. Delgado Esquire.
The manuscript brings out very clearly the variety of occu-
pations which were under the civil establishment and the sort
of salaries that went with them. Is is the minor posts, though,
which ring very strangely on our ears today, the Lumber Mea-
surers, Collectors of Transient Tax and Tything Men. The num-
ber of women who held official posts is quite interesting,
especially as we tend to think of the late eighteenth and early
nineteenth centuries as a time when one did not as frequently
find women in salaried posts. We see the usual role of the
women, teaching and nursing, represented by such people as
Mrs. Henrietta Perkins, teacher at the Trelawny Girls' School
in 1816, and Miss Brodie, tutoress at the parish house, King-
ston in 1800, who received a salary of 50 per annum for her
labours. The Naval Hospital, Port Royal and the District
Prison in Portland both had female matrons, Mrs. Sarah Adams
was at Port Royal in 1829, and Mrs. Phillips in Portland ten
years later. Women were not restricted to the gentler occu-
pations, however. Quite a few women are listed as pound-
keepers, their duty being to keep the stray animals, and in the
days before emancipation, the stray slaves that had been
rounded up and sent to the pound. Occasionally we get a spot
of gossip about one of these women, drawn no doubt, from
6. The 1775 act probably provided for a son born after those named
in the 1769 act.
some private source of information. Charlotte Absalom pound-
keeper in Port Maria in 1854 is a case in point, for Feurtado
"She had a lot of children for the Honble. A.J. Lindo, but
they were all named after her. She kept a lodging house at
Salaries for all these posts varied. Though it must be borne
in mind that a pound could buy far more in those days than
now, a teacher's salary of 120 p.a. was all that Andrew
Judah, teacher of French and Spanish at Wolmers in 1841
received. An usher at the same school ranked higher in the
salary scale, for John Paul, usher at Wolmers in 1802 was in
receipt of 300. Many of the posts listed were those of minor
church officers, at this stage the Church of England,was still
established, and the Sexton and its female equivalent, the sex-
tons, beadle and organist, were all part of the civil establish-
ment. One can only assume that some of these must have had
7. A more senior teacher.
other sources of income, for one wonders how Francis Egan,
Marshall of the Kingston Militia managed on the salary of a
organ keeper in 1823, which was only 30. But then, the
librarian of the Assembly in 1835 received 100 a good
enough case for the "have nots" to contrast with the salary of
the Chief Justice of 5,000 four years before that.
Like all other one-man works, the manuscript has its
limitations and is liable to error. Occasionally Feurtado com-
bines data on people with the same name, sometimes he does
the opposite and there are two entries for one and the same
person. The type of information too, is limited to what was
available from Feurtado's sources. The small tradesmen for
example do not figure, nor do the lesser whites on estates, un-
less they were militia officers. Until someone else with Walter
Augustus Feurtado's infinite patience compiles another such
listing, however, it remains one of the major sources of bio-
graphical material in the library's collection.
Sir Hans Sloan "Natural History of Jamaica" 1705 WIRL
The SEA FISHERIES of JAMAICA
Past, Present and Future
by J.L. Munro
Fisheries Ecology Research Project, University of the West Indies, Jamaica
Jamaica is no exception to the general
pattern. The fisherman's catch is less than
it used to be, the fishes are seldom of a
large size, and the fisherman has to travel
further in search of his catch.
"When I was a boy the lobsters were
much bigger....."; "the groupers used to
come in swarms......"; "we could catch
big snappers just at the end of the dock".
Phrases like these are typical of any coastal
area in the world which has seen its popu-
ation doubled, and doubled again, within
a man's lifetime.
Although the pattern is the same the
world over, nations are differently en-
dowed by geographical factors which
govern the potential yield from their ad-
jacent seas. In addition, historical and
cultural factors and traditional occupa-
tions play their part in the development
and yield of a nation's fisheries. The
major fishing grounds in the oceans are
those areas covered by less than 1,000
feet of water. Deeper waters are generally
less productive in a biological sense and
the expenditure on fishing gear rises in
direct proportion to the depth at which
the gear is used.
In most temperate parts of the world
the sea floor or continental shelf slopes
gently away from the land to a depth of
about 600 feet, and then rather rapidly
drops to abyssal depths. In most tropical
seas and particularly around coral-rimmed
islands such as Jamaica the situation is very
different. Over aeons of time the steady
growth of corals both upwards and out-
wards has resulted in the shelves taking a
plateau-like form, in which the shelf,
irrespective of the distance from land,
slopes to a depth of about 150 feet, be-
yond which there is a precipitous drpp to
depths of 1,000 feet or more. Jamaica has
a shelf extending less than a mile seawards
on the north coast and up to fifteen miles
offshore on the south coast, beyond
which are the unfishable depths of the
ocean and the pellucid and unproductive
oceanic surface waters which harbour
little in the way of spectacular fishing
Thus, it is from the narrow strip of
shallow waters surrounding Jamaica that
the main yield of fishes has been taken in
the past. However, Jamaica is fortunate
in having, in addition to her coastal shelf,
two major oceanic banks within 300 miles
of her shores. These are the Pedro and
Rosalind which lie to the south-west of
Jamaica on the submerged ridge which
joins Jamaica to Central America. These
major banks together with a number of
minor banks such as the Morant, Grap-
pler, Formigas and Albatross Banks total
an area of over 4,000 square miles of fish-
ing grounds, but apart from areas near to
the Jamaican-owned Pedro and Morant
Cays has until very recently been subjected
to the minimum of exploitation. Further
afield, about 19,000 square miles of shal-
low seas lie in presently recognized inter-
national waters off the coasts of Nicaragua
The earliest records of fishing in
Jamaica go back to Arawak times, the
records being preserved in shell mounds
or middens which accumulated around
those early settlements. The Arawaks
were subsistence fishermen who gleaned
what they could from areas close to the
shore and sought no more than their daily
requirements. We must look to the latter
part of the 19th Century before any
record of commercial fishing can be found.
In an article written for the Journal of the
Institute of Jamaica of 1897, J. Duerden
6-,. BAN K
FORMIGAS "-:. : o
. SAN ANDREWS
0 50 100 Miles
recorded that canoe fishermen were al-
ready active in the island using wicker-
work traps, beach seines, long lines and
hand lines whereby they took a catch
valued at some 30,000 each year. How-
ever, imports of fish already totalled
around 200,000 per year. Duerden also
describes what was probably the first
attempt at large-scale fisheries develop-
ment in Jamaica when the Caribbean Sea
Fisheries Development Syndicate, formed
at the instigation of a Mr. Edward M.
Earle, brought a British trawler to Jamaica
in 1881, and attempted to harvest fishes
by means of trawls and gill-nets. This
pioneering experiment in large scale fishing
failed because the rugged, corraline sea
floor tore the trawl nets and although gill-
nets were successfully used for the cap-
ture of "mackerel", the enormous num-
bers of sharks wrought havoc in the nets
and rendered this form of fishing im-
From Duerdens time until 1945 when
Professor Ernest Thompson, a New Zea-
lander, visited the island at the request of
the British Government there is little
definite record of any fisheries develop-
ment, apart from the advent of chicken-
wire mesh to replace the wicker mesh of
the fish pots. Thompson noted that local
production constituted less than 15% of
the local consumption of fish, and esti-
mated that the total landings were in the
region of 12 million pounds weight each
year. Furthermore, he pessimistically con-
cluded that the island shelf was already
yielding the greatest amount possible and
that no increases in production as pos-
sible in the immediate vicinity of Jamaica.
However, Thompson also noted that the
Pedro and Morant Banks were completely
unexploited and initiated a scheme which
has proven to be the forerunner of the
present-day fish ferry boat system, in
which fishermen residing on the distant
cays sell their fishes to ferryboat operators
who then tranship the catch to the main-
land. Initially, Thompson's scheme failed
owing to the fact that few competent
fishermen were prepared to venture out to
the Pedro Cays and live a completely
isolated existence. Only fishermen in the
most desperate of financial straits, and
hence usually the least competent fisher-
men, could be induced to visit the cays
and they were prepared to fish only with
pots or fishtraps instead of the hand-lines
advocated by Thompson. The traps
yielded relatively little, for as Thompson
observed, "little can normally be caught
in shoal water other than small trash fish
whereas on the edge especially along the
southern part (of Pedro Bank) good class
fish can be obtained . . and a good
fisherman operating a single line can take
from 70 90 pounds per fishing day".
Thompson's visit was followed by one
Hickling of the Colonial Office in 1949,
when post-war strictures had restricted
the substantial imports of Canadian salted
cod to the island, and this traditional
staple item in the countryman's diet was
in exceedingly short supply. Neither
Hickling nor Thompson held out any
great hope that the yield of fishes to
Jamaican fishermen could be substantially
increased. Indeed, Hickling suggested that
the best way of increasing production
would be by fish culture techniques.
It is comforting to note that despite
all gloomy prognostications the total
Jamaican landings of fresh fish is now two
or three times greater than the maximum
predicted by Hickling or Thompson. How
has this come about? There are several
reasons. Firstly, both of these experts
had been trained and had worked in tem-
perate climates and had presumably fol-
lowed the traditional view that tropical
seas are deficient in nutrients which
nourish the tiny phytoplanktonic organ-
isms and therefore in the absense of rich
= TERRITORIAL WATERS OF OTHER NATIONS.
)"z. TRADITIONAL JAMAICAN FISHING GROUNDS
( EITHER TERRITORIAL OR INTERNATIONAL WATERS.)
pastures herbivorous fishes could not
flourish, and neither could the predatory
fishes which feed on these herbivores.
This is true for tropical oceanic waters far
from shore, for in these areas the primary
production of plant matter is severely
curtailed by the lack of nutrient chemicals
such as nitrates and phosphates and the
production of plant matter probably aver-
ages less than two ounces per square yard
of surface per year. The Sahara Desert
provides better grazing than this! What
Hickling and Thompson did not realise
was that by virtue of tremendous eco-
logical efficiency the coral reef systems
harbour an immense crop of microscopic
plants, most of which live inside the
tissues of the coral animals. The primary
production of plant matter in coral reefs
has recently been estimated to be at least
150 times greater than that in the open
ocean. The other major source of primary
production in tropical seas are the sea-
grass meadows which cover the shallow
sea-floor adjacent to the reefs. Here too,
immense plant growth occurs. It is upon
these primary sources of food that the
fisheries of Jamaica and of other tropical
territories are based and not upon the in-
fertile expanses of the tropical ocean.
Despite his pessimism Thompson re-
commended that a Fisheries Division be
created in Jamaica to foster further devel-
opment of the fishing industry and to in-
crease the productivity of the fishermen.
The Jamaican Fisheries Division came into
being at the end of 1949 under the direc-
tion of the first Fisheries Officer, Mr. A.
J. Thomas, who with a small team of
assistants set about the task of organising
the fishermen into co-operatives and also
initiated experiments in culturing the
African Perch at the Division's Twicken-
ham Park fish ponds. From these small
beginnings the Fisheries Division has grown
to be a much larger organisation, now
under the direction of Mr. A. G. Kirton,
with responsibilities which include ex-
ploratory and experimental fishing, train-
ing of fishermen, fish culture, fishermen'
co-operatives, marketing and management
of all aspects of the island's fisheries. One
of the major accomplishments of the
Fisheries Division has been the Boat
Mechanisation Scheme which was initiated
in 1955 by A.J. Thomas and the Fisheries
Adviser in Jamaica, Mr. T. Bourbon.
This scheme has been an unqualified suc-
cess and continues to the present day. The
scheme enabled fishermen of no financial
standing to obtain outboard motors for
their canoes on credit direct from the
Fisheries Division; the cost of the motor
being paid off by a small additional levy
on the cost of the duty-free petrol which
was made available at the fishing beaches.
By equipping a substantial portion of
the canoe fleet with motors the entire
island shelf on the south coast of Jamaica
was brought within the regular operational
range of the fisherman, resulting in a 50%
increase in the landings from the Jamaican
shelf within the first seven years of
operation of the mechanisation scheme.
However, it seems likely that with present
fishing techniques the waters within the
operational range of the canoes are now
yielding the maximum amount possible,
and that if more fishermen enter the
fishery the law of decreasing returns will
operate, resulting in the same total catch
being shared between greater numbers of
fishermen, with no economic advantage to
anyone other than the dealers in fishing
gear, spare parts and other fishermen's
The realisation that the fishing industry
must expand beyond the nearshore waters
to areas inaccessible to canoes led to the
Jamaican Government requesting the ser-
vices of a Masterfisherman from the Food
andAgricultural Organisation of the United
Nations, and the acquisition by the Govern-
ment of its first exploratory fishing vessel,
Blue Fin. The results of the exploratory
fishing conducted by FAO Masterfisher-
man Earling Oswald during 1961 were
extremely encouraging. By using a com-
bination of trolling for tunas, kingfish and
other pelagic species, and handlining and
pot fishing for species living near the sea-
floor it was shown that the 43-foot long
Blue Fin had the capacity, if operated on
commercial lines, to yield an annual
profit exceeding 8,500; to be shared
between boat-owner, captain and crew.
Snapper fishing with electrically powered
reels aboard FAO Fishing Vessel Alycon.
Finally, the great interest in fisheries
development of the countries surrounding
the Caribbean has resulted in the now-
operational Caribbean Fisheries Develop-
ment Project, organised by the Food and
Agricultural Organisation of the United
Nations' under the auspices of the Uiited
Nations' Development Programme. This
project has three large modern fishing
vessels which have been operating in the
Caribbean since the beginning of 1967,
and one of the vessels is based in Jamaica.
The work of this project covers almost all
aspects of offshore fisheries development
and when their work is completed in 1972
an assessment of almost every type of
operation in the offshore waters of the
Caribbean will be available. In addition
to their investigations the project is also
engaged in training West Indian fishermen,
nominated by the participating govern-
ments, in modern fishing techniques and
seamanship. A similar training scheme is
operational in Jamaica, in which the
Government's fishing vessel, Blue Fin, is
being used to train members of fishing
co-operatives under the direction of an
FAO Masterfisherman, Mr. H. Sperling.
Thus, the fishing industry is at present
still largely dependent upon dugout canoes
and fibreglass canoes equipped with out-
board motors which intensively exploit
the fishes on the narrow island shelf By
virtue of their familiarity with their out-
board engines and as a result of training
in simple navigational techniques, some of
the canoe fishermen may range more than
60 miles from land when weather and
visibility are good, although the average
radius of operations is substantially less.
This means that the smaller fishing banks
surrounding Jamaica together with the
northern edge of the great Pedro Bank
are probably subjected to fairly regular,
although not intensive, exploitation by
canoes based in Jamaica.
In addition, upwards of 15 ferry boats
are engaged in plying between Kingston
and the Pedro and Morant Cays, and even
further afield to the Seranilla, Serrana and
Mosquito Cays, where these operators
purchase their fish from fishermen resi-
dent on these tiny islands. Initially the
system was based almost entirely upon
the Pedro and Morant Cays, lying within
40-60 miles off the south coast of Jamaica.
Competition and the resultant fall in the
individual cay-fisherman's catch have re-
sulted in the operations extending further
afield. This has created some difficulties
insofar as the more distant cays are
variously owned by Colombia, Nicaragua
and Honduras, who have in some cases
issued permits for fishing within their
territorial waters, and the establishment
of fishing camps on their cays, but in
other cases fishing has been undertaken
without permission resulting in harassment
and arrest of fishermen and confiscation
Fish traps are the main items of fishing
gear used in Jamaica. They are a familiar
sight to most people; constructed of
mangrove poles and chicken wire' mesh,
usually of 1-inch or 1-inch mesh size and
are usually set around reefs in depths of
two to twenty fathoms. There are fairly
definite limits to the distance that they
may practicably be carried and set off-
shore, and the depth to which they may
be lowered without fear of loss. The
other major technique used by canoe
fishermen for catching species living on or
near the seafloor is hand-lining. This is
usually conducted around the edge of the
island shelf where the depth increases
abruptly. Depths of about 60 fathoms are
usually fished during the day while shal-
lower water is fished at night. Handlining
is also commonly done in shallow water
in embayments such as Kingston Harbour.
Lures are often trolled behind the canoes
to catch pelagic fishes such as barracuda,
tunas and kingfish, but catches tend to be
rather erratic or seasonal. Net fishing
using seine nets or gill-nets is a major
source of small pelagic fishes and of fishes
living in the sea-grass beds. These nets
are always used in fairly sheltered areas
and never in the open sea or near to coral
In an economic sense, the most impor-
tant species of fishes taken on hook-and-
line in deep water along the edge of the
island shelf are the snappers, particularly
silk snappers (Lutjanus vivanus) from
depths of 60-120 fathoms, the blackfin
snapper (lutjanus buccanella) from depths
of 30-50 fathoms and the black snapper
(Apsilus dentatus) at around 50-60 fath-
oms. Groupers are also important, and
some grow to immense sizes, particularly
the misty grouper (Epinephelus mysta-
cinus) which almost invariably is taken in
depths of over 100 fathoms. The Nassau
grouper (Epinephelus striatus) and the
yellowfin grouper (Mycteroperca venen-
osa) also grow to spectacular sizes and are
usually caught in relatively shallow water,
around the crest of the reef. In the
shallowest waters, on the banks and
around the reef crest the little red hind
(Epinephelus guttatus) and the bright red
or yellow butterfish (Cephalopholis fulva)
are probably the commonest commercially
important fishes, and make a substantial
contribution to the value of the handline
catch. The popular yellowtail snapper
(Ocyurus chrysurus) is usually only caught
at night in fairly shallow water. The jacks
are also popular species, but their distri-
bution is often patchy and big patches
are consequently sporadic. The most
spectacular of these are the great amber-
jacks (Seriola dumerili), running to sizes
of nearly 150 pounds, and providing many
a handline fisherman with hectic and
sometimes painful struggle as his mono-
filament line is repeatedly ripped through
The trap fisherman, unlike the hook-
and-line fisherman, depends upon a great
variety of fishes to make up his catch.
Half a dozen species of grunts, an unknown
number of types of parrot fishes, species
of small snappers, jacks, groupers, "welch-
men", trigger fishes such as the "old
wife" and "turbot", surgeon fishes and
butterfly fishes all contribute to his catch.
Unfortunately, we still lack a detailed
account of the relative importance of
individual species and we cannot tell which
of the many species makes the greatest
contributions to the fisherman's livlihood.
Spiny lobsters are an important incidental
catch in traps in some areas.
Jamaica's annual fish production is
estimated at between 25 and 35 million
Haemulon Plumieri -
Caranx Ruber -
''.-% *, P, "
Epinephelus Striatus -
Ocyurus Chrysurus -
Balistes Vetual -
1 GreatAmberJack 2 RedHind
5 Coney or Butterfish
pounds, worth perhaps 2.5 midion to the
fishermen. In contrast, more than 3 mil-
lion is spent on imports of fish and fish
products each year, and costs are steadily
rising. Over the past ten years Jamaica has
spent more than 25 million on imports
of fish, and the importation of these con-
sumables is therefore a substantial drain
on the economy. It is with this factor in
mind, and also with the overall level of
nutrition of the population in mind, that
Jamaica must look to the future develop-
ment of her fishing industry.
The future of the nearshore fisheries
is difficult to assess. In twenty years from
now will we still see the canoe fisherman
setting off to sea with his cumbersome
fish trap loaded across the bows of his
canoe, or will this traditional form of
fishing be extinct? The answer seems to
lie both in the development of the off-
shore fishing industry and in the manage-
ment of the nearshore waters. At present
the nearshore fishing grounds are inten-
sively overfished. This applies particularly
to the narrow northern shelf which is
entirely covered by coral reefs and theo-
retically should support a dense fish fauna.
Nothing could be further from reality in
the present day when a fish larger than
nine or ten inches long is a rare sight, and
the average trap fisherman's catch is barely
enough for subsistence. Even on the Clar-
endon coast, which is the most produc-
tive trap fishing area, large snappers and
grunts are a rare sight around the shallow
reefs, and the fisherman has to travel
many miles offshore to be assured of a
The major problem to be faced by the
authorities in the future will be regulating
trap fishing. At the present time anyone
can construct a fish trap from mangrove
poles and wire mesh, drop it in the water
. tiacK Pin snapper
4 MiacKI napper
at some convenient spot and visit it period-
ically as the opportunity offers. The trap
continues to function without attention
until the wire mesh rusts through and
there is little incentive to visit the trap in
times of plenty. If the trap is lost or is not
cleared at regular intervals it continues to
catch fishes, the little fishes attract larger
fishes which enter the trap to consume
the little fishes and then die of starvation.
Lost traps can often be found in deep
water, filled with fish bones and rotting
crabs and other scavengers. The destruc-
tion wrought by such unattended traps is
immense. The density of traps around our
coasts is probably far in excess of that re-
quired to give the greatest possible catch.
This is because the main axiom in fishery
science is that if fishing effort is high, then
the mesh sizes of the fishing gears should
be large; if fishing effort is low then the
mesh sizes should be smaller. The com-
bination of intense fishing effort with
small mesh sizes constitutes overfishing in
a technical sense, and under such circum-
stances the yield from the fishing grounds
-nay be a mere fraction of the potential
yield. Small mesh sizes do not allow a
crop of young fishes to reach their col-
lective maximum potential weight before
they are caught. The simplest analogy to
this situation is one in which a farmer
slaughters all calves born to a herd of
cattle shortly after birth. Clearly, the
total weight of meat sold by the farmer
will be substantially less than if he had
waited until the calves had reached adult
size before sending them to market. When
fishing effort is high it becomes impera-
tive that sufficient fishes survive to matur-
ity in order to produce the next years'
crop of young fishes.
Around our shores at the present
time, when inch or 14 inch chicken wire
mesh is used on traps, the chances of any
individual fish attaining its maximum or
optimum size, or even reaching maturity,
is remote, and the only species of fishes
that are not overfished are those tiny reef
fishes which never attain any appreciable
size, or which are not attracted to traps.
Unfortunately, at the present time it is
not possible to say how large the mesh
size on traps should be in order to maxi-
mise the yield. This is because an enor-
mous variety of fishes is involved each
having different rates of growth and mor-
tality, and each species therefore has a
different theoretical optimum size. The
best mesh size will therefore be a com-
promise, appropriately weighed according
to the relative importance of each species
in terms of market value and relative
abundance. It must, however, be remem-
bered that the theoretical calculation of
optimum mesh sizes, in itself a long and
laborious process requiring years of re-
search by biologists and biometricians, is
only a part of the process of regulation
and management. One of the most prob-
lematical aspects is that of convincing the
fisherman that an increase in mesh size
would be to their advantage, and of en-
forcing complete adherence to the regu-
lations once the increased size is adopted.
Clearly, any individual who continues to
use a small mesh size when all other fisher-
men have changed to a larger size would
be at an unfair advantage, because not
only would he capture his usual comple-
ment of fishes but he would also capture
fishes which had not yet grown suffi-
ciently large to be captured by the law-
abiding fishermen. These are problems
which can only be circumvented by edu-
cation and propaganda; a slow process in
any conservative fishing community.
There are a number of other possible
methods of regulating and managing the
nearshore trap fishery, including enforce-
ment of minimum marketable sizes for
individual species, restriction of the num-
ber of traps in use, and restriction of the
numbers oflicenced fishermen, and all are
fraught with problems or enforcement and
implementation and attendant political
One of the major problems affecting
the nearshore trap fishery is the use of
dynamite by unscrupulous fishermen. The
effect of dynamite is to destroy the ju-
venile stages of the important reef fishes
and also to destroy the reef which pro-
vides food and shelter for the fishes,
particularly in their early life. Many of
the reefs near the Port Royal Cays have
been completely devastated by dynamite
and most of the reefs are virtually devoid
of fishes. The small fishes killed by dyna-
mite blasts are often too small to be
noticed by the dynamiter let along picked
up and sold, but the effect on the fish
stocks can be disastrous. A few dozen
well-placed sticks of dyriamite can des-
troy the coming year's crop of fishes of
the affected species over a long stretch of
Ideally it is to be hoped that selected
reef areas such as the Port Royal Cays,
which are known to be major nursery
areas for young fishes will be declared
national parks and all fishing banned
entirely. Protection of such areas could
have a remarkable effect upon the yield
of fishes from adjacent areas, because the
protected areas would serve as reservoirs
of juvenile stock which would move out
of the nursery areas into areas depleted
Spearfishing should be mentioned at
this stage. The relatively small numbers
of spearfishermen operating in Jamaica
have been cited in some quarters as the
cause of declines in catches of the trap
and handline fishermen. These accusa-
tions are quite false insofar as it is seldom
worth the spearfisherman's while to dis-
charge his speargun at a small fish and he
usually seeks out the larger fishes which in
a technical sense are ready for the slaugh.
ter. A simple comparison of the relative
numbers of juvenile fishes taken by spear-
fishermen with the immense numbers of
young fishes taken by seine net fishermen
and trap fishermen makes one realise how
ludicrous these accusations are. Also the
most important of the species taken on
handlines never ascend from the depths
to waters within the diving range of the
most experienced skin diver or scuba
diver. Furthermore, from a sociological
and economic point of view spearfishing
can provide a livelihood for young able-
bodied men who have the minimum of
capital to invest in equipment; something
which is sorely needed in Jamaica today.
The future of fishing with nets is
probably reasonably well assured, pro-
vided that a close check can be kept on
the mesh sizes employed. The small-
meshed seine nets favoured by many
fishermen along the south coast are des-
tructive of young stages of fishes such as
grunts and yellowtail snappers, but at the
same time take a harvest of small parrot
fishes and other trash fishes which inhabit
the seagrass beds and which are never
caught by any other means, and would
therefore be wasted from the fisherman's
point of view if this sort of fishing were
prohibited. Gill-net fishing on the other
hand lends itself readily to management
by virtue of the fact that gill-nets are
highly selective and, provided that appro-
priate mesh sizes are utilised, will not
capture young fishes.
Hand-lining for snappers, groupers and
jacks in deep water (between 40-120
fathoms) appears to be the most promising
area for future development of fishing in
Jamaican waters. Although handlining
in the deep water around the edge of the
island shelf has been done for probably
more than 100 years, it appears that the
stocks of deep-water fishes may still be
in a state of marginal exploitation. This
is because it is difficult for the handline
fisherman operating from a canoe to
position himself over precisely the right
depthof water on the steeply sloping edge
and in addition he has to fish "blind",
hoping that his baited hooks after falling
through a hundred fathoms of water will
land somewhere near to a feeding school
of fishes. If it doesn't he has to move and
try elsewhere and again go through the
process of positioning himself over the
correct depth and again cast "blind".
Handline fishing in deep water from a
canoe can therefore be a frustrating and
unprofitable business and it is therefore
hardly surprising that around much of the
coastline it is pursued only in a desultory
fashion, and is only attempted period-
ically when the climatic and sea conditions
appear to the fisherman to be "just right"
On the other hand, one may speculate
that modern fishing vessels, even of small
size, but equipped with sophisticated
echo-sounders and other electronic fish
detection gear, may enable the fishermen
to exploit the deep water quality fishes
such as snappers far more efficiently and
obtain economically profitable catches
even in areas such as the central part of
the north coast which is traditionally
regarded as a poor fishing ground. It
should be explained here that certain
sophisticated echo-sounders are capable
of distinguishing a single foot-long fish,
near the bottom, at depths of 900 feet
or more. Clearly, such equipment removes
a large element of chance from the
handlining technique, and enables a large
area to be searched for fish before the
best spot is selected and the lines are let
down. Needless to say, the equipment
mentioned is expensive and the possi-
bilities require investigation before any
investment should be made.
In addition to the possibilities of
increasing the catches of deep water
snappers and other quality fishes in areas
which have been exploited by simple
methods for many years the United
Nations' Caribbean Fisheries Development
Project has been able to demonstrate that
the deep waters around the edges of the
oceanic banks beyond the normal oper-
ating range of canoes harbour virgin fish
stocks of unquestionable economic value.
Catches exceeding 1,000 pounds weight
are commonplace and much interest has
been generated in recent months in the
possibilities of investing in large fishing
vessels suitable for exceeding these stocks,
even though the work of the Caribbean
Fisheries Development Project will not be
completed for another two years and no
final evaluation has been made of the
economic potential of this fishery. At
present the only large modern, Jamaican-
owned vessel which regularly handlines
on the distant banks is that recently
acquired by the very progressive Man-
chioneal Fishermens' Co-operative, and
there is every indication that the venture
will prove successful provided that they
are able to give adequate maintenance to
their mechanical and electronic equip-
ment. In order for fishing on the offshore
banks to be profitable and safe, vessels
must be sufficiently large to stay at sea
for at least a week carrying a large crew
of fishermen, cook, captain and engineer.
At the present time the availability of
qualified engineers and boat captains
appears to be the main limiting factor in
the expansion of the fishery, as it has
been shown canoe fishermen can in most
cases adapt fairly readily to the changed
working conditions aboard such ships,
and cope with the different sorts of
fishing gear employed.
It appears that vessels less than 50
feet in length would be too small to
engage in this fishery as they would spend
undue lenghts of time confined to port
by adverse weather conditions. On the
other hand vessels over about 90 feet in
length would probably be too expensive in
terms of running costs and depreciation
to engage in the fishery. Efficient fish
holds are an essential feature, either
cooled by ice, or refrigerated. The most
important items of gear would be the
echo sounders, and other fish detection
apparatus without which the vessel would
probably be less productive than a canoe.
Other possibilities for increased fish.
production are tuna fishing with long-
lines and using the "live bait" technique.
Neither of these techniques has yet been
shown to have much economic potential
when conducted by offshore fishing boats
on a full-time basis, but either or both
techniques, consist of setting several miles
of line to which is attached at regular
intervals short lengths of line bearing
baited hooks. The long-line is set parallel
to the surface, sometimes at considerable
depths, and is buoyed up over its length
by regularly spaced floats. The main
catch is tuna and marlin and sharks, often
of spectacular sizes. The "live bait" fishing
technique is used to capture tunas which
live in schools near the surface, and which
are attracted to the fishing boat by
tossing vast quantities of small live fishes,
the "live bait", into the water. Once the
school of tuna fishes have started feeding
on the bait, lures containing barbless
hooks are lowered into the water and are
readily taken by the tuna. This is one of
the most exciting ways to fish, as once
the tuna start to take the lures the air is
filled with flying tuna which are jecked
out of the water with bamboo poles, the
hook disengaged by a deft flick of th6
pole while the tuna is still in midair, and
the lure returned to the water before the
tuna falls to the deck.
Trolling for pelagic fishes such as the
tunas, bonitos, wahoo, barracuda, marlin,
rainbow runner and kingfish has greater
potential than has yet been realized. The
technique is familiar to all of us as the
main technique used in the annual blue
marlin tournament; simply consisting of
towing a baited hook or lure behind a
moving vessel. For the tourist or wealthy
sportsman playing his fish on light tackle,
this is a most rewarding and challenging
way of fishing; for the commercial fisher-
man whether he is in a modern fishing
vessel or in a canoe trolling affords a use-
ful way of supplementing his catch as he
passes to or from the fishing grounds,
particularly if he is fortunate enough to
encounter a school of tuna or kingfish, in
which case enormously valuable catches
In summary, Jamaica's traditional fish-
eries seem to be capable of very little
further expansion unless stringent conser-
vation and management techniques are
applied. The future of the industry lies in
the hands of those who are prepared to
invest their capital in modern fishing
vessels, equipped with sophisticated equip-
ment and journey to the virgin fishing
grounds far offshore. This in turn will
require the creation of an elite core of
masterfishermen and engineers; educated,
technologically-minded men with a love of
the sea, who are prepared to face a rough
but rewarding life. Clearly, shortage of
capital is a serious problem as the persons
most interested in these ventures are
seldom in a position to supply the capital.
However, Government can, and does,
provide loans and financial backing, part-
icularly for the progressive co-operatives,
and it seems likely that a substantial
number of vessels will enter the offshore
fishery within the next few years. Mem-
bers of the U.S. Peace Corps have been
very active in assisting the development
of the fisherman's co-operatives and have
contributed substantially to the prospects
for future development. The remaining
problem then lies in the acquisition of
ship captains and engineers, and this
appears insoluble without importing skil-
led labour from elsewhere and perhaps
creating an apprenticing system for cadet
officers as is done in most merchant
Finally, it is necessary that at this
stage Jamaica should give some consider-
ation to questions affecting the inter-
national usage of the high seas. Already,
some of our Central American neigh-
bours have laid claim to exclusive fishing
rights over vast areas of shallow seas, far
beyond internationally accepted territor-
ial limits. Moreover, there is every
indication that they are prepared to
defend these claims by arresting and
harrassing vessels which intrude within
their proclaimed limits. Jamaica has
undisputed rights to fish over some 4,000
square miles comprised of her own terri-
torial waters and nearby fishing banks
lying in international waters. However,
an additional 19,000 square miles lying
in presently recognized international wat-
ers have been claimed for exclusive use by
our neighbours and unless this problem is
solved this could place a severe brake on
the full expansion of the fishing industry
to meet the island's needs.
Acknowledgements: In preparing this
article the author has drawn heavily upon
conversations with staff-members of the
United Nations' Caribbean Fisheries De-
velopment Project and the staff of the
Fisheries Division of Jamaican Ministry
of Agriculture and Fisheries. Their co-
operation in providing facts and figures is
gratefully acknowledged. However, the
final responsibility for the interpretation
of the information and for the conclusions
drawn must rest entirely with the author.
The Zoology Department of the University of the West Indies, Mona, has recently announced a grant of 100,079 from the United Kingdom Ministry of
Overseas Development to finance a fisheries research project in Jamaica. This project will be under the direction of Dr. Munro and will include an assess-
ment of the maximum sustainable yield which can be obtained from the most important species of fishes comprising the incipient off-shore hook-
and-line fishery and an evaluation of the effect of sustained fishing with the tradiitonal Jamaica fish traps upon the composition of the near shore coral-
reef fish communities.
\I I \ I I A FESTIVAL '69
"Applause" 1st in Class 1st in Division
V. T. Hizeins
"Reflections of Death class 9 Silver Medal
A. C Voorhoeve
by John Fermor
Throughout Jamaica several hundred rain gauges have been
checked this morning and their catch recorded. These records
are often of some immediate use to the meteorologist, water
engineer or farmer, but when long continued, there is also the
possibility that they will reveal a pattern whose regularity will
allow prediction for many years ahead. Indeed some records
have been kept with this as a leading consideration, as shown
by the Jamaica departmental reports for 1886 which state ....
"the rainfall for 1886 would tend to show that the droughts
of the past few years were merely a cycle of seasons, the regu-
lar recurrence of which will probably be ascertained by further
observations, and the necessity for accurate and reliable records
is therefore prominently shown forth."
One of the records referred to here was that for the Cin-
chona Hill Gardens, and as this is the longest and most com-
plete series available today it is used hereafter as the basis for
discussion. The annual rainfall for the last 96 years is shown
in Diagram 1.
It is evident that any trend or cycle that may exist is greatly
obscured by irregular fluctuations of considerable magnitude
from year to year. Indeed in any ten consecutive years the
highest annual total is likely to be at least double the lowest.
To reduce the effect of this random fluctuation one method in
use is the ten year moving average, the rainfall for 1873-83
being averaged, then that for 1874-83 and so on to 1959-68.
Each consecutive average thus has a ninety per cent overlap
with the proceeding one, so that short term fluctuations largely
cancel out and more persistent changes reveal themselves.
INCHES OF RAIN
YEAR GI VEN IS THE FIRST OF TEN
Diagram 2 shows the result of graphing such a moving average
for Cinchona, the most pronounced peaks being for the de-
cades beginning in 1908 and 1942, with neaps for the decades
beginning in 1882, 1920 and 1952. A statistical test shows
that all the lesser corrugations in the graph are probably due to
chance bunchings of wet and dry years, just as tossing a coin
repeatedly will on occasion produce a string of heads or tails,
and they should be ignored.
What of the spacing of the peaks and neaps that have passed
the test; do they fulfil the early hopes and demonstrate a
cycle of seasons? The record is still too short for confidence
and any cycle lacks strict punctuality in its recurrence. Yet it
is apparent that successive peaks or neaps occur at intervals of
approximately 35 years. That this should be the period is in-
triguing since it corresponds to the most famous of the cycles
claimed by climatologists. Professor Bruckner of Berlin Uni-
1 11 1 1I I I
SI I I
versity believed such a 35 year cycle in European weather can
be shown by historical references to have repeated itself 25
Beside this cyclic tendency the Cinchona record suggest a
more general downward trend throughout the century of
observations. A possible description of the record is that such
a trend has a 35 year cycle imposed upon it, and this in turn is
overlain by year to year changes in a random manner. The over-
all effect however is too imprecise for projections into the
future to have much certainty, and hopes for a 'tide table' of
the weather are illusory. Perhaps if the causes of any trends
and cycles could be discovered we would be on firmer grounds.
Turning from facts to explanations, a plethora of conflict-
ing claims appears. Rather than attempt any summary of these
let us consider a theory which is particularly appropriate to the
land of wood and water. There is a widely held opinion, that
the replacement of the forest that once clothed the island by
cropland has reduced and is still reducing the island's rainfall.
The long persistence of such views can be seen by reading the
remarks of Sir Hans Sloane, whose Natural History of Jamaica,
published in 1707 states .... "they (the May and October
rains) are much altered in their time and violence of late years,
which arises from the clearing of the country of much wood. "
If there is any truth in such statements, an explanation of
S the downward trend of rainfall at Cinchona is at hand, and
with it a clear remedy. However, much of the evidence pro-
duced to support these claims is, I fear, mistaken. A country-
man familiar with the streams and springs of an area notices
that when the land is cleared of woods, the springs fail and
streams that once flowed constantly now do so only after
heavy rain. He holds the clearing responsible and supposes that
it has reduced the rainfall, when the truth is that without the
holding action of tree roots and litter, the rains run off the land
far more quickly and a few floods take the place of a slower
seepage and smaller but longer lasting streamflows.
How might the removal of trees affect rainfall? The photo-
graph shows an area near Cinchona, with part of Cedar Valley
to the north, and the forested ridge of Mount Horeb to the
south. We see that the forests are darker than the cleared lands,
and we know that sunlight makes dark surfaces hotter than
light ones. It is known too that the amount of water evaporated
by trees is likely to exceed that from cropland, while in addi-
tion the forest presents a rougher surface to the wind than do
cleared areas. In sum, the presence of forests increase the
warmth, water content and turbulence of the air above them as
compared to cleared land.'
Now most of the rain in any year comes in a small number
of storms and it is some special disturbance of the whole at-
mosphere on the days concerned, rather than the general
properties of air just above the treetops, which produces these
storms. Nevertheless there will be days when clouds build up
to depths just insufficient to trigger off a shower. Anything
which adds to the upward surge of air at such times may make
the crucial difference, and it is then that the extra warmth,
turbulence and moisture (with its latent heat) of the air above
the forests may have an effect.
Whether this effect is appreciable is quite another matter,
and one can only agree with Mr. Keats Hall, our deputy con-
servator of forests, who in a recent seminar pronounced it still
unsettled. Fortunately this uncertainty does not affect prac-
tical decisions since the benefits of afforestation are not in
doubt in other respects. We can afford to grow the trees and
"Greek Theatre" class 3. Silver Medal F. J. Wotton
"Jamaican Boy" class 10. 1st in Class
- 2nd in Division R. Murray
- - __T.
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.~~~~~~~ . '",,..--
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by J.B. Kidd.
During Lunch Time
by Carmen Lyons
Festival '69 Prize-winning Play.
SCENE ONE: A yard in West Kingston. A building with three
rooms, a veranda with about six posts and three or four steps
leading into the yard. A table with two chairs on the veranda.
Right of the steps sits BIG JOE, an old shoemaker, at his
work bench. He is a fat, balding Sambo-type in his sixties. He
is wearing striped shirt, brown pants and a blue apron. On the
other side of the steps, MISS LIZZIE, a washer woman, is
scrubbing at her tub. She is a short, slim black woman. She
wears a simple, faded house dress with large flower patterns
on it. Her tub is mounted on a fruit crate. There is an empty
stool beside her, also a zinc pan into which she tosses her
clothes. Further left from her is a stand pipe. Two clothes
BERNIE (plate in hand)
This ackee and salt fish set well with me
(belches) Thank you, Miss Lizzie.
BIG JOE Had some meself, boy ...
MISS LIZZIE (takes plate and returns to tub)
Always willing to feed another mouth, Bernie ..
Well, the way things tough with me these days..
is a good thing a know you and Big Joe ...
BIG JOE Things always look tough when you just come
from country and trying to making it in a big
town like Kingston.
BERNIE You know, when a was coming to town, me
mother tell me about how she used to live in
this yard with you and Miss Lizzie . .but a
really didn't expect to find you.
You mother is a good woman, Bernie ... see
Big Joe there, ask him... is me and him advise
her to go back to Clarendon when she couldn't
make it here. .
BIG JOE True. She used to work for some people in St.
Andrew, but when them went back to England
she just couldn't pick up anything... and you,
you was just a little dry foot boy running all
over the place . mashing you finger with me
hammer and picking up me scraps of leather
'bout you making shoes ...
BERNIE (leans back laughing)
May be a should really learn the trade . eh,
lines are extended from a veranda post to another post off-
BERNIE SANDERS, a lean, tired-looking black man, in his
early twenties, is sitting in the middle of the steps. His hair is
high on his head. He wears a faded yellow tee shirt, brown
slacks, brown socks and sandals. It is about mid-day. Through-
out the play Miss Lizzie washes her clothes and hangs them on
the line. Big Joe hammers leather and patches the soles of
shoes, and Bernie polishes the ones already repaired. As the
curtain rises Bernie has just finished eating some ackee and
salt fish and bread.
BIG JOE It wouldn't do you any harm since you can't
find any work ...
Nough the same thing you say when Bernie first
came to live with you enough Big Joe . true
you know Bernie, him sit right where him is
now and say ... Miss Lizzie, a should teach the
boy the trade...
BIG JOE (nodding his head)
That's exactly what a said...
BERNIE (toying with a piece of leather)
A thought about it meself, but a don't think a
was cut out to be a shoemaker . a just don't
have the rhythm that Big Joe have when him
pounding out a piece of leather.
Is one whole year since you came here, Bernie ..
about time something turn up for you, man.
BERNIE These are key-soap times, Miss Lizzie. A tried
to get in on some farm-working them cut
down the quota, tried pushing a cart in the
market somebody steal me cart, tried clean-
ing street, them go on strike and a lose the work..
things just too tough for me. ..
BIG JOE (hammering leather)
Boy, you think things tough now?
BERNIE (picks up a foot of shoes)
Things tough, yes...
MISS LIZZIE (wringing shirt)
Bernie, you sit down on them steps everyday
talking 'bout things tough . a big man like
you should go back to country go cut cane or
dig bauxite dirt ...
BIG JOE (hammering)
So me tell him ... big man like him ought to
be able to find work easy.
BERNIE (polishes shoe)
Day in . day out, me tired to look for work,
MISS LIZZIE (throws shirt into zinc pan)
A thought you was supposed to join the army?
BERNIE A made an application...
BIG JOE (laughs)
All now you should turn corporal boy, if you
can't get into the army . join the police force,
them need man to catch thief all the time ...
BERNIE Is my fault if the army don't answer me letter?
BIG JOE No ... that is not your fault...
MISS LIZZIE But it seems to me that the army need able
body young men all the time ...
BIG JOE Thing is, them is taking them own sweet time
to answer Bernie's letter.
BERNIE Is true that...
MISS LIZZIE In the mean time you taking it easy?
BERNIE Wha fe do ...
MISS LIZZIE You better do something before something do
BIG JOE When him least expect . him might just hear
MISS LIZZIE Bernie too lazy for my use...
(Bernie and Big Joe laugh out loud)
BERNIE (still laughing)
What this country needs is a revolution. (More
serious) We ought to shake it up a bit... every-
body taking everybody else for granted.
need a revolution to shake up thing so that the
small man can have a day ...
MISS LIZZIE (squeezing pants)
Talk . talk . go out on the street and
hustle like everyone else ...
BERNIE Is steal you want me to go steal ...
MISS LIZZIE (throws pants in pan)
Bernie, nobody not sending you to go thief...
just to help yourself ... if you ask me ... you
stay bad boy, you stay bad ...
BERNIE (smiles, shines shoes)
Now Miss Lizzie... is your condition any better?
MISS LIZZIE (scrubbing)
You hear me complaining?
BERNIE When the revolution comes is people like you
going to mess it up ...
MISS LIZZIE I don't want any part of any revolution ...
BIG JOE (laughs)
So,you planning to revolt, eh Bernie?
BERNIE First thing Miss Lizzie wouldn't even know what
side to be on ...
BIG JOE Tell us about it, Bernie ... talk, boy, talk...
BERNIE I don't have to wear a beard and carry on like a
Rastafarian to believe that it will happen.
BIG JOE Just warn me, boy . I'll come and see you in
BERNIE (rising, strikes pose like a preacher)
It will be a new day for people like you and me.
You, Big Joe, you won't have to make new shoes
for other people and patch your own. You will
have new shoes for yourself. (Turns to Miss
Lizzie) Miss Lizzie, no more washing other
people's clothes ...
MISS LIZZIE (laughs)
Yes, Mister Bernie, Sir . you just tell me
what I will be doing.
BERNIE (sits, disgusted)
If people like us don't believe in the revolution,
it will never happen ...
BIG JOE I don't see how any revolution is going to make
me better off...
MISS LIZZIE Better off... you likely to end up dead...
BERNIE Why should anyone die?
BIG JOE Boy, shut you mouth. You ever see a revolu-
tion where nobody died? (snicker from Bernie.)
If nobody dies, then you can't tell me that it is
a revolution ...
BERNIE It's going to be a bloodless coup, man ...
BIG JOE I have to see it first...
BERNIE And when it's over there will be jobs for every-
one. .. all me might even find a work ...
BIG JOE All that just to find yourself a job, boy?
BERNIE Gho, Big Joe, man . as cording to how I
understand it things always improve after a
MISS LIZZIE (laughs out loud)
Improve, yes... not for people like you, though.
BIG JOE Right... all we would end up with is some new
BERNIE Cho, new leader no mean nothing... a revolt
will turn things around . give us more of the
BIG JOE Us? Miss Lizzie, him talking like you and me
BERNIE You involved yes. .. when I listen to the talk a
can't help but believe it meself...
BIG JOE Whoever filling up you mind with all that revolu-
tionary talk just don't know what them talking
MISS LIZZIE Rumour, Bernie, me boy. . just plain and
simple rumour. . as the Bible says... there will
be wars and rumours of wars, well is like you
now rumouring 'bout a revolution...
BIG JOE True word... Miss Lizzie... true word...
BERNIE A telling you both like a naw tell you... all this
revolution needs now is a plan and some real
BIG JOE Hear them big words, Miss Liz,.. the man serious.
BERNIE Serious yes... some people don't see the need
for a revolt here, but that's just it, there is no
one big reason to point out why there should
be one. .. but all sorts of little things hiding in
various corners. . little things that we all take
for granted. but when the revolution comes
you will see the light...
(As the door behind Bernie opens, there is the blast of a radio
playing a Reggay tune. A young American sailor steps out. He
closes the door behind him, cutting off the sound of the radio.
The sailor quickly makes his way down the steps and out of the
MISS LIZZIE (watching sailor)
God protect us from the sins of that whore...
dear God, (looks to the sky) help her to see the
light so that she can mend her sinful, wicked
(As Miss Lizzie continues to stare in the sky beseeching God,
Bernie and Big Joe are laughing.)
MISS LIZZIE (back to earth)
You go on laughing... Missa Bernie... every-
day you sit there talk, talk . God only help
those who help themselves...
(Matilda steps out on the veranda. Blast from the radio again.
Matilda is wearing a tight, slinky black dress. She stands
before her door, hands akimbo.)
MATILDA For the last time, Miss Lizzie, keep your big
mouth out of my business...
(Matilda turns back into her room, slamming the door behind
BERNIE (in faked confidence to Joe)
Now, there is one person who don't need no
(The two men laugh again.)
BIG JOE True word... true word...
You talk about revolution, Bernie, one day,
one day. .. one day, this place is bound to go
up in smoke. . with all the sinning going on
around here it won't need any revolution to
burn this place down...
(The door behind Bernie opens again. Matilda steps out wear-
ing black dress, red shoes, red clutch bag. She wears a lot of
make-up and has the general appearance of a small time whore.)
MATILDA (stops beside the two men)
Hi, Bernie... Big Joe...
BIG JOE Good afternoon, Matilda.. how's business?
MATILDA (moves nearer to Joe)
It's better than repairing shoes...
(Matilda digs into her purse for a cigarette, comes up with one
and lights it.)
BERNIE You look sharp today...
MATILDA (smokes, purse in right hand)
It pays to look sharp these days, Bernie...
(Matilda laughs lightly as she turns away from the two men and
swings her hips past Miss Lizzie.)
BIG JOE Watch out, Bernie... watch out...
(Miss Lizzie begins to hum a nameless tune.)
MATILDA (at the gate)
More time Bernie... Big Joe...
(She puffs on her cigarette as she swings down the street.
Bernie rises from the steps and points after Matilda.)
BERNIE Now, there goes one person I would like to get
some help from...
BIG JOE (amused)
You have money, boy?
(Both men laugh. Miss Lizzie carries her zinc pan to the
clothes line to hang out her clothes. Throughout the next
section she sings "Running Up the Shining Way" as she pins
her clothes to the clothes line.)
MISS LIZZIE (singing)
Satan on my track,and he tries to turn me
back, I am running up the shining way...
BERNIE (walks away from steps)
One day 1 am going to go up to Matilda and
say'Matilda, have you ever tried the local fare?"
(He laughs and returns to his place on the steps.)
MISS LIZZIE (sings)
I am running up the shining way...
BIG JOE Matilda is a business woman, Bernie...
BERNIE This is business talk, Big Joe...
(Sound of a postman's bell ringing.)
BIG JOE Small talk and promises won't get you any-
where with her, you have to talk cash before
you can talk big.
(Sound of bell ringing as the postman rides up to the gate and
holds out the mail.)
BERNIE My money is as good as dollar bills...
BIG JOE Stop talk in vain. . go for the mail before the
postman ride off with it...
MISS LIZZIE (sings and hangs clothes)
I am running up the shining way... running up
the shining way. . Satan on my track and he
tries to turn me back... I am running... etc.
(Bernie gets the mail and reads the envelopes as he walks back
BERNIE (holds up envelope)
One for you, Miss Lizzie. .. look like it's from
Son-son in New York... what a way the Amer-
ican stamp pretty...
(Miss Lizzie comes forward wiping her hand on her apron. She
takes the letter from Bernie and goes to the stool beside her
tub and reads it.)
MISS LIZZIE Thank you, Bernie, is about time that boy write
The other one is for me...
BIG JOE (laughs)
Bring me letter, boy, is who know you to send
you letter through the mail?
(Bernie opens the envelope dramatically... sits on the steps.)
BERNIE Serious man. .. it's from the Defense Force...
addressed to me. .. remember I told you that I
used this address. . is my letter fe true. .
(pause) hey, hey. . hear how them start out
(coughs) Dear Sir (pause) to rawtid (stamps his
foot) Dear Sir. . you see it dey now. see it
BIG JOE Well (pause) them want you or dem don't want
BERNIE (leaps up from steps)
Them want me yes... them want me to come in
with the next group of recruits for training
(pushes letter into Joe's hand) Read that...
(Big Joe puts down his shoes and takes the letter. Reads it
BIG JOE Now you can get off your arse and do some-
thing for a change. ..
BERNIE Congratulate me first enough, man...
BIG JOE Boy, you don't have to worry about one thing
BERNIE Cho, Big Joe, me just get the letter, man...
BIG JOE Not a thing. .. them army man get free every-
BERNIE (back on steps)
Give me little time... a want it to sink in good.
BIG JOE Free food, free place to live, free clothes. . free
(Miss Lizzie finishes her letter, but remains seated She stares
ahead unaware of Bernie's joy. Then she hangs her head. In
the street the ice man goes by pushing his cart and shouting:
"Ice water man, ice water man." Suddenly Bernie jumps up
from the steps and snaps to attention.)
Left, right, left . left, right, left.. halt. . up
one, up two. . h-a-l-t- (prances back to steps)
Just imagine me at Review... you can see me
marching in all kinds of ceremonial parades...
and for Independence?
BIG JOE Cool it, boy, just wait till them get you up into
New Castle. . cold bus you shut so hard...
cold night push parades and ceremonies straight
out of you mind. .. you begin to wonder what
kind of fool you is to join up in the first place ...
(Bernie turns to Miss Lizzie who is wiping her face in her apron,
letter in one hand.)
BERNIE Miss Lizzie, you hear me good(slowly) fortune..
(loud) Miss Lizzie (moves closer to her) what
wrong? Something happen to Son-son. .. any-
thing wrong in the letter?
(Miss Lizzie shakes her head, unable to speak Waves letter and
wipes tears from her eyes. Big Joe joins them.)
BIG JOE What wrong, Miss Lizzie?
MISS LIZZIE Son-son gone clear to America and go get him-
BIG JOE Say wha?
MISS LIZZIE Son-son arrested...
BERNIE Arrested for what?
BIG JOE Hold on, Bernie man, take it easy Miss Lizzie
tell us what the letter say...
The boy gone clear to New York gone demon-
strate and now them arrest him. (Cries) Him in
jail... my Son-son... who don't even know how
the inside of a reform school stay... here, read
it, Big Joe.
(Joe takes the letter.)
BERNIE Is how Son-son so stupid?
BIG JOE (reading)
Hush, the boy should know what him doing
(pause) It don't sound so bad, Miss Lizzie, the
boy is alright. see where him say that them
let him go (points to line and shows her) right
here on the other side of the first page...
MISS LIZZIE Is where him say that. . me never read that
BIG JOE (reads aloud)
"They allowed me to leave the station two hours
after it was clear that I had nothing to do with
the demonstration. I know that... "
MISS LIZZIE Thank God, thank you Massa Jesus, thank you.
(Suddenly the sound of someone singing draws their attention
to the gate. Matilda appears at the gate, struggling with a
young sailor who is singing, "Rum and Coco-cola... working
for the Yankee dollar." He is drunk. Matilda holds him firmly
and leads him through the gate.)
SAILOR Hi, you-all. .. (he breaks away from Matilda's
hold and does a version of the rumba.) Can
you-all do the limbo, man...
(The others look on silently as Matilda struggles with the sailor.
She takes him across the yard and up the steps.)
MATILDA Let's go Sailor-boy... up the steps... one, two,
(She opens the door, pushes him inside, steps in, and then
slams the door behind her.)
MISS LIZZIE (recovers)
Heaven protect us...
(Miss Lizzie sticks her letter in her apron, goes up the clothes
line and continues to pin up her clothes. Big Joe goes back to
his bench and Bernie back totthe steps.)
BIG JOE Well, Bernie, all 1 can say is good luck in the
BERNIE Sure, man...
MISS LIZZIE (struggling with clothes)
Dear Lord, have mercy upon our souls...
(The lights fade slowly as they hold their positions.)
SCENE TWO: Same yard.
Early morning about three months later. Same setting. Big
Joe at work bench. Miss Lizzie comes through the gate with
her fruit basket on her head, a stool under one arm. She un-
loads near her wash tub, which is in the same position as before.
MISS LIZZIE Morning, Big Joe...
BIG JOE How the fruit sales going today?
MISS LIZZIE A don't know why a bother with it...
BIG JOE Good business or bad business?
MISS LIZZIE Is just a few school children passing by bother
to stop and buy something...
BIG JOE People stop buying oranges in the morning?
MISS LIZZIE It would seem so, but a think the supermarket
down the road putting me out of me little side
BIG JOE (cleaning up bench)
Don't make that stop you. You see me... them
could build a hundred shoe factories I still-
carrying on with my trade right here. Plenty
people still rely on a fruit woman like you and
a shoemaker like me. . don't let any big-time
competition force you out of you business, me
and you too old to start to look for new lines...
MISS LIZZIE (laughs lightly)
Is true, that. With a little here and a little there
both end bound to meet now and then...
(The voice of a fish-woman is heard coming up the street.)
FISH WOMAN Who buy fresh (drawls) f-i-s-h. . Fresh fish
again, who (drawls) b-u-y- . Who buy fresh
(drawls) f-i-s-h... Fresh, fish again, who (drawls)
BIG JOE (runs to gate)
Fish woman,, fish woman, stop... a want some
(The woman comes to the gate and Joe selects his fish. They
go through the ritual of type of fish, weight price and finally
he buys a large parrot fish. As the fish woman leaves, Big Joe
glances down the street and sees Bernie in uniform approach-
BIG JOE (shouts)
Hey, hey. watch the soldier man, nough...
(calls) Miss Lizzie. .. come watch Bernie goose-
stepping down the road...
(Miss Lizzie comes to the fence and looks down the street.)
MISS LIZZIE Is Bernie that?
BIG JOE Him look good, een...
(Bernie comes to the gate and into the yard. Pleased, they
BERNIE Hi, Miss Lizzie, Big Joe...
MISS LIZZIE (steps back)
Meck me step back and get a good look at you,
Boy, you look good fe true...
BIG JOE The uniform fit you. . in three months them
make him look like a good, good soldier...
BERNIE (snaps to attention)
Private Sanders, sir...
(Big Joe slaps him on the back and all three laugh heartily )
BERNIE How's everyone?
MISS LIZZIE Just as always. . washing, fixing shoes. .. sell-
ing fruit; and God only knows what Matilda is
up to... haven't laid eyes on her for days...
BERNIE How Son-son?
(Big Joe leaves with fish)
MISS LIZZIE Fine, me dear boy, him coming out for Christ-
(Big Joe returns to his bench and proceeds to cut up strips of
leather. Bernie brushes off one of the steps and takes his
regular seat. Miss Lizzie begins washing at her tub.)
BIG JOE How New Castle treat you, boy?
BERNIE Migod, Big Joe, the place cold you see...
BIG JOE A told you...
BERNIE Hearing about it and experiencing it is two
MISS LIZZIE (washing)
Is what them teach you besides marching, boy?
BERNIE (rises, walks towards her)
All kinds of things. .. emergency tactics, about
guns. .. mechanics. .. history. .. Miss Lizzie, I
never realise that there was so much I didn't
know or even heard about...
BIG JOE (pleased)
Now you on the right track...
MISS LIZZIE And him just start...
(Bernie takes a stance like the "Thinker", one foot on the
steps. Big Joe takes a keen look at his boots.)
BIG JOE Them shoes tough... look real tough, boy...
BERNIE (stamps foot)
Built for life, man... built for life...
BIG JOE (laughs)
If the soles ever wear out you know where to
get them fixed(they both laugh) If, that is.. .if.
BERNIE (picks up one of Joe's shoes)
May as well help with the polishing while I'm
BIG JOE Thanks, boy, sure missed your help around
here (looks up into Bernie's face) How's the
You seem to take this thing for a joke...
BIG JOE Not exactly...
BERNIE You ever ask yourself why I join the army?
BIG JOE No...
BIG JOE Cause you was looking for work?
BERNIE (puts down shoes)
You ask me about the revolution, right?
BIG JOE (smiles)
You join the army because of the revolution...
BERNIE Right. .. to learn about guns... to be prepared
when the revolution comes...
BIG JOE That still don't tell me anything, man...
BERNIE What do you want to hear?
BIG JOE I want to hear some factual things about this
BERNIE Such as...
BIG JOE Such as who is going to be in it?
BERNIE The people...
BIG JOE Where is it going to happen?
BERNIE Right here on this island...
BIG JOE When. .. and what signs to look for to know
that it is the real thing?
(Bernie rises and paces back and forth beside Big Joe)
BERNIE 1 don't know all those things, man, but I'll tell
you this much. . when it begins. . you will
say to yourself faces Joe dramatically) this is it,
man, this is what Bernie was talking about...
BIG JOE (laughs)
Beautiful, Bernie, beautiful...
MISS LIZZIE Forget that nonsense about revolution, Bernie...
and listen to the sense the army trying to teach
BIG JOE Miss Lizzie, you and I will either have to choose
sides or watch it from the sidelines, eh?
MISS LIZZIE Sidelines for me...
One day... one day...
(The lights fade as he leans back on the steps and stares
blankly ahead of him.)
SCENE THREE: About one month later. Same scene as
before. The sun is high in the sky. Loud sound of a factory
horn announcing the lunch hour, is heard in the distance.
BIG JOE Hear the conchie, Miss Lizzie?
MISS LIZZIE Lunch time, already?
BIG JOE (putting down shoes, rises.)
Those of us who don't have the lunch can
always take the time...
MISS LIZZIE (wiping her hands in her apron)
(Shouts of FIRE, FIRE are heard in the distance. Sounds of
sirens and loud blasts and screams.)
BIG JOE What kind of thing is that in the middle of the
day, een? (shouts toward Matilda's door) Fire!
(Big Joe and Miss Lizzie run toward the gate. They turn
around as a young sailor comes rushing out ofMatilda's room -
still in the process of dressing. The blast of a radio is heard.)
MISS LIZZIE (laughs)
Is what going on around here?
(Miss Lizzie and Big Joe step back from the gate to let the
sailor through, just as Matilda comes to her door.)
MATILDA You haven't paid me, you bastard...
(A group which gathered quickly at the gate at the shout of
fire... laughs at Matilda and the sailor running down the street.)
BIG JOE (shouts after sailor)
Boy, you forgot to pay...
(More laughter from the group at the gate.)
MISS LIZZIE Divine retribution catching up with some of us.
MATILDA (shaking her fist)
Dirty, rotten bastard...
(Matilda turns her back into her room and slams the door
BIG JOE (to man outside gate)
Is what going on with all the fire and shouting?
MAN A not so sure meself, but a young boy just
come off the bus up the road say that a whole
heap of ragamuffins swarming all over town and
Spanish Town Road burning and looting all the
stores, stopping buses and carrying on most
BIG JOE Say wha?
I was heading for town meself when I began to
see the smoke and hear the noise...
BIG JOE Hey, hey... this must be the revolution, man...
this has to be it...
MISS LIZZIE I have to go see this...
BIG JOE (grabs her arm)
MISS LIZZIE Hold on, for what?
BIG JOE If this is the revolution, the liest place for you is
1 wouldn't advise anyone to set foot in town,
according to what I hear...
BIG JOE According to how I understand it we should all
be taking part...
Me, take part?
BIG JOE Yes, you and everybody else...
Not with police and soldiers all over the place...
BIG JOE Soldiers?
(A boy comes running up the street with loot in his hands. He
has several pairs of shirts, pants and shoes in his hands.)
BIG JOE Hey you. . (the boy stops) where you coming
(As the boy comes to the gate the crowd gathers around him.)
Spanish Town Road. .. you want to see people
MISS LIZZIE Where?
BOY Everywhere. . everything burst open, every-
thing crash and the small man is having him day.
MAN Where you got all those things?
BOY Free things out there like sand...
BIG JOE How you get them, boy?
BOY Whenme see man start to grab things. .. a just
walk into a place and start helping meself. . a
don't even remember the name of the store...
police and soldiers all over the place now...
(The boy runs off down the street holding tightly to the loot.)
BIG JOE Watch that boy run enough. .. hey, hey, Bernie
must be having the time of him life...
MISS LIZZIE (turns into yard)
A wonder what side him on?
BIG JOE Cho, man, that boy will be on the right side...
MISS LIZZIE You know, Big Joe I really don't know which
side is the right side...
BIG JOE (hand on her shoulder)
Miss Lizzie, in times of crisis and change... the
right side is the side that wins.
MISS LIZZIE A don't care about sides... I would just like to
see Mass Bernie in action...
BIG JOE (shakes his head in agreement)
Yes, I'd love to see me boy in action, man...
look, Miss Liz. .. a change me mind, If them
having the revolution during our lunchtime, a
don't see-why onGod's earth we should miss it.
MISS LIZZIE (takes his hand)
Come, Big Joe, we have to go see this for our-
(Amid the sounds of sirens the lights fade quickly as they hurry
through the gate and down the road
The lights come up slowly. It's later the same day, about dusk.
Miss Lizzie is on the veranda sitting by her door. Big Joe leans
against his work bench. Behind him on the bench a radio plays
mood-type music. Joe is drinking a beer from a bottle. A pile
of looted shoes is stacked up against the edge of the veranda.
There is a break in the music and the announcer's voice comes
ANNOUNCER(very British accent)
This is your big news station and here is the
news brought to you by Linval Williams. All is
quiet in downtown Kingston this evening fol-
lowing a lunchtime free-for-all along Spanish
Town Road and King Street. The fracas left
fifty men wounded. Ten persons were taken
into custody. The riot, fondly called "The
Revolution" by those arrested, lasted approxi-
mately one hour. Area policemen and a task
force from the army quickly put things back in
order. The rioters burnt several buildings, in-
cluding Mason's Drug Store, Smelley's Meat
Mart and Winston's Furniture Shop. A total of
ten buses, property of the bus service, were also
destroyed. Damage has not yet been estimated.
(Big Joe turns off the radio and takes a long sip of beer.)
MISS LIZZIE Well, a lot of people thought it was the real
BIG JOE This should be a warning to the powers that be,
them betta tek notice and see what can happen.
MISS LIZZIE Such a pity though...
BIG JOE Pity about what?
MISS LIZZIE We never even see Bernie..
BIG JOE Huh-huh...
MISS LIZZIE (kneels beside shoes)
All these shoes. . and not one of them can fit
BIG JOE True...
MISS LIZZIE (picks up a shoe)
Size four, size five, size three. .. not if a was a
Ugly Sister me foot could greese one of these...
BIG JOE You would have to be Cinderalla herself...
MISS LIZZIE (laughs)
Right, I would have to be Cinderally herself...
BIG JOE (puts down beer bottle)
That's what them call the law of averages. .
people like us never win...
(There is a movement at the gate. Matilda enters. She is alone
looks haggard and tired. Big Joe moves toward her.)
BIG JOE (softly)
Anything wrong, Mattie?
(Matilda walks to the step, sits, smiles up at him.)
MATILDA Is a long time since you call me Mattie, BigJoe.
BIG JOE Is a long time since a see you alone...
(Miss Lizzie quietly withdraws to her room.)
MATILDA You saw the riot?
BIG JOE Just the tail end. .. but I was expecting more,
MATILDA Plenty police and soldiers all over the place to-
night so everyone keeping in them shells.
BIG JOE (sits beside her)
MATILDA Business slow, real slow. not even the mer-
chant sailors on shore leave tonight...
BIG JOE Everything so quiet... you would never believe
all that lunchtime ruckus...
MATILDA It so quiet, you can hear the sea breeze coming
BIG JOE This kind of breeze forces a man to stop and
think seriously about what happened -today
MATILDA A don't understand it...
BIG JOE Bernie used to talk about change, and a just
realize what him mean...
MATILDA Bernie is all talk.
BIG JOE No, him right. What happened today is just a
sign a can imagine the real thing...
MATILDA Big Joe, you should know better than Bernie,
a revolution won't make a bit of change in your
BIG JOE A used to laugh at Bernie, but I can see it...
you just look around you...
I like what I do... and no revolution is going
to change that...
(Sound of Bernie's voice outside the gate. Sound of steps of
BERNIE Okay, young boy, head on home. . it's long
pass the curfew. Head on home before you get
yourself into some real, real trouble.
Okay, sah, okay...
(Bernie comes through the gate. He is wearing full army battle
gear and has a rifle with a bayonet in his hand. He stops a
short distance away from Joe, and Matilda.)
BERNIE You people heard about the curfew?
MATILDA (walks toward him)
Bernie, is that you?
BIG JOE What a sight for sore eyes!
BERNIE (laughs nervously)
Matilda, Big Joe. .. a didn't even realize that it
was me own yard me reach...
BIG JOE Bernie, what you doing in that get-up, boy?
Keeping the peace...
BIG JOE What a ruckus today, een?
BERNIE Miss Lizzie okay?
BIG JOE Everybody okay. (shouts) Miss Lizzie, Miss
Lizzie, Bernie come. (to Bernie) She gone to
bed disappointed that she didn't see you in
BERNIE Well, she didn't miss anything...
(Miss Lizzie sticks her head through the door.)
MISS LIZZIE Bernie, Bernie, you safe?
BERNIE (moves to the step)
Safe and sound, Miss Lizzie...
MISS LIZZIE Thank the Lord... a can sleep peacefully now.
(She turns back into the room and closes the door behind her.
Bernie sits on the work bench and leans his rifle next to him.
He takes off his hat and plays with it.)
BERNIE Bad timing, man... this is not the way it should
BIG JOE What was supposed to happen?
BERNIE Tactics man, well-planned strategy...
BIG JOE Who say you can train holligans to fight?
BERNIE It can be done, but it needs planning and timing,
Some stupid ass jumped the gun.
BIG JOE Ah, Bernie, things don't usually turn out the
way you plan them.
BERNIE For months I sat around and talked about the
revolution. But I was not talking about what I
saw happening in the streets today. People just
destroying other people's property...
BIG JOE A told you that is so revolutions go -
BERNIE A planned uprising.., planned down'to the last
man that's what I thought about.
BIG JOE For a while back there I saw what you were
talking about, but every time I listen to you,
Bernie, a could see it... a used to laugh at you;
but every time you talk it took me back to
what me grandfather used to tell me about the
Morant Bay uprising...
(Matilda climbs the step, moving toward her room.)
MATILDA I don't care what the both of you have to say
about this riot or revolution.. not that i don't
understand what is happening, but riots put me
out of business. ..
BERNIE (picks up rifle)
Well, that's the end of that. I have to get back
on the beat... take care, Big Joe... Matilda...
(Bernie looks up at Matilda for a long time, turns and heads
for the gate. He walks into a young sailor at the gate.)
SAILOR Say, man, is this where Matilda lives?
BERNIE This is it, man, (shouts) Matilda, your time...
(Matilda wiggles to the gate, takes the Sailor by his hand and
leads him to her room, as Bernie and Big Joe look on.)
BERNIE (going through gate)
Nothing seems to change around here eh, Big
BIG JOE (rising)
That's right... nothing seems to change...
(The lights fade slowly as Big Joe stretches his arms above his
head. Bernie, slings his rifle over his shoulder and moves
slowly down the street.)
"Hang on Sloopy" class 8. Silver Medal
- J. Lamonte
"The Lonely Land" class 1. Silver Medal
A. Silver Fighting Cocks by Milton Harley
B. Bronze Contour by Ralph Campbell
C Shattered Dream by Christopher Gonzales
D. Portrait by Keith Carby
E. Virgin and Child by Glenford Gayle
F. Rasta Bush by Hilton Nembhard
G. Head by Silvia Hylton
H. Biafra by Stafford Schleiffer
1. Amateur Art Head of Governor
General by Orlando Deacon
J. Amateur Art Paul Bogle
by Hopeton Fitz-Henley
K. Linen Chest by Monex Limited Polio Rehabilitation
L. Fudge Stick Lamp by Miss Marlene Edwards
M. Framed Embroidery Exotic Flowers
by Jamaica Social Service Embroidery Depot
N. Goat Skin Poof by Samuel Clayton
O. Leather Poof by Miss Marjorie Robertson
O. Three Legged Stool by Miss Marjorie Robertson
Simple and Subtle
by Anne-Marie Isachsen
Children's Section Riotous summer's run amok in this garden,
Where wine-red roses fling their heads up high,
Each blade of grass is scented,
Each bough accented against the azure sky;
Far different from the mascara'd faces that grace
the formal courts,
With their sophisticated airs and elegant frocks,
False with their smiles and boring chat,
Exclaiming over the rockery's tidy rocks.
An Ode to a Soldier
by Petra Milner
Air filled its lungs,
Then rushed out on a sea of sound.
It was a new-born babe,
Fresh from his mother's womb
Which cradled him 'till his time was up,
'Till he was ready to face the world
He knew not the meaning of life.
Yet as he grew,
He would be faced with harshness...
And he would long for freedom,
Yet the world would bar the way.
And he would long for love,
And would crumple at the face of death.
And he would long for peace,
But would be issued arms
And told to fight -
For the love of God and of his country.
And out on the battle-field,
Bathed in blood, he would cry
His last tears,
Long before his time;
And the inevitable,
Would open his doors to let him in.
And he would feel no more.
And the world would not mourn for him,
When the war was won
As they would the death of a leader.
Such is life,
And Death the end to a life such as this,
But he knew not of life, yet,
Nor of Death.
But lay there,
A mere beginning,
Sweet and Innocent.
by Wayne Brown
Everywhere fish wheeled and fled
Or died in scores, floating like eggs.
From his mind's ark, Noah
Sailor for the kingdom of Truth's sake
Watched the water close like mouths
Over the last known hills. Next day
He slept, dreaming of haystacks.
Water woke him. He stood, arms folded,
Looking from a porthole, thinking nothing,
Numbed to a stare by horizon's drone
And the dry patter of rain. On the third day
Decisive, sudden, Ie dragged
Down the canvas curtain and turned
Inward to tend his animals, his
Animals, waking with novelty.
Locked, driven by fatigue, the ark
Beat and beat across the same sea,
Bloated, adrift, finding
Nothing to fasten to.
Barnacles grew up the sides like sores. Inside,
Noah, claustrophobic, sat and watched
The occupants of his ark take on
New aspects, shudder into focus one
By one. Something, he thought, must come
Of this, Such isolation! Such concentration!
Out of these instinctual half-lit lives
Something: some good, some Truth!
That night a dropped calf bawled to its feet
Shaking off light like dirt.
Noah, an old man, unhappy, shook
His head Birth was not the answer
Nor death. His mind's ark stank
Of death and birth, would always,
Sundering, stink. Outside
The fixed demonic patter of rain
Saying "Think, Noah, think! Break this
Patter of rain, man!" But only animals
Moved in his mind Now, unbodied by raindrops
The patter continued, empty, shelled,
Clambering down along itself like crabs.
Driven, impotent, he neared despair. Finally
One bird, uncalled, detached itself
And battered around inside his skull.
Thankfully Noah released it, fearful,
Hoping, watching it flit and bang
Against wind, returning each time
Barren. One day, laden with lies
It brought back promise of fruit
Of resolution and change.
Now animals and men crowded the gangplank
Peering eagerly about the returning hills
For some sign of change. Noah conducted them
Drifting among valleys with breaking smiles
Naming, explaining, directing, Noah released
Turned once more outwards, giving thanks.
Relief dazed them: nobody realized
Nothing had changed Beast and man
Settled and hardened to old moulds, un-
Remembered seasons of death and birth
Led by the bearded one, the prophet, Noah
Rejuvenated, giving thanks on a hill,
Moving among known animals and men
With a new aspect, giving thanks While
Leaking, derelict, its mission abandoned,
The ark of his mind wallowed empty westward
To where old rainbows
Drown among waves.
by Dennis Scott
Moon shadow burning.
Watch where I walking, Lord.
Make mi foot step hard
on the enemy's shadow
an hear me.
I wearing de ring dem tonight -
one against hate and de red pepper
tongue of malice, a snake-eye
bone-ring to touch
if I buck up de tempter,
one ring against love-me
an one against de finger of famine,
an one for the death by drowning,
an one from fire;
an a bright copper ring
that I fine in a fish belly,
tun me safe an salt
from de barracuta teet' of desire.
But moon shadow falling.
Ifraid for de shape of de winding -
de road too crooked,
it making a rope to twine me!
An Lord, I tired
to tellyu mi torment, but listen
an learn me, an reach me
to home. I believe
in de blessed ring, but Chris'
I praising yu candle also,
I raising mi heart like a smalls,
like a coal that outing
to light it -
guard me asleep an awake!
De ring did bless in de balm yard
but Thee I praise.
I singing out loud
for de hill dem to hear me an tremble
De Lord is my Shepherd,
I shall not fear!
I singing so loud, down to de moon
going shake, I crying out,
An de moonshine wetting mi face up
like oil of plenty.
I going alone to mi house
wi de ring pon mi finger,
but walk wit' me ever
an ever, tree score an ten,
an de moon shall wet me,
de ring shall praise Thee an heal me
and de mout shall bless Thee
for ever, amen.
Pages from a Journal 1834
by Dennis Scott
So, goodbye to dark:
these black clowns and their manacled capers,
that brooding of hills. We sail
at dusk, taking the tide out
by the moon's chronometer.
The island floats behind
me not leaving,
dragging itself in the ship's road by
a seaweed cord.
The deck smells
of sugar and spices, spiders breed
their scuttling memories in
the green banana stems
below, the Captain tells me;
and below, I am glad to be gone -
the hills are woodcut wild,
inked at my heart
and hard to erase;
to the last I possess them,
their branches, their sun,
the carved black dancers -
I have printed myself
their wooden glances
with an iron pride
more savage than theirs..
I have signed them.
The paper darkens
away from that porthole moon,
a fistful of wind
bellies us North North East;
turn in. The spiders
throw their silk across the hold,
the turning fruit prepare
a tropic gold. Perhaps
when London snows
I shall be sad
buying their sweet
splendour, to recall
the green remaining.
Sea knots slip
apart; only the past permits
by Tessa Dow
Festival Silver Medal Short Story Winner
Living requires a conscious effort, a will to
experience life. Existing occurs to the
Dora Olivetti walked out of the sixth
form, and with an enormous sense of
relief down the empty passage to the
Staff room. She would spend the remain-
ing hour of school marking books so that
at the end she would be quite free to for-
get about the whole business, especially
the last, forty minutes of humiliation. She
knew that if only she could forget about
her ridiculous height, the girls would too.
Yet she was painfully aware that not only
was she burdened with this deformity,
but her general appearance was against
her also. So what if they did call her
Lofty, how could she expect to earn their
approval with her plain face and the added
insult of very short sight and very thick-
lensed glasses. The ladies of the sixth set
great store by physical beauty, being for
the most part well endowed themselves,
and having the gift of youth besides. It
was not that they were intentionally cruel
or rude, of course, it was just the fact of
them being as they were, and giggling at
what she was, with her deep earnestness
about the literature of France. They had
just finished exams, and it was the end of
June, with two more weeks to go until the
end of term; earnest they could not be,
not knowing what their results would be,
or whether they were school leavers or
not. They were in a mood of prolonged
suspension, and it delighted them to play
tricks or extract fun whenever the oppor-
tunity could be found. They could not
know that Dora Olivetti was so unsure of
herself that she dreaded their thoughtless
efforts to create a little humour out of
any little situation. What if they knew
that sometimes her sleep was troubled with
dreams of herself committing some act of
violence against one or another of them, ta'O
tearing their hair, or hitting them hard
with a ruler? She really wanted to hurt
them, to make some impression upon their
invulnerable persons. But whenever a
dream like this came to torment her, her
actions were completely ineffectual, her
victim would remain with untroubled Illustrations by
countenance, to her mounting distress. H. V. Parchment
Four foot three, features crowded out
by the thickest-lensed glasses, neat, up-
right figure, neatly dressed in anonymous-
coloured clothing: she entered the Staff
room and made for her own position on
the long table. Calm returned to her as features crowded out by the thickest-lensed glasses, neat,
she sat down quietly, and answered a dressed in anonymous-coloured clothing...
upright figure, neatly
greeting from her neighbour. Her fellow-
teachers were a fairly uninspiring lot, plea-
sant, unhelpful, and rather self-centered.
This gave Dora the chance she wanted for
anonymity. The married ones were in-
clined to gossip amongst themselves, and
there were snatches of conversation which
inevitably reached her ears, and which
she found shocking, filled as they were
with intimate details of goings on of hus-
bands and children. It was an easy-going
and rather quiet Staff room. Dora found a
further barrier between herself and the
others the fact that she came from one of
the small islands, although she had not
gone back after getting her diploma and
degree. She had no friends there, and to
her Jamaica was home, as much as any
place represented that thing. In fact,
brought up as she had been, as the pro-
te'ge'e of an aunt who was completely
dedicated to an odd religious sect, she
had learned to value her own company,
and to need to be solitary. This was a
peaceful scene; Dora, going through a pile
of test papers, was aware of her heart
lightening at the sound of the last bell.
She arose immediately, gathering up her
things and murmuring goodbye, and was
the first to leave.
Her almost restored tranquility was
jolted at the sight of her car, which was old
and unreliable She prayed that it would
get her home safely. Fear of a breakdown
and having to appeal for help tormented
her whenever she drove. Only last week
it had happened, and her complete igno-
rance about a car's mechanism was mat-
ched by her total embarrassment as a man
stopped his car and offered help.
"It may be the battery?" she suggested
"It is kind of you to stop."
The man looked incredulously at it.
"Wrinch!" he exclaimed. "When last
have you put water in it?"
He surveyed the corroded green thing
with amazement. Dora had been almost
paralysed with distress. Now, as she got
into her dirty, battered car, she thought
how lucky she had been. What if the
next breakdown occurred in a less salu-
brious part of town? Dora was aware of
the people down "there", and of their
wretched state of poverty and their hope-
lessness. But as an introvert, she could
not detach herself long enough from her
own problems to do more than briefly
pity them, and then turn her back on a
problem too hopeless to concern her. She
pushed the thought of a breakdown to the
back of her mind. She knew that she
could afford to pay down on a new car if
she denied herself the next holiday abroad.
All her holidays were abroad, and all her
money went on them. Since ninety per
cent of her life, the working part, was so
unhappy, the holidays provided her with
great escapes. She felt that she had to get
away. She had travelled throughout the
Caribbean and in Mexico, and planned to
spend the next long summer holiday in
America. These thoughts led her on to
speculate as to whether she was bold
enough to cope with America. What if
something happened to her, or she got
sick? Nobody would care, and she would
leave no mourners. She would die she
went on thinking, like a cat or a dog; to
be exclaimed over for an hour or two,
and then be lost for ever in oblivion.
She drove home, which was lodging
with a small family in a quiet avenue away
from the main road which led to the
school. Here Dora had a pleasant room.
She also had the respect that a lower mid-
dle class family accords to one who has
acquired the status of a teacher. As she
entered the house, she would take off her
shoes and go and lie on her bed. Both
husband and wife were at work all day,
and a good-natured but unkempt maid
slept all afternoon, so that she could relax.
She liked these people. As she lay on the
bed, she would plan her next escape route,
as it were, for the coming holiday. She
seldom went out in the evenings, only
occasionally seeing a film with the Smiths.
Sometimes she would take them to see a
local production of a play, or the Dance
Company. No dinner dates for her, no
picnics, no parties, no excursions to the
north coast; nobody called her from one
week to the next unless it was about
work or suchlike. She longed in vain for
someone with whom she could talk, not
about her personal problems, of course,
for they were complicated enough to
make her realize that she would never
bring them up for discussion with anyone,
neither priest, nor doctor nor anyone. If
only once in a while there was someone
around who equally enjoyed literature,
French literature preferably. They could
discuss, for example, how the desperately
poor in Kingston, in their placelessness in
the society, were reminiscent of the folk
in Zola's novels, in which poverty, the
great demoraliser, drove them into dis-
honesty, cruelty, and crudeness. She
would have liked to share with someone
the humour and depths of Prevert; or to
discuss the intellectuality and masculinity
of the writings of Simone de Beauvoir. All
this, alas, remained an unspoken dialogue
going on in her head; something she forced
herself to think about when the loneli-
ness and despair threatened to overwhelm
The next day at school, Dora left be-
hind a light-hearted fourth form and took
her jangling nerves back to the Staff room.
Why, she wondered, was she still teaching?
Why did she allow herself to suffer so
much in such an unrewarding job? She
knew the answer. It was she who was the
failure as a person, and she would always
want to teach, no matter what humiliation
it brought her. But why did she stay in
this particular job? Money? But that was
only useful as providing an antidote in the
form of an escape abroad in the holidays
in order to recover enough equilibrium to
once again tackle her grim task. Why, in
fact, did she stay in this land of violence,
where daily the news was of murders,
rapes and robbings? Might not this cur-
rent wave of violence with its attendant
pointless tragedies soon engulf and des-
troy her? Her chief, unspoken terror,
after all was of dying a shocking death,
one lacking in dignity and meaning, and
subject to a wider publicity than she had
ever known or wanted in life. What sort
of a place was this where the middle classes,
while decrying the deeds of thugs, allowed
their men to tote guns like schoolboys at
play? Did none of them realize that any-
one with a gun was a potential killer? She
stayed here, she thought cautiously, be-
cause she really did not have anywhere
else to go. Then also, she was an islander
born, and the beauty of this island had
power to move her. Where else would she
find mountains so enchanting, which could
vary their beauty according to the play of
light and shade on their many peaks, and
down their splendid valleys? Where else
the bewitching variety of shades in the
colour blue, deepening and lifting accord-
ing to the time of day? These mountains
could breathe peace to the torment within
her. Moreover, Dora recognized that the
people here were happier and kinder than
she would probably find anywhere else.
She sincerely liked them, and knew that it
was her fault that she could not feel that
they liked her in return.
Somehow an end came to the day, to
the week, to the term. Free at last, she
thought, as she left the dusty school com-
pound; free to plan this holiday's escape
and to go about collecting tickets, travel
documents, and information. She was
planning to leave in a few days for the
States, and tomorrow she would go down
town to see the travel agent. She felt
light-headed and light-hearted in antici-
pation, although at the back of it all, she
wondered still whether she could cope with
this ambitious holiday.
Leaving the hot, dusty school grounds,
Dora inwardly rejoiced at the prospect of
no teaching tomorrow. She got into the
car. The heat was stifling as she reversed
out and then wiped each sweating palm in
turn on her dress. Her hair was wet also,
and her clothing stuck to her as she drove
on. Dust was irritating her eyes and mak-
ing them water;her thick lenses were blur-
red. Then, out of nowhere, it seemed a
sports car was revving noisily alongside her
as the driver overtook. It was a blind cor-
ner, and the truck coming in the opposite
direction could not avoid collision with
the sports car, which in turn was rammed
into Dora's car. She swerved and ended
up hard against a telegraph pole.
Later, Dora recalled people bending
over her and being taken to hospital briefly,
and the police questioning her. She awoke
suddenly, thinking what a terrible dream
she had just gone through, tried to sit up
until a sharp pain seemed to be searing
through her brain. She lay still, and
anxiously tried to recall everything as it
had happened. She felt less agitated when
She swerved and ended up hard against a telegraph pole.
she realized that it had in no way been her
fault. She was lucky to get away with
bruises and a bad headache. Yet some-
thing was jarring her mind, she concen-
trated with difficulty, trying to discover
what it was. Then it came back to her in
a flash of anguish that the old car was well
and truly finished off. Despite a little in-
surance money, she would not be able to
buy a new car or a good second-hand one
unless unless she abandoned all hope
of her holiday abroad. Knowing also that
she would have to replace the car because
of her job, a deep despondency settled
upon her, nor was it in any way alleviated
by the splitting headache. The situation
offered no spark of hope. She began to
wonder how despair could be a sin, since
its presence lay upon the soul unmoving
and immoveable; mostly nothing availed
to lift its all-pervasive gloom. Whenever in
childhood this heavy despair settled upon
her, she had always felt the need to walk,
anywhere, so long as she could keep on
going for hours on end, as though finally
she would be able to shake it off. Her
headache now made even the slightest
movement painful. The future was a gray
black for Dora. It was just as blank for
people living in an anonymous mass of
humanity down the crowded environs of
the Spanish Town road. Dora was aware
of this, and also that they were acquainted
with despair; niether did they have a
choice between a new car or a few weeks
holiday abroad. To a depressive, all things
are not relative.
In time things sorted themselves out.
The girls of the Sixth got their results.
Some passed and some did not. Most of
them did a secretarial course, worked a
while, and then got married. Dora Olivetti
bought a second-hand Mini in fair con-
dition, and a large part of the holiday still
stretched ahead. America, of course, had
to be shelved. Instead Dora found her-
self going for long drives through the
island. It was a journey of discovery. She
only now began to realise the full variety
of the island scene, and to appreciate the
island's fascinating history. She became
absorbed in reading about the people and
places she came to know. By the end of
the holiday, when the last fiery days of
August left everyone limp, Dora felt a
kind of peace insulating her soul, so that
she could actually consider the prospects
of a new term, if not enthusiastically, at
least with something approaching equili-
Nevertheless, on the first day of term,
she handed in ner resignation to the Head
"Air-letters, chicken breasts, rum, har-
pic. That seems to be all. Can you think
of anything else?"
"What about that new boutique that
has opened up in the Plaza? Shall we go
and have a look?"
"Yes, I hear it's not bad at all. Who
are you staring at?"
"Regardez la petite Mademoiselle Oli-
vetti; elle a lave les cheveux. Don't you
"I didn't do French, but of course I
remember her. I still feel that we didn't
exactly help matters when she had that
nervous breakdown. Is she still teaching?"
"She is going away next month. She
has got a job teaching problem children.
So I hear, anyway. I'm getting out of this
thing, I'm as dry as a bone."
Two young ladies, heads loaded with
ironmongery, snapped handbags shut on
the pencils and old envelopes with which
they had been communicating under the
Down on the waterfront, along the
Spanish Town Road, and around the west
side of town, nobody heard the news that
Dora was leaving. News was always bad,
whether it was of shootings or ofthievings.
As for the girls of the hairdryers, they
belonged to the most transient group of
beings. Yesterday in the Sixth, today just
married, tomorrow regretting that that
I did not do French but of course I remember her.
Dora turned her back on them
She sailed from a banana port three
days after the Christmas term ended. The
boat was still loading when she embarked,
but by five o'clock they were under way.
She did not stand on deck with the other
passengers, watching the island slowly
receding. She was sitting on her bunk,
dreaming of a small village in the Portland
hills. It had been raining all afternoon as
she drove, but by dusk it was over and all
was quiet. Plants, trees, creepers and long
grass, sated by the deluge, were gently
dripping and stretching out leaves and
stalks to air. The frog chorus had started,
and the little valley was slowly filling up
with the flashing Winkies. Dora gazed
down the steep-sided slopes, and on an
impulse she had cupped her hands to her
mouth and called down the valley "Dora!"
The echo sent back its eerie answer. She
got into her car and drove back to the city.
She was in her bunk
dreaming of a small village
in Portland hills.
Self Portrait of Watson Collection Artist
A.G. To start the ball rolling, Osmond, I have always
thought of you as an artist with many styles.
Would you agree with that?
O.W. Well, I do not disagree, but so does Picasso.
A.G. But you have changed in a relatively short time.
O.W. A true artist is always seeking new ways for ex-
pression. Style was never my problem. You ex-
ploit a style and that's that. If you go beyond
that, art becomes mere mass production.
A.G. Where did you get your early training?
O.W. I started at the Institute's Junior Centre in 1948. In
1952 I received a tuition scholarship to J.S.A.C.1
I stayed there until 1958. I was apprenticed to
Ralph Campbell for a good many years and learned
quite a lot from him.
A.G. Now that you are out of Ralph's influence what
did you do in the transition period?
O.W. I worked as a store clerk, and commercial artist in
order to raise some money for a studio.
A.G. And did you get this studio?
O.W. Yes, Alex, Alexander Cooper and myself shared
this studio for three years before I decided to go
A.G. What brought you to this decision?
O.W. After three years of steady work, I became slightly
jaded. In other words I found myself in an artistic
cul-de-sac, and decided to go overseas for a little
A.G. Where did you go?
O.W. I went to England in the winter of 1961.
A.G. Why did you choose England?
O.W. It was the easiest place to go at the time.
A.G. What happened in England?
O.W. Well, I thought I could take London by storm, but
instead, London changed me. However, after six
months I managed to sort myself out with the help
of a few useful teachers.
A.G. What struck you so forcibly? Was it the art, or the
people or the environment?
O.W. Everything, the art was less than I expected. The
people, with few exceptions, mirrored the weather,
1. J.S.A.C. Jamaica School of Art & Craft
the environment is not what I would recommend
for sensitive people.
A.G. What did you discover in England?
That's interesting, how did you arrive at this?
For the first time, I was exposed to British racism,
and capitalist exploitation nakedly. I felt like cry-
ing, but thought it shameful. My whole being
changed, I became aggressive and decided to face
the enemy squarely. The Rastafarians back home
came to my mind. The British Museum became my
real place of study with its wealth of African sculp-
ture, the most important part of my heritage. The
class room at St. Martins was just a place to go and
draw from models. Yes, in a flash I knew who I
was, and my course was set. I felt sorry for my
pals back home, happy and smiling, working away
like mad at European art. God bless the day when
I decided to travel, and bless England, too.
Did you visit the continent at all?
Yes, I visited Paris, Spain and Italy.
For how long?
I spent three months in Paris, and a far less time in
the other countries.
A.G. What is your impression of Paris?
O.W. Paris is a genial city, an artist's heaven, no wonder
it's referred to as 'the Mecca of art'.
What would your say you discovered during your
stay in Paris?
I found warmth and friendship amopg the vast
number of Negro painters from America and Africa.
It's also interesting to note that quite a few still
remember Parboo I was among friends.
Did you discuss Cubism?
Yes, Alex, Cubism and Africa.
And when you returned to Jamaica you tried to
achieve a new style?
Well, my work had changed a great deal since 1961.
Now that you are back home, do you feel involved
in being in Jamaica?
I am involved right up to my neck, my subjects and
inspiration are drawn from Jamaica.
Do you have a particular ideology or guiding line
by which you judge Jamaican society when you
look around you?
I do, Alex, but lack of formal education leaves me
incapable of putting this ideology into words, it is
more a feeling.
Well try and give us the sort of key word for this
O.W. I paint my feelings.
2. Karl Parboosingh Contemporary Jamaican Painter
A.G. With the difficulties of people who are poor and
O.W. Yes, I belong to that class myself. I feel and share
their suffering. The need for survival is our
A.G. But you don't mainly want to present a social mes-
sage, do you?
O.W. Posterity will answer that question much better
than I can at this time.
A.G. Where would you like us to look and start thinking?
O.W. In yourselves first, then come without any pre-
A.G. Then you do not subscribe to a tradition of
absolute art, that is regardless of place, you strive
O.W. Absolute art, no. God and nature might be that.
Absolute form, yes, but it should reflect one's,
environment. Think of the many Jamaican artists
whose work you can't differentiate from those of
European painters. Surely this is not an achieve-
ment for Jamaica or for that matter the artists
A.G. So you would say you are striving after a perfec-
tion of form but coming out of your Jamaican
O.W. That is correct. Think of ancient Benin3 when
that area was completely cut off from the rest of
the world. Its art was indigenous to Benin. Today
it is regarded as an accepted vital art form.
A.G. Let us now look at the method you employ to ex-
press your ideas. How do you use the Cubist
O.W. Cubism in my opinion is the -purest art form. Its
role is to unify nature rather than merely copying
it. I use the Cubist manner of overlapping planes
so that one painting can function at several dif-
ferent levels at the same time.
A.G. I remember particularly a set of paintings where
there is a snow cone seller and other vendors. Why
did you take that particular theme, why was it
O.W. The scene portrays Life in the Raw People
vending their goods in order to survive. My can-
vas showed the same thing at different levels with-
out making the spectator feel that he is looking at
three canvases instead of one.
A.G. In other words you took a chaotic situation and
imposed Cubist order.
O.W. That is correct, but at the same time it's not the
type of Cubism that Braque and Picasso4used. You
could call it analytical Cubism.
A.G. Now you have also used recently in conjunction
with Jamaica Journal your knowledge and interest
in cults. Could you say something about that?
O.W. The Rastas have always proved interesting for their
level of consciousness. Pocomania for its colour
and excitement. The language of the drum is a
thing of beauty, plus the unbelievable gymnastics
by the Shepherd, a feat of skill and endurance
which portrays spirit transcending matter. Hallelujah Festival '69 Gold Medal
3. African Kingdom and centre of thriving Art ca 1500 49
in present day Central Nigeria.
4. Originators of Cubism in France.
A.G. In communicating the feeling of cult you used two
types of techniques: carved wooden panels and
painting. How do you feel about these two media?
Which do you prefer?
O.W. My carvings convey my ideas more clearly mainly
because I had no training in this field, therefore I
have no influences to shed. My paintings are due
to my training and I am still in the process of un-
learning the many 'isms' I have picked up along
A.G. Well you certainly have been successful in carving.
You got the first ever gold medal in Festival. How
do you feel about that?
I feel like an old prospector who has suddenly
A.G. You struck gold too with the All Island Exhibition
with a semi-Cubist painting. What did you call that
O.W. "Masquerade" and it's based on our local John
A.G. Coming back to the past again, I remember the
first carving that I saw of yours was "The Icon",
was that the beginning of your carving?
O.W. No Alex, I started way back in 1958 after I left art
school. "The Icon" was done in 1967. This be-
longs to my third phase.
A.G. Did you carve in England? What kind of wood did
Masque of the Samfy Man
Oh yes, I carved in England, and beech was the
wood of my choice. It's a firm wood with close
grain and cuts easily.
A.G. And what do you use in Jamaica?
O.W. Mahogany is my favourite wood and to a lesser
What recommends it?
O.W. Mahogany I prefer because of its hardness, the
harder the wood the better it cuts.
A.G. I see in your prize winning carving "Hallelujah"
the joy of song, how did you organize this joy,
what made you choose this theme?
O.W. In February of this year my wife was seriously ill
in hospital. She was away from home for over a
month and so I became lonely and depressed. In
order to lift myself out of this gloom and depres-
sion, I set myself the task of creating a work after
a master-piece that had meant much to me: "The
Hallelujah Chorus" from Handel's "Messiah". I
dedicated it to my wife whose life was in the
balance at that time.
A.G. Well it certainly is a lovely tribute to your wife.
Now going to another panel which is more complex.
It did not win an award, but I think it is an impor-
tant contribution too. How did you come to that?
O.W. After the Institute's All Island Exhibition, I selec-
ted for my next series "Pocomania" because of
the scope it afforded me to fuse the two elements
in which I am interested, namely Cubism and
African art, also to express human energy in
motion. You may have noticed the way in which I
overlapped the figures in a unifying whole. It's
my most ambitious work to date and I think it's a
major breakthrough for me.
A.G. And so this panel is Pocomania, the spirit of
Pocomania distilled in a carved panel.
O.W. Yes. Energy in motion.
A.G. You have also a painting of the Pocomania scene.
Would you like to comment on that?
O.W. It is really a variation on the same theme of energy
in motion. Here I tried to portray the weightless-
ness of people "in the spirit". If you examine the
work closely the people appear to be floating in
space rather than be anchored to the earth.
A.G. My aesthetic response to your "moonlight and
lovers" is very acute. How did you come to paint
O.W. I am a lover of life and a lover at heart. This series
reflects past experiences, it is very personal.
A.G. Certainly it has some lyrical feelings. Do you
consciously use some Cubist technique here?
O.W. No, none whatsoever.
A.G. Now you have mentioned Picasso and Braque, not
as your models but as influences, and African art.
Could you mention any other influences?
O.W. Vincent Van Gogh proved useful in the early days
for his natural vigour.
A.G. Well in Jamaica you mentioned Ralph Campbell,
but now after Ralph's "exorcism". from your life
do you find any painters around you with whom
you feel particular sympathy, or in whose work
you are interested.
I feel no artistic kinship with any Jamaican artist
but I respect and admire a few.
But you certainly are friendly with a number of
Oh yes, as a matter of fact I keep open house to
How would you look at the future, Osmond? You
had some help as a youngster in learning to paint,
you also had difficulties in overcoming your
teacher's opinion. How would you advise others
who are coming to acquire the skill of painting?
My advice to youngsters is to believe in themselves,
have a healthy enthusiasm for work and do their
You are yourself sometimes teaching art, what do
you try to do for the students that you have?
O.W. I develop confidence where it is lacking, encourage
talent when I see it, the basic principles, the respect
for materials with the hope that one's sensibility
may become more acute. I do not attempt to turn
people into artists, because no amount of training
or suitable materials can make an artist.
A.G. Changing the topic again. Between the Icon and
your pure carving stage today, you passed through
a sort of "pop" phase, would you like to comment
The critics labelled it pop, in my opinion it is pure
unadulterated art. Too many Jamaican critics tend
to use the standards of Europe as a sort of yard-
stick for measuring Jamaican art.
Well I am sorry to use my so-called fellow critics'
term. But how do you come to the style, say of
"African Queen"? There you have a carving, you
painted it and you decorated the carving with a
broach, why did you do that?
You may as well ask me, why does the nightingale
sing? The broach and other bits of jewellery I use
to convey the feeling of regal splendour, after all
she is a queen.
What about your head of Christ likened to a play-
ing card with rough cord stuck on for hair.
My impression of Christ is not the soft sweety-
sweety man as orthodox religion would have us be-
lieve. My Christ is a man who knows hardships and
persecution by his fellow men, plus the pangs of
hunger, the rugged outgoing outdoor type. A man
who can beat hardened criminals, and gamblers out
of the temple, taking into consideration that these
gamblers and criminals were not easy pushovers.
Surely he must have been likened unto a Rasta man.
Yes, but don't you think that some might consider
O.W. Don't hold me responsible for my brothers' igno-
rance. If my Christ is blasphemous, so is that very
popular song "The Deck of Cards".
A.G. Now I see on your wall a sort of composite African
The King of Hearts
mask. There is an aerial on top. How do you com-
bine these two?
O.W. This carving is called "The Mask of the Samfie
Man". It is depicting a Jamaican Obeah Man. The
aerial pole or antenna to which you refer is the
communication point between the Obeah Man and
his client. More often than not the Obeah Man is
able to tell his client more about himself than he is
A.G. You are still wriggling out of answering my ques-
tion, why have you at one stage painted your
O.W. I painted my carved panels, because I wanted
variety, I also wanted to get as close to reality as
one possibly could.
But at the moment you are quite satisfied with
your unpainted carvings, it obviously gets across
That is because I am at a different stage of my
A.G. In other words you need no aids except pure
That is correct.
A.G. Now what about the future?
O.W. I am not an Obeah Man, so I can't make long
range forecasts, I live each day as it comes.
All pictures collection of the Artist.
Its owner shook his dusty mop hair... behind him, in the cart (which was the only horne he knew), lay a few sacks
by Anne-Marie Isachsen (13years).
'Illustrations by the Author
Silence. All was still. Then, suddenly, the cocks crew as
the first light drew away the mist that hid the countryside.
Faintly, but gradually, the outlines of the mountains could be
seen, as the sun reluctantly rose between Newcastle and
Catherine's peak. The echoes of the John Chewitt could now
be heard in every part of the valley as the people woke from
their nightly hibernation and started jostling one another to
the water pump.
A rickety mule-drawn cart with "Repent, 0 Babilan",
written on one side of it emerged from under a group of mango
trees beside the dirt road. Its owner shook his dusty mop of
grey brown hair lovingly from side to side, and kicked the mule
occasionally, saying, "Move on, ye son of Beelzebub!"
Behind him, in the cart (which was the only home he had),
lay a few sacks of charcoal, a small charcoal pot, two finger-
painted pictures, and in a faded BOAC bag, were his most
treasured possessions: a long white robe, a colour photograph
of Haile Selassie, with "our beloved lion of Judah" written
under it, an embroidered cap and a red and blue candle.
By the time he reached the village, quite a procession was
trailing behind his cart. Two small boys in ragged khaki shorts
ran alongside the cart with a puppy and two mangy dogs pad-
ding at their heels. As he stopped at each wood and card-
board hut, he shouted, "cha-a-r-coa-al", at which the cheeky
ragamuffins cried, "fe nutting!" which made every thrifty hut-
wife run to the gate as fast as her size nine boots would let her.
As he stopped at each wood and card-board hut.
Old Mose, as the villagers called him, was not really old,
but he had an ancient look about him, with his hooked and yet
rather flat nose, deep sunken eyes with hooded lids, that when
he looked at one, made one want to run away. He was the
only charcoal vendor in the district, however, and so the
women looked forward to his arrival from town, each Friday,
where he got his matches and kerosene, hoping that he would
bring them some news, but, no, whenever they asked him that
question, he would curtly reply "Me no know".
Every afternoon he would go down to Papine, to join in the
Rastafarian prayer meeting, and this afternoon was no exception.
As soon as he finished selling the charcoal, he gave the boys a
penny each and tied the mule to a divi-divi tree and then made
his way down to the river with his BOAC bag.
Old Mose loved the river, rushing among the river caves and
the jagged rocks, he loved the way it made little waterfalls,
every yard or so, and he liked to eat the river shrimp that could
be found under the watercress on the banks, but most of all,
he loved it for its coolness and quiet at midday, when the only
sounds to be heard would be the chirping of cicadas and the
faint blip of the water spiders running along the surface of the
Mose washed himself until there was not a signof dirt to be
found on him except in his hair, which he never washed or cut,
for Rastafarians believe that, like Samson, if their hair were
cut, they would lose their strength and their favour in the eyes
of the lion of Judah.
He dressed himself in the white robe and looking into a
small pool, carefully adjusted his cap, untied the mule and put
him into the shafts of the cart. Mose climbed into it,
slapped the mule with his hand, and they were off.
Mose stopped at a tamarind tree to rest for a few minutes,
but seeing that the sun was beginning to descend, he quickly
got into the cart and continued on his journey.
Mose smelled Papine before he reached Papine; a strange
mixture of sweating people, sun-on-tar, cow dung and rotten
mangoes. He didn't like Papine; people looked at him with
hostile faces, muttered under their breath at him and some
shouted, "Rasta, go home to Ethiopia, that is where you and
your stringy hair belong!" However, he told himself that was
where Elder had made his home and whatever trials Brethren
met in this world would be amply rewarded in the next.
The meeting place was behind a shoe-shop, and as Mose
stepped over the muddy puddles, he saw Elder beckoning to
him and he felt happier. Elder was resplendent in a white
robe embroidered with gold and red thread at the hem and
sleeves. He had a kindly, benevolent face, framed in a grey
beard and white locks and, though quite old, was as sprightly
as he had been when young.
"Bredder, welcome, it good to see you again", he said as he
warmly clasped Mose's hand in his; "come in; we jus' starting".
Mose entered the little room with Elder and all around he could
see Brethren kneeling and praying.
Elder went to the wooden table that served as a pulpit, put
his hands on the cloth with "Lion of Judah" embroidered on
it, and started to preach about temptations and that all must
try to overcome them. He said that drink was a terrible temp-
tation for it led young Rastafarians to create a bad name for
the sect throughout Jamaica. He emphasized the need for
friendship, love and consideration for others, as wars in this
world were caused because of the lack of it. Elder then called
Brother Ezekiel to lead the Brethren in prayer.
Mose and the others were in the middle of singing, "Ethio-
pia", when a young Rastafarian cried out "De police, de
police!" Everyone panicked and some were trying to get out of
the window, when they heard Elder's voice saying calmly,
Elder, resplendent in his white robe.
"Don't be afraid, they can do nothing to us; where is your
faith that you run like frightened sheep on the approach of
The words had a great effect on all, including Mose, and
they stood like their leader, calm and dignified, awaiting the
arrival of the police. These certainly weren't long in coming!
"Open de door, Rastas, dis is a raid!" shouted a policeman,
hammering at the door. Elder signaled Moses to open the door.
The police came tumbling in, "Arrest that one over there, yes,
the old one and grab dis 'ere Rasta near the door. We'll teach
them to go robbing and disturbing the peace. Get dem, yes, de
one wid de long hair, cut it off and let dem look like decent
people instead of a bird's nest complete 'cept de bird!"
The police grabbed Elder, pinioning his arms behind him.
"Lord, be merciful to dese sinners, dey know not what they
doeth." "Shut up old man", cried a rude policeman, "you'll
have plenty time to say 'Our Father' in jail". The police all
Mose stood by the door, dumbstruck. What had they done
to deserve this treatment? He had no time to wonder for two
policemen grabbed his arms and one produced a pair of scissors.
"I'm coming Elija," hold your chariot for me, and Moses and Jehovah, coming down to meet me.
"Cut de hair" ordered the other. "No, no, not mi locks",
Mose shrieked in frenzy and tried to get away; he almost suc-
ceed, but the police caught him again and.held him while the
other took the scissors and clipped Mose's hair.
When he finished he said "That looks more like it; I was a
barber once, yu know", and he looked down at Mose waiting
for an answer. There was none. He had fainted.
The dark became light as Mose opened his eyes. He felt
puzzled at first, and then he remembered. .... He looked
down at the hair clippings on the floor and numbly felt the
back of his head. It was smooth. All the dignity of a Rasta-
farian had been taken away, in those few clips of a pair of
His eyes grew vacant. He went out of the room into the
road where shops were closing down for the night.
Mose slowly untied the mule and got into the cart. Dark
clouds were gathering in the twilight: he didn't notice them,
but the mule did, and it brayed. But Mose didn't hear him for
a bitterness was building up inside him. His eyes grew fiery,
his robe billowed out in the wind as he whipped the mule to
Crashes of thunder resounded through the hills, lightning
danced in the sky and the trees started bending backwards as
the gale struck them with full force.
If the villagers had seen Mose then, they would have
thought he was mad, his eyes bloodshot, whipping on the mule.
The little coalpot in the back danced a jig and redhot embers
Mose did not see this, or indeed for that matter, anything.
His eyes were fixed on the sky above him. "I'm coming,
Elijah, hold your chariot for me, oh, and Moses and Jehovah,
coming down to meet me", he cried joyfully as he whipped
the mule on.
He didn't notice the ravine ahead, or the blazing cart
behind him for he had eyes only for the Lion of Judah in the
sky. "I'm coming, Selassie, I'm coming wid my chariot",
shouted Mose, and then, a blinding flash; he felt himself being
lifted up and up and then falling and up to Jehovah. "I'm
coming", he cried, and then nothing.
Next morning two women came down the road, chatting
noisily as they went, dark patches showing under their arms as
they raised them to steady the straw baskets on their heads
"Look 'ere, Elvira, don' tell me is Massa John da done buy
dat pretty house and I know he can't afford it?
"I telling you, Sally, what make yu ears so hard, eh!"
"Wait, nuh massa Mose' cart burn up dun dere?" The
other woman put her hands on her hips, "But wait, Sally, I do
believe yu is right fe once! I could never mistake dat 'Repent,
O Babilan' on de side. Me sorry fe Massa Mose if he was in it".
Sally wiped her forehead with her apron and said righteously,
"The Lord giveth and de Lord taketh away!" "Amen."
They sauntered down the road as the wind whistled through
the eucalyptus tree casting its dappled shadow on the ground.
The solitaire sang a sad dirge among its branches and flew to
the burnt relics of the cart where the metal plates on the cart
wheel were shining in the sun. The bird perched on the edge
and sang its last lonely song, and the wheel turned slowly,
slowly and then stopped.
The metal plate of the cart wheel were shining in the sun. The bird perched on the edge.