Front Cover
 Title Page
 Table of Contents
 Editor's notes

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Caribbean Quarterly
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Title: Caribbean Quarterly
Physical Description: Serial
Language: English
Creator: University of the West Indies
Publisher: Extra Mural Dept. of the University College of the West Indies
Place of Publication: Mona, Jamaica
Publication Date: 1951
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Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Front Cover 1
        Front Cover 2
    Title Page
        Title Page 1
        Title Page 2
    Table of Contents
        Page 1
        Page 2
    Editor's notes
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
        Page 13
        Page 14
        Page 15
        Page 16
        Page 17
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        Page 21
        Page 22
        Page 23
        Page 24
        Page 24-1
        Page 24-2
        Page 24-3
        Page 24-4
        Page 24-5
        Page 24-6
        Page 25
        Page 26
        Page 27
        Page 28
        Page 29
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Full Text
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COVER ILLUSTRATION: Mayan Date Glyph excavated at Caracol,
British Honduras.




Vol. 2


Reprinted from a copy in the collections of the
University of Florida Librairies

Reprinted by permission of
A Division of

Printed in Germany
Lessingdruckerei Wiesbaden

VOL. 2 No. 2




Robert Le Page 4

Andrew Pearse 12

A. H. Anderson 24

Stanley Sharp 30

Raymond Barrow 32

Sir Raymond Priestly 35

Fr. Raymond Devas 40


Letters to a Young Teacher--L. Kenworthy 44
The fritish West Indies 45

PHILIP SHERLOCK, University College, Jamaica, B.W.I.
ANDREW PEARSE, Old Post Office, St. Vincent Street, Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, B.W.I.

MSS. AND COMMUNICATIONS TO THE EDITOR should be addressed to the Editor of the
Caribbean Quarterly, and not to an individual. Unsolicited MSS. which are not accepted
for publication will be returned if accompanied by a stamped addressed envelope.


Caribbean Quarterly may be obtained from booksellers in the Caribbean area
for 30c. or Is. 3d, per copy.

Persons wishing to become subscribers should send $1.20 (B.W.I.) or 5/- to
the Resident Tutor of their particular Colony, or else to the Editor in Trinidad.
This will entitle them to four successive issues.


Jamaica and Mrs. G. Cumper, Extra Mural Department, University
British Honduras College of the West Indies.

Leeward Islands ...Stanley Sharp, Extra Mural Department, St. John's,

Windward Islands ...B. H. Easter, 68, Micoud Street, Castries, St. Lucia.

Barbados ...A. Douglas-Smith, Hythe, Welches, Christchurch,

British Guiana ... Adolph Thompson, 78, Carmichael Street, Georgetown.

Trinidad and Tobago, A. C. Pearse, Old Post Office Building, St. Vincent
Subscribers in United Street, Port-of-Spain, Trinidad.
Kingdom or Abroad


Editor's Notes

British Honduras is known in the Caribbean by little more than its name. It has
many features which differentiate it from the other territories in the area. Thanks to
the work of Stanley Sharp, who has just moved to the Leeward Islands after spending
nearly three years in British Honduras as Resident Tutor, we are able to introduce
readers of Caribbean Quarterly not only to the fascinating Mayan world in A. H.
Anderson's Glimpses of a Lost Civilization, but also to the poetry and painting of
contemporary British Hondurans.
The name of Sir Raymond Priestley should be well known in the Caribbean for
the part he played as a member of the Inter-Universities Council for Higher Educa-
tion in the Colonies in the establishment of our University College; his article on
Financing British Universities is timely, insofar as it coincides with the closing of the
first six-year period during which the University College has subsisted on the grants
determined at the Montego Bay Conference, and the future basis on which it is to be
financed will soon have to be decided.
Father Raymond Devas has spent many years in the West Indies, and is at
present a parish priest in Grenada. His note on The Green Flash is only the second
article to be published in this journal based on the observation of Nature as opposed
to Man, and we hope to follow it with a further article by the same author on Birds
of the West Indies.
Two further members of the staff of the University College make their first
appearance in this number, Robert Le Page, of the English Department, and Elsa
Gouveia who is lecturing on West Indian History.

4* 2

The English Language


The following is a condensed text of two talks broadcast on Radio
Jamaica in January, 1951, by Robert Le Page, Assistant Lecturer in
English, at the University College of the West Indies. Individual acknow-
ledgment to Otto Jesperson, "Growth and Structure of the English
Language"; Logan Pearsall-Smith, "The English Language"; H. L.
Mencken, "The American Language", and above all to E. S. Olszweska,
and Professor J. R. R. Tolkien.

TODAY we are on the threshold, or perhaps in the middle, of a period of great
change in the English language. There are too many factors influencing us at the
moment to predict what will happen, but if we consider very briefly what has
happened in the past, we can go on to discuss the present situation and try to see,
in the light of past experience, what are the possibilities for the future of English
as a means of the communication of ideas. The language is used by so many
millions of men and women, throughout the world, and in such a variety of ways,
that we must take the trouble to understand how this state of affairs arose; other-
wise it will be difficult to take a sane attitude towards the new words and idioms
that we constantly meet, and subconsciously we will be prejudiced against the
ideas which they are trying to express.
The story of the first ten centuries A.n. in Britain is one of successive waves
of invasion and colonisation from the continent of Europe. The different character
of these invasions is reflected in the effect they had on the language subsequently
spoken. The Romans conquered the Celtic tribes, and after several centuries of
Roman rule left behind them a race which had to a certain extent adopted Latin
as the language of educated men, while retaining for common speech the Celtic
tongue which is the ancestor of that still spoken in many parts of Wales today.
But Roman towns and institutions, the Christian religion, and the Latin language
were almost obliterated by the Germanic invasions of the 5th and 6th centuries,
which pushed the Celtic people across England to the west and north or enslaved
them. The invaders assimilated very little of the Roman-Celtic culture or language.
They brought with them their own dialects of the Germanic tongue, all closely
related, and the history of English as a spoken and written language begins with
the end of the 7th century, when the Angles, Saxons and Jutes had settled the
greater part of Eastern and Southern England and had turned to comparatively
peaceful occupations; they had severed their connections with the Baltic homes of
their forefathers, and had received Christianity from St. Augustine in the South,
and the Irish monks of lona and Lindisfare in the North.
What sort of language did they speak? It sounds as if it is more closely related
to modem German or Dutch, than to modern English, but one can also recognize

a great many words in it from their likeness to their modern equivalents-ban for
bone, stan for stone, cwen for queen, kyning for king, and so on. Some words
have remained unchanged in pronunciation from that day to this-in fact, "from
that day to this" would have sounded very much the same in Anglo-Saxon as it
does now, though spelt rather differently. Even at this period English was well
advanced from a synthetic structure to one of analysis. A synthetic language builds
up relationships between words by inflectional endings and internal changes; so
that in Latin, a man is homo, to the men hominibus; I ask is rogo, I shall ask,
rogabo. Old English kept many of these endings; it had complicated genders,
various declensions of nouns and adjectives and conjugations of verbs; but the
system was beginning to break down in favour of that which we use today, of
splitting up the different ideas expressed by the old inflections, into different words;
so that we say, a man, to a man, of a man, and so on. One of the case-endings
that has stayed in modern English is the genitive singular in -s "a man's hat" or
"the hat of a man"
The order of the words was more important in Anglo-Saxon than in Latin,
but not as important as is modern English. Today, if we say, "The parrot bit
my aunt" it means something quite different from "my aunt bit the parrot"; the
word order is vital to the sense; whereas in Latin, the parrot in the first case
would be a nominative parrot, and in the second case accusative, the endings of
the words for "parrot" and "aunt" would tell us who did the biting and who
was bitten, no matter which order we heard them in.
The vocabulary of Anglo-Saxon did not include many foreign words; only
about a dozen came in from the Celtic, among them the word "ass" for a donkey.
But as new ideas reached the English from the Continent, particularly the ideas
of Christianity, they had either to borrow words to express them, or invent new
words out of their own language. They did both. They borrowed Latin and
Greek words like Papa for the Pope, and deofol from Greek Didbolos for Satan,
adapting them to English pronunciation, but to an amazing extent they managed to
invent new compounds out of existing English words; for example, they invented
godspell, the good message, our modern English gospel.
The last point I want to make about Anglo-Saxon may be very relevant to the
West Indies. This is that stressing has played an important part in the language,
but intonation has not. Today, although tone modulation is greater in English
than in other Germanic language, it does not and never has played the part that
it does in many Oriental and African tongues; in these, the difference between a
word going up or down the scale as it is spoken may completely change its
meaning. This is always the most difficult aspect of these languages for the
European to master. I had a student friend in England who came from Nigeria.
She told me that she had never heard an Englishman intone her language cor-
rectly, and that the Englishwoman going to market was quite likely to ask for
the moon instead of, shall we say, butter, merely because she pronounced the
same word down the scale instead of up. In England it makes little difference
whether we say man or man-it still means a man. We do however make quite
a business of stressing the stems of Anglo-Saxon words and the first parts of com-
pound words-we say bdth-tub and not bath-tdb. It seems to me that if the
difficulty of intonation exists for the Englishman in Africa, the difficulty over
stress exists for the African in England, and that in the West Indies, where the

two cultures have mingled, when we come, as I hope we will, to a comprehensive
dialect survey, we may well find traces of this difference remaining. I have
noticed a number of words which are stressed differently here and in England.
The next invasion of England was that of the Norse Vikings, from the
8th Century onwards; they started as pirates and came to settle all down the east
coast between the Pennines and the North Sea. They were closely related to the
English, and their dialect was similar. Many of their words were identical except
for the inflectional endings, so that if both sides dropped the endings and relied
on word-order to make their meaning clear, they could understand one another
perfectly. This in fact happened, so that the process of change I have mentioned,
from a synthetic to an analytical language, was hastened. On the other hand, a
large number of words were pronounced slightly differently in Norse and in
English, and when both forms survived side by side, they did so because they
were able to express slightly different aspects of the same idea. Skirt and shirt are
good examples of this; they were both originally the same word, the first one the
Norse form, the second one the English. In a number of cases the Norse forms
almost completely replaced the English. There was very little difference between
the English words for he and she, so we adopted the Norse word she to differen-
tiate more clearly.
The last invasion of Britain-to date at any rate-was that of the Normans
from France in 1066. This is sometimes represented as having completely upset
the English language, which is said to have disappeared for three centuries and to
have re-emerged as something different. This is a misleading view. What really
happened was that the written records of English peter out by the middle of the
12th century, owing to the fact that by that time the monasteries had been under
French abbots long enough for all the scribes, who were the publishers of those
days, to be trained in French ideas. Anglo-Norman, a dialect of Old French,
became the language of the Court, of the Law, and of the upper classes. English
however remained the language of the middle and lower classes; no very sudden
change took place in it. I said that Anglo-Saxon was not one language, but a
number of dialects. This has always remained the case; but during the time of
influence, the dialect of culture and learning over a wide area; "classical" Anglo-
Saxon took shape as a literary vehicle, and remained more or less standard until
it was supplanted by Anglo-Norman. But the spoken language in all parts of the
country went on changing, so that the gap between the written language and the
spoken dialects became wider and wider. This process has happened in other lan-
guages, notably in Latin, and the result is usually the same; sooner or later new
writers come along to write in the vernacular, and start building up a new literary
medium closer to everyday speech. So that when English reasserted itself as the
written language in the second half of the 14th century, it was in the form of
a vernacular in which these changes had been going on quietly and almost
unrecorded for over 200 years, and the difference is more striking than if we had
records to show them continuously at work.
The language of Chaucer was of course enriched by a great many words from
French. Nearly all our words for government are French-minister, authority,
parliament, and so on. So are our legal terms-justice, jury, plaintiff, and
defendant; and words relating to the Church, to the arts, to architecture, hunting,
dress and pleasure-everything in which the leisured upper classes took charge.

But the vocabulary of the humbler sorts of men-the fisherman and the shepherd
for example-remained predominantly Anglo-Saxon. Very often there were now
two words for the same thing. Sometimes they took slightly different meanings, so
that a sheep remained an English sheep as long as it could baa, and became
French mutton as soon as it reached the table. Sometimes the only difference
between the two words was that one was felt to be elegant, the other rather vulgar-
When Touchstone, in As You Like It, tells the rustic William to stop courting
Audrey, he makes himself quite clear by saying:
"Therefore, you clown, abandon-which is, in the vulgar, leave-the society
-which is, in the boorish, compafy---of this female-which in the common is
The existence of so many pairs of near-synonyms has given rise to a style of
writing, which was originally intended to make the meaning plain to all by putting
in both words, the foreign and the English; the resulting balance of the phrases
was felt to be good rhythmically, and it was pursued for its own sake. There is a
lot of it in the Book of Common Prayer.
"The Scripture moveth us in sundry places to acknowledge and confess our
manifold sins and wickednesses"
Although it is constantly naturalising foreign words both in everyday speech,
and in the hands of many good writers, the Anglo-Saxon element in English has
continued to predominate. But still the air of refinement which attached to French
words in the Middle Ages, and to Latin and Italian words during and since the
Renaissance, has continued to be felt; refined people do not object to living in a
cottage, but would turn up their noses at a hut; and so two words which were
originally synonymous, acquire slight but definite shades of distinction.
The Renaissance of learning made its influence felt in England from France
and Italy from the 14th Century onwards, but its impact on the language was
greatest in the 16th Century. The influence of Greece and Rome was felt in all the
arts; after the apparent narrowness of medieval traditions, whole worlds of new
ideas came into sight, and it seemed to the early enthusiasts that these ideas could
only be expressed by borrowing the Latin and Greek words for them. This fact has
had a curious result. Latin and Greek have now become two of the traditional store-
houses to which we turn whenever we have a new idea to express, even though
the idea itself was unknown to the ancient world. This is particularly true of
scientific inventions; the word "television" is a coinage half Greek and half
Latin; "broadcasting" on the other hand is a native English compound. Another
and perhaps even more important fact for the ultimate fate of English was that the
15th Century saw the first of the great voyages of discovery which have opened
up vast new areas of land for settlement by English speaking people. The actual
process of the discovery of new worlds brought back to England many words for
strange things-the savannahs and the maize of the Caribbean, the kangaroos of
Australia, the tomahawk of the North American Indian; but the settlement of these
countries meant that English, far from its native home, had to adapt itself to new
conditions and develop along new lines.
With the Elizabethans we enter what is usually called the modern period of
English; soon I think a new name will have to be found for this last 400 years,
because the word modern no longer applies.

Living in this new world of exciting discovery and rediscovery the Elizabethans
were great experimenters with words. When, like Shakespeare, they had the
happy knack of co-operating with the Genius of the Language, the result was a
great increase in the fertility of English, of its store of pregnant words and phrases.
"Hamlet" is so full of these phrases that it has been said to be nothing but quota-
tions-we use them every day without realising that it was Shakespeare who first
gave them life. Some writers did not have this knack. The Genius of the Language,
that powerful subconscious force through which we exercise our choice on the way
we wish to express ourselves, has consigned their new words to oblivion.
I have mentioned that Latin and Greek were two fruitful sources of new words
for new ideas. The battle over Latinisms, and long foreign words and construc-
tions, goes on endlessly. When the Royal Society was first formed, in the middle
of the 17th Century, it came out strongly in favour of plain unvarnished prose to
give a scientific exactitude to its proceedings; but at the same time Milton was
forcing his verse into Latin constructions in Paradise Lost in a way that T. S. Eliot
describes as having done damage to the English language from which it has never
wholly recovered. The 18th Century felt that the time had come to standardize
the language and check its exuberant growth; but Dr. Johnson, who started his
great dictionary with these ideas, came finally to the conclusion that "sounds were
too volatile and subtle for legal restraints; to enchain syllables, and to lash the
wind, were equally the undertakings of pride" Towards the end of the 18th Cen-
tury there was a great revival of interest in Germanic, as opposed to classical,
literature; and at the same time the Romantic movement among poets led to a
search for simple, more natural means of expression. In the 19th Century, many
attempts were made to introduce words and compounds of native origin in place of
Latinisms, and the pre-Raphaelites in particular, who went back to the Middle
Ages for their artistic inspiration, did their best to re-introduce older English
words which they felt had been unjustly supplanted. In our own day, men like
A. P. Herbert and Ivor Brown carry on a war of their own against words that
they consider ugly and unnecessary, and Mr. Winston Churchill has added his
weight to a campaign to get rid of pompous meaningless jargon in official letters
and announcements. But all the time new words and new ways of expression are
flooding in upon us; and in spite of all the protests, some of them eventually find their
way into general use. The words "slang" and "Americanism" are to purists like
a red rag to a bull; yet it cannot be denied that the Americans have a peculiar
knack of inventing the most apt phrases, many of which have been gradually
accepted in England over the last three hundred years and the origin forgotten; and
the ideas which originated in America are usually best named by American words.
It is very difficult to decide on one's attitude to the whole question. I would like
to suggest that the following points should be borne in mind;
While the purists and reformers have had a considerable influence on public
opinion, it is no use setting our faces against change in language. Historically, it
is obvious that words do change, both in pronunciation and meaning, and that
it is beyond the power of anybody to stop this process. When the language ceases
to change, it will mean that it has ceased to receive new ideas and new impulses,
and it will be dying or dead. The final effect of the Renaissance attempt to revive
Classical Latin as a spoken language in place of the so-called "corrupt" mediaeval
Latin, was to kill Latin as a spoken language altogether.

On the other hand, Language is like the land-it needs good farming. The
effect of bad farming, of taking more out of the soil than you put back, resulting
in erosion and the complete loss of fertility, are quite apparent in the Sahara
Desert and the Dust Bowls of America. Words are only useful as long as they can
convey ideas accurately. If they are used in ways that are obviously untrue, they
either change their significance or become discredited and have to be thrown away.
The word "awful" has been so long applied to things that are only mildly distaste-
ful that we now have to find a new word for something that really fills us with
awe, and if I said "God is awful", I might be thought sacrilegious. "Awful" in
fact has become a cliche; it is meaningless. In the same way, the advertisers and film
boosters who use superlative after superlative to praise what they have to sell, are
doing the language-and incidentally themselves-a great disservice; "Stupendous
spectacle" has been applied to so many films that it is now a term of derision, and
no sensible man pays any attention any longer to exaggerated advertising. The
best advertisers have discovered that it is not the exaggerated boast that makes
most impact on the public. A simple illustration is the case of three grocers in the
same road. One put up a sign saying, "The Best Grocer in the World"; the next
claimed that he was "The Best Grocer in the Universe" but the third man got all
the customers by saying simply and with an air of truth that he was the best grocer
in the road.
If we coin more new words than we have new ideas, we do so because we have
not taken the trouble to find out whether words already exist to convey our
meaning accurately. The logical extreme of this process is that we will all talk
our own private gibberish and have to supply a dictionary of our own terms
with every conversation. This has been for a long time true of many philosophers
and scientists. You may know the story of the young lady who had had a
scientific education, and was giving a lecture to the local women's Club. "You
take the egg," she said, "and make a perforation in the base and a corresponding
one in the apex. Then apply the lips to the aperture and by forcibly inhaling the
breath, the shell is entirely discharged of its content" "Now ain't that wonder-
ful," said an old lady in the audience, "when I was a gel we just made a hole
in each end and sucked" Nowadays, philosophers are taking a great deal of
interest in language, and are trying to define the meaning of meaning. They are
realizing that words used merely as labels, without any account being taken of
their association in other directions, are only skeletons without flesh. The great
poets and writers of the world have of course realized this for centuries. The
jargon of Communism is a good example of a pseudo-scientific language which
has been so overworked that the ideas which originally gave it life have been
completely obscured.
These are the processes of erosion, which rob the existing language of its creative
possibilities. What about fertilization? I have tried to show that in the past this
has come from contact with new languages and new ways of thought. It comes
also from writers who have taken advantage of all the material that came to hand,
native and foreign, and have added to its significance, as well as giving the
language a top-dressing, so to speak, of their own coinages. Always the Genius
of the Language has been at work like a worm in the soil digesting matter that
the plants of literature would have been unable to assimilate in its crude form.
What is the situation today? The Americans are the most numerous speakers of

English: they are the most wasteful speakers and use far more cliches than any-
body else; but at the same time they are the most prolific source of new material
for the language and of new ways of constructing their sentences; this is largely
I think, because of the great variety of the nations with a corresponding variety
of speech-habits that has gone to make up the population and adopt English as
its common tongue.
For a long time people both in England and overseas with pretensions to cul-
ture set their faces against what they termed "Colonialisms" they used all their
powers of scorn and abuse and lofty condescension to keep English "pure"-what-
ever that word may mean in a language derived from so many sources. Even today,
according to H. L. Mencken, school-teachers all over the United States, while they
do their utmost to teach what they regard as the best English usage, refuse to
take much interest in the work that is being done on native American usage. The
Dictionary of American English in preparation at Chicago University owes its
inception to and is under the direction of a Scot, Sir William Craigie. His appoint-
ment to the job was announced by the Chicago Tribune under the headline:
"Midway signs Limey Prof to dope Yank talk"
In the literary field the attitude of the school-teachers has until quite recently
predominated. In spite of a number of rebels of genius, the best writing in
America has tended to imitate the models of Standard English rather than use the
inspiration of its native idiom. In fact good written English all over the world has
tended to be more standardized than the spoken languages in the various countries
concerned. Now this is a state of affairs similar to that which existed, first in the
Roman Empire and later in England when classical Latin and Classical Anglo-
Saxon respectively both remained the literary languages long after the respective
dialects in which they were written had ceased to be those of the majority of
educated people. I have said that what usually happens in such cases is that a
point is reached when the divergence between the written and the spoken language
becomes so great that new writers come along and write in the vernacular; they
then build up a new literary tradition. In the case of Latin, because of the
geographical disunity of the Roman Empire, this breakdown led to the emergence
of new distinct literatures in the separate Romance languages such as Italian,
French and Spanish. In the case of Anglo-Saxon, because of the geographical
unity of England, the new vernacular tradition, based on the dialect of London,
supplanted the old completely and itself became standard.
What is going to happen, then, in the 20th Century? Already, writers of con-
siderable merit have made use, not of the literary standard, but of their own
dialects. I do not know how authentic the Bowery talk of Damon Runyon is, or the
red-blooded American, spattered with strange coinages, of Walt Whitman; but both
had original ideas to communicate and did so in a stimulating way. On the other
hand, there are influences at work which help to keep us all in step linguistically-
broadcasting, the cinema, wars which transport large numbers of men about the
world to meet their English-speaking cousins; the tremendous activity of inter-
national diplomacy which requires, or should require, a careful definition and
mutual understanding of the terms that are used in speech. These influences all
tend to modify English into conformity with American rather than the other way
about. Shall we see the growth, then, of a new standard of literary language, based
on American English? For this to happen requires, I think, the emergence in

America of a writer of universal importance, greater than any the American have
yet produced, who will do for them what Chaucer did for the 14th Century-that
is, give authority and self-esteem to the American vernacular. Or shall we see the
growth of many divergent literatures, in Australia, America, the West Indies and
elsewhere; literatures which will consecrate the local vernacular for use in schools,
and so themselves accelerate the process of divergence. A third possibility is that
the present state of half understanding will continue. The Genius of the Language
will make its own decision. All we can do individually is to understand the factors
that will make that decision inevitable.


West Indian Themes


A PEOPLE without a literature suffers both by not knowing itself and by being
unknown to the rest of the literate world.
We who are neither French nor Russian nor German have nevertheless
had deep experience of these countries if we are familiar with Balzac, Turgeniev,
and Thomas Mann. If we are English, then much of our sense of national identity,
our feeling of the "form and pressure" of past generations and the roots of the
familiar present, has come to us through literature. Much of our love for the
countryside has been begotten by those writers who have peopled it with
memorable passionate individuals and archetypes. And in the process of reading we
have had td adapt ourselves to systems of values, types of reaction and sentiments
which contrast sharply with our own in kind and depth, so that our evaluations
of men in action today, our responses to crises, have been enriched, sharp-
ened, made less arduous, less lonely by the company of the great creative writers,
the workings of whose moral judgment, sensibility and analytical powers we have
If we are West Indians, though access to the world's literature is free, we
have no body of national literature in which we can see the panorama of popular
life, and hear the voices of people whose lives were just as vivid as our own one,
two and three hundred years ago. When I visited Morant Bay in Jamaica, I saw
no more than a shabby little town with a lively colourful turmoil of people in it,
and a brilliant blue sky overhead. Since then I have read Vic Reid's New Day,
and Morant Bay has acquired significance, is peopled with shades and reflects a
touch of glory. By this experience, I have become attached to it. But New Day
stands almost alone. Sauteurs, Fyzabad, Kickem' Jinnie, Chateaubelair, Arouca
and the rest cannot burn so brightly in our minds as the colourful, poignant,
comic and miserable scenes which they have witnessed have merited.
The past absence of a West Indian literature of a kind more self-conscious
and more catholic than the profuse though fragmentary folk literature is no doubt
a result and a partial cause of the past absence of a basis for nationhood. Its
emergence during the past decade is accompanied by deep heart searching not
only concerning the enigma of a national identity and a national culture, but also
concerning the nature and values of the society or societies which compose the
nation. For this reason every line written today, if not slavish copy and artificial
journalese, is important. For, even when of inferior quality, it is for the reader
another day's journey on a voyage of discovery into a strange little-known
archipelago whose islands are separated by class, race, colour, language and
geographical distance, and the reality of whose interiors is masked in familiar
European forms and framed within the staid proscenium of Colonial Government.

2 1

I have chosen to examine the themes of a sample of thirty-six short stories
which appeared in five consecutive numbers of Bim (9-13)'. We make no pretence
that in examining these stories we are looking at social reality. We are rather
looking at the shape given to selected aspects of it by our writers, in accordance
with the stage of development of their experience, emotional attitudes and powers
of expression. What these stories have in common may be assumed to have social

The stories2 can be grouped in four:
A. Twelve stories of "folk" life
1. Excursion-C. M. Hope
2. Convention-J. N. Hewitt
3. Pig Money-E. Walcott
4. Cap'en Sarge's Fruit-E. Carr
5. The Tree-K. Sealy
6. Pilgrims on the Road-K. P.

B. Seven stories of middle-class life
1. Torrid Zone-A. Mendes

2. Mr. Jones of Port-of-Spain-
E. Mittelholzer
3. Sarabande-Clifford Sealy
4. Civil Strife-Ernest Carr

C. Seven further stories set in a middle-class
representative of the populace
1. White Baby-K. Sealy
2. Gan-Gan--E. Carr
3. In all their Glory-
A. N. Forde
4. Tacit Truce-K. Sealy

7. Sequel to Murder-W. Arthur
8. The Road-E. D. Achibald
9. Green Vase-C. M. Hope
10. The Fields are High-K. Sealy
11. Dream of Gold-K. Sealy
12. The Baby-Samuel Selvon

5. Jamaica Fragment-A. E.
6. Thorns and Thistles-
G. Lamming
7. Brooklyn Sunday-
W. Therold Barnes

milieu, but with the intrusion of a

5. Chance Meeting-
Fabian Holder
6. Cardboard Skeleton-
Ellice Honeychurch
7. The Cane is Bitter-
Samuel Selvon

(1) Bim appears about twice a y.ar, is edited by F. A. Collymore and W. Therold Barnes
in Barbados, and is the most important literary journal of the E. Caribbean. It contains stories,
poems, critical articles and reviews. Forty-six writers of prose and poetry contributed to
Nos. 9-13, nearly all West Indians. Of forty-five stories, thirty-six are on West Indian
themes. The work of these editors has been a very great service to the literature of the
Caribbean area.
(2) The territories to which the writers belong, and the scenes of the stories are as
Scene of Story Author's Territory
Barbados ...Barbados ...AI, 2, 3, 5, 9, 1o, B6(?); CI, 4, 5; D5.
Trinidad ...Barbados ...D9.
Grenada ...Barbados ...C3(?).
British Guiana ...British Guiana ...DI, 2.
Trinidad ...British Guiana ...B2.
Dominica ... Dominica ...C6.
Jamaica ...Jamaica ...B5, D3.
Trinidad ...Trinidad ...A4, 6, 7, 8, 12; Br, 3, 4; C2, 7; D4, 6, 7, 8, 0o.

D. Ten other stories, seven of which are of urban life
1. Tacama-E. Mittelholzer 6. Taxi, Mister!--D. Samaroo
2. We Know not Whom to Mourn 7. Joe's Place-Cecil Gray
-E. Mittelholzer
3. You gotta go Home-R. Mais 8. Christmas was Fine-
Cecil Gray
4. What's the Use- 9. Birds of a Feather-
Samuel Selvon G. Lamming
5. Barbadian Syrup-E. Walcott 10. As Time goes by-
Samuel Selvon.
Whatever the shortcomings of the twelve stories of folk life, most of them
seem to be authentically based on direct experience. In seven, a child is the
central figure. It would not be rash to assume that the writers in question have
had intimate personal experience of popular life in childhood.
Next, one notices that the weight of interest does not fall on the individual
characters, but rather on groups of people, and that the stories of these groups
follow a common pattern. The reader is first introduced to a "primary group"-
a family or collection of individuals bound together by bonds of diverse strength:
by kinship, by affection, by dependence on the exchange of mutual services as
an economic unit, by inertia or by the exercise of some single authority. The
group exists in a state of mobile equilibrium and enables the individuals who
compose it to achieve certain of their aims, or at least to survive. The primary
group is itself in like relation to a vague neighbourhood community, on the whole
and the parts of which it depends and against which it must protect itself.
Further, it has a relation to the state and its institutions. Having been shown the
features of the groups and something of their environment, the reader witnesses
the development of a minor or major crisis arising in the group itself, or
precipitated by a blow from outside. The group is seen adapting itself to the new
situation, possibly at the expense of one of its members, and returning to a new
equilibrium, or failing to do so, and breaking down. The breakdown of the group
has tragic implications, for it results in the isolation of the individual.
Both pattern and content are well exemplified in Cap'en Sarge's Fruit. Pa,
Ma, Josh and Herb are a poverty stricken family. Hunger is "a claw scooping
spitefully inside" Herb, and Pa, straining to sustain his family, hides his jobless-
ness from them, and goes out before sunrise to pick up fruit on the land of
Cap'en Sarge, "the stranger planter" Josh and Herb, also bent on stealing fruit,
arrive on the scene in time to witness Cap'en Sarge firing a round of buck-shot at
the intruder, and they see Gospel Jack, the Cap'en's watchman, first protest
against the illegality of the act ("But you can't shoot a body when he's running
away wid fright, as dis one. Dis is unlawful") and then flatten his boss with a
blow of his fist when the latter makes a wild verbal attack on his race ("tiefing
bitch niggers"). Only when they reach home do the boys realise their father was
the intruder, stealing for his family. After this crisis, the solidarity of the family
emerges enhanced. The boys realise the full weight of their father's responsibility
for them, and Ma, an old campaigner for Law and Righteousness, opens her eyes
and sees the point where law-abiding yields to family loyalty, under pressure
of poverty.

Pig Money also provides a clear example of the pattern. The group in this
case is unusual by virtue of its stability. Pa, Ma and their children, Joe and
lanthe are a model family, living in respectable poverty. Crisis comes when Joe
wins a scholarship, because more money will be needed to clothe him, and the
pig belonging to lanthe, his sister must be sold to provide it. Ianthe's brief out-
burst of rebellion is quelled by the authority of her father's uplifted hand. She is
finally reconciled by her belief in and affection for her brother. Further, the family
is adjusted to the neighbourhood community, to the class pattern of society and
to the state and its institutions. Its members accept and strive for the prevailing
standards of Decency and Education. There is no sign of resentment against the
middle-class residents from whose dustbins lanthe gets the "hog-feed", and the
State is not only the beneficient donor of a scholarship, but also offers the highest
prestige rewards to its humblest citizens in the form of a seat in "de House"
(Legislative Assembly). Just as lanthe's private interest is set aside for the sake
of the status of the family, so does Mrs. Babb bolster up her social position (The
Tree) at the expense of the orphan boy, who has attached himself to her. She
does so by selling the mahogany tree (beloved by the boy) to finance the marriage
of her daughter. The significance of this will be seen when it is realized that
marriage is an institution in the West Indies which only the upper half of society
can enter. The requirements to go through the ceremony of marriage include
(a) the capital to make the necessary wedding display and (b) some security for
the new household after marriage. By her daughter's marriage to a policeman
Mrs. Babb achieves the second, and by cutting down and selling the trees she
overcomes the first obstacle. Mrs. Babb and her family are therefore able to live
up to the standard of decency, which she and her neighbours recognize and pay
tribute to. She has indeed good reason to confirm her social position. Her son is
in prison for manslaughter ("it were as unjust as Jesus on the cross what they
send him to jail for!"). She has attached herself to a mission chapel, where the
full force of the preacher's powers are brought to bear on "living in sin", as the
keeper-relationship is called, into which father and mother must enter who have
neither security nor capital.
The Road and Green Vase develop another phase of the same theme. In each
story the family has suffered misfortunes which result first in the loss of wealth
and property, and secondly in a decline in status. Both families are unable to
adapt themselves to the lower socio-economoic level, and are disintegrating.
Thus, in The Road the common aims, a prospering peasant economy, and a
successful marriage for the son Jose, can no longer be achieved. The mutual
services, house-work by the women and husbandry by the men, cease to be mutual
when the men stop working, and Mama's bitterness corrodes her affection. Papa
prefers to cling to the illusions of his former status as estate owner than to establish
some economic security by working for a wage. To Mama at least religious faith
continues to provide an incentive and a solace, until she reaches desperation and
destitution. And then she discovers that the old comforting faith in which she
rested secure as a prosperous peasant's wife cannot be stretched to accommodate
her lowered status.
In telling these stories the writers seem consciously or unconsciously to be
telling us that the individual in folk life has value and a chance of survival chiefly
by virtue of his adherence to a small intimate family group, and the loyalties,
5 2

sentiments and mutual services which bind its members together. Three of the
stories make this message even more forcible by depicting the individual who no
longer so adheres.
In Karl Sealy's Dream of Gold, Carless, his lover Janis, and his friend are a
"primary group" The two men emigrate to Panama3 to make their fortune,
leaving the girl Janis alone, with child, and a stranger in her own place.
She is subject to the vigilant scrutiny of the neighbours whose sharp gossip
shows that she will be branded as a transgressor if Carless proves faithless, though
no doubt if the remittances arrive from Colon, the stability of her relation with
Carless will be accepted, and she will once more be respected. Janis receives no
news and no cash. When she has waited too long she proudly maintains her station
by pawning a family heirloom and buying a bright frock to cover her famished
body. Finally she receives a letter written in the enfeebled scrawls of dying men.
Her lover and her friend remained faithful, but have succumbed like so many
thousands of others in the pestiferous swamps of Panama. The author successfully
conveys the full tragedy of the girl's situation. In The Fields are High the theme is
once again the tragedy of isolation. A little girl meets Donald, an old escaped
convict, who forty years before had been given a life sentence for killing a soldier.
The soldier had shot Donald's daughter Effie by brutal mischance in the midst
of civil strife. The man's family had been destroyed, and he had spent forty years
deprived of the possibility of deep loyalties to others, an outcast from society.
Feeling his end approaching, he has determined to act voluntarily and in freedom,
first by escaping, then by giving himself up when ready, and finally by dying.
But lest this picture of a man deprived of community and walking through forty
lonely years to his death should be too stark, the writer, a true artist, lets the old
fugitive creep for a few precious moments from his lair in the cane field to live
again the emotions of fatherhood with Esther, the chance passer-by, the living
model of the dead Effie. Then one day the girl finds the cane field clean cut, and
the old man gone.
In Sequel to Murder, David is an isolated anti-social "Kulak"4, belonging to
.no primary group, and in conflict with the neighbourhood. Spurned by Doots, the
woman he loves, he brings about her murder at the hand of her keeper Mannie
by making him believe she has been unfaithful. Mannie, discovering the truth,
returns and strangles David. David's crime is a deed far more wicked than any
other in these stories its implication is that only such an outcast, a man bound by
no loyalties to family or neighbours, could be capable of it.
Whilst the internal relations of the members of primary groups are clearly
defined in these twelve stories, beyond their confines the outlines of the larger
society are hard to discern. The village as a political or geographical unit does not
(3) The digging of the Panama Canal, the recent building of the American bases, the
growth of the oil industry in Trinidad and Aruba, have scattered hope into hundreds of
thousands of bare hungry homes, which emigrating husbands, brothers and fathers have
supported spasmodically with cash remittances. But though these invisible exports have
palliated misery, they have probably slowed the growth of social stability, breaking families
and other primary groups apart. The following song, remembered by the older generations
in Tobago, "All dem gals in Colon, bring dem out and shown dem to me demonstrates
the threat to domestic stability, and one of the reasons why remittances of cash from the
emigrant to his family might dry up.
(4) Kulak: Russian expression meaning "close-fisted" and used formerly as a term of
opprobrium for the well-to-do peasant by the poor.

seem to appear, and there is little sign of the existence of established positions of
authority which have a recognized prestige in the heirachy of the larger society
as well as in the eyes of the folks, except perhaps that ambiguous representative of
state coercion, the policeman. This is in reality a prevailing condition of rural life
in many of the islands, where the upper strata of rural society are isolated from
the social life of the folk. Ministers of religion and doctors are often forced to serve
wide areas, so that they become little more than occasional visitors. Planters, even
if not absentees, live a life apart, and, like both ministers and Chinese shop-
keepers, are often of a different race and cultural group. Nevertheless social
organization and leadership exist in various forms, one of which is the sect or cult.
These may be based on recognized forms of Christian worship, but independent,
and under local leadership, or, like the Shouters and Shakers, they may practise
a pseudo Christianity strongly influenced by African cult practices, or they may
be modified forms of African cults, such as the Rada and Shango groups. Leader-
ship is his or hers who can capture the emotions of the faithful by fine sounding
words, and possession of "de Power", of which verbal brilliance is an outward
and visible sign. But the proof of the power lies in the leader's ability to direct
both man and nature through intuitive psychology, bush medicine, and in many
cases, magic. Pilgrims on the Road describes one such sect, and the Reverend
Joshua is its leader. A fracas develops during an outing, the offenders are
punished by expulsion from the bus, and a long walk home, to be received at the
little church "where the Reverend Joshua waited to welcome the cleansed pilgrims
back to the fold" It will be noted also that the story is a nice caricature of our
pattern! The predominant motif of these stories of folk life is the struggle of the
primary group, and particularly the family, to maintain or improve its position in
the community, a position which is, in nearly every case, insecure and a matter
for constant concern. What this "community" is, however, hardly emerges clearly.
There is no clear cut village with village institutions. No concept of nation is
apparent, though there is a slight undertone of a consciousness of race-and-class,
i.e., "We, the poor people descended from Africans" or more simply "We the
poor people" Class consciousness, crystalized in hostility towards-or organization
against an oppressive State or upper-class is not a noticeable feature, though Law
as the embodiment of State power is ever present, either directly or by implication.
For instance, in Cap'en Sarge's Fruit, Ma and Gospel Jack, and probably most of
the neighbours believe in "de Law" in so far as they too are owners of goods,
and even small bits of land; as poor people, they believe in Law-or rather lay
claim to Law, for the sake of its ideal of Equity; they desire the status and security
which law-abiding should give them, and fear the consequences of breaking the
Law. In the name of Law, Gospel Jack denounces Pa and Herb and Josh for
stealing fruit, he denounces the planter for unlawfully shooting at a man running
away; but he breaks the Law by assault when the stranger planter insults his
people, his race, and, by implication his class. Law abiding is therefore a virtue
contributing to the prestige of the group and the individual, but it has not the
moral force of loyalty to the group. The most significant social force in regulating

(5) "Dis 'ooman hyar only pushing me pushing me pushing me. Me eh weighing no
ounce to go fall and break me bones on de people bus nuh? If she hurry, leh she jump
through de window!"

behaviour is the public opinion of the neighbourhood. In each of the stories it is
the touchstone by which the actions of the group and its members are judged.
The attitude of the writers to this society takes on a much stronger colour in
the next two groups of stories, those in which middle-class life is portrayed,
whether independently or in contrast to folk life.
Of the stories in Group B, one is a little satirical sketch of a Barbadian
spinster lady in New York, and one is a study of tortuous personal relations. Of
the five which remain, four are about the coloured middle-class of Port-of-Spain,
Trinidad. The single topic of them all is the interweaving of chromatic with class
differences. A fifth story, from Jamaica, treats the legacy of negro-white
antagonisms, but in a different way, and for a different purpose. In the Trinidad
stories the problem presented is: the establishment of the individual in a position
of security within the social hierachy of the coloured middle class. Each of the
four stories shows some aspect of this struggle for social position and advancement.
The two most powerful weapons in its achievement and indications of its achieve-
ment are worldly possessions and as many caucasian features as possible, i.e.,
light skin, straight or wavey hair, &c. Wealth may be achieved and lost, but
features are inherited, and can only be slightly modified by art. However, a
judicious marriage may bring a dowry of worldly goods or the promise of
caucasian children.
In Saraband the light skinned Vincentian wants to marry a dark girl for
money, and position, whilst her parents welcome a nobody with a light skin for
their daughter, who is over thirty, who would not be likely to find a partner
amongst her social equals because of her pure negro origin and her earlier lapse
from virtue. In Torrid Zone the dark young man fights desperately for the light
complexioned girl, and bursts out in uncontrolled fury against the friend of the
girl's family who is trying to influence his future mother-in-law against him as
prospective husband. In Civil Strife a light skinned woman married to an English-
man responds quite neurotically to situations which would associate her and her
family with dark people. And Mr. Jones in Mr. Jones of Port-of-Spain, who has
wealth but the wrong colour, and who is liberal enough to allow his daughter to
marry below her station, is nevertheless at pains to hide this fact by entitling the
suitor most honourably "Raiment Renovator" We must assume, too, that the
suitor though not Caucasoid, probably has Chinese features to compensate for his
humble vocation, and this is no small social advantage.
As it is to be expected, the four writers are at one in their desire to show the
pathetic destructiveness of these prejudices and conventions. But their attitudes
vary. The intimate knowledge which the author of Civil Strife has of the class in
question makes his treatment of it the most sympathetic. Furthermore he broadens
the issue by showing that the middle-class fear of the negro populace is a local
variant of a common social phenomenon and is similar to the attitude of the
Englishman in the story, who has escaped from the sordid and poverty stricken
life of a mining village, the very thought of which is a frightening nightmare,
threatening his present security. The authors of Saraband and Torrid Zone by
birth and education are able to take the worm's eye and the bird's eye respectively;
Mendes is more interested in the dramatic possibilities of his subject, while Sealy
has written an analytical essay in which his human beings are poor empty puppets
indeed. Mittelholzer, the polite visitor pokes more gentle fun.

In sharpest contrast is A. L. fiencincK s jarmalcu ragment. nie wiit, uvl
his way to work sees a white child and a black child playing a game, in which
the black child slavishly carries out the orders of the white. He is deeply distressed
over this exhibition of white superiority until the next day, when he passes again
and sees the same game, with the roles reversed. He discovers that the children
were sons of a white man married to a coloured woman. "I smiled. My spirit
laughed within me. This is Jamaica, I said in my heart, this is my country, my
people. This is the greatest place in the world"
We are not concerned here with the extent to which colour prejudice is
diminishing in Jamaica. But the story is of the greatest significance as a statement
of political faith, a faith in and loyalty to the nation. In the other stories we can
detect loyalty to a primary group, family or cult in folk life, as well as generalized
sense of unity amongst the folk of African descent, also spasmodic loyalty to the
self-advancement cliques of Port-of-Spain society, but there is little or no sign.
outside the Jamaica story of any sense of a national society (or even of the
"common good" of a neighbourhood or town) amongst either middle class or folk.
The sense of nationhood has indeed become a politically and socially important
force in Jamaica as nowhere else.
In the stories of Group C, the values and personalities of middle-class life
and those of folk-life are constrasted, or shown in conflict. In each of the first five
stories we find a single representative of popular life: two servant girls, two peasant
women (the one poor and the other a well-to-do proprietor) and a fisherman.
"Jubah" in White Baby is beautiful, sexually attractive, proud and strong, So
long as Blaine, her lover, needs her, she is loyal to him. Only when he fails to
appear does she console herself with the thought of an affair with the nice looking
white boy and a white baby as a result. Ethel, her counterpart in Tacit Truce,
has the same attractiveness, but greater consistency and moral strength. Their
antagonists, the boy Jabe and the old man Mr. Stokes, are devoid of moral
attributes, the one being adolescent, callow and ruthless in pursuit of physical
gratification, the other, decrepit, capricious, burnt up, accepting defeat without
grace, but with resignation. Externally both servants are inferior, and it is implicit
in their situation that they receive wages averaging one thirtieth of the household
income. In essentials of character and "life-force", as well as in good manners
and consistency, they are depicted as superior.
In Gan Gan and In All Their Glory the folk heroes are of matriachal allure.
Unlike the others, Gan Gan is wealthy, but she came from Africa as a slave. She
is shown as a woman of great dignity, charm and balance, and philosophical
humour, a character compounded of the pride of race to be found in many of
immediate African origin, and the maturity of a person who has exercised the
responsibilities of property owning wisely. In comparison with her, the near-white
daughter, and the latter's social equals are a clique of hollow anxious
The teller of the tale In All Their Glory is a man of humble origin who has
fulfilled the ambitions of his mother by becoming a civil servant, and has success-
fully isolated himself from kith and kind in his sterile security of lower middle-class
respectability, only to feel himself imprisoned and frustrated. He experiences a
new vision of life and learns humility from the sight of the old peasant woman
sowing ("I envied the brave assurance of her posture, the defiance in her gaze")

and later is overwhelmed by the transformation of the field when he finds it
flourishing with a luxuriant crop of green corn.
Between the white girl and her brown half-brother (illegitimate son of her
father), Holder makes no moral judgment in Chance Meeting, but there is an
implied judgment of the father's careless irresponsibility.
Cardboard Skeleton is exceptional. In it we gain insight into the way in which
middle-class children partake deeply of the folk life, with its colour, unreason and
superstitions, through servants in whose care they are left, and we see how one
at least emerges from the spell-becomes disenchanted. The process is shown as
the triumph of enlightmcnt, and it provides the only example of a judgment in
favour of middle-class values.
But with this exception the writers of the twenty-six stories of groups A, B,
and C, are one in their attitude to middle-class society, to which most of them
belong, if not by birth then by virtue of occupation and present social standing.
They judge it to be empty, selfish and lacking in humanity. And in Group D,
Selvon and Lamming, both writing in the first person, give a tentative evaluation
of it in terms of "boundless America" where you can taste all the dishes life has
to offer (Selvon: As Time Goes By) and "free Americans born in the tumbling
storm of life and gaiety" (Lamming: Birds of a Feather).
George Lamming depicts his position at the lower end of the middle-class
social ladder as hateful: he is happy to associate with the Americans who occupied
Trinidad during the war, and whose "careless exuberance of spirit" threatens
"the delicate organism of West Indian Society" but without the protection of the
Americans "the unhappy plight of natives like me" is to conform to "Tradition
and System", under the searching eyes of the middle-class elite.
On the other hand, the life of the folk is treated seriously and sympathetically.
We have already remarked on the deep interest of the writers in the fate of
families, or primary groups, to the basic needs of which the individuals who
compose them are directly subject. They have shown the isolation of the individual
resulting from the defeat of the group by poverty and loss of status as tragedy,
and wilful individual isolation as wickedness. Secondly, they have drawn a uniformly
noble picture of the women of folk-life. Fathers as such play an active part in
only two of the stories, and in the rest are either defeated and useless, or simply
absent. But the women, whether as mothers, foster mothers or objects of desire,
are consistently loyal, tireless fighters, proud, and resigned to carrying the full
burden of responsibility which their fertility lays on them.
Whilst our writers appear to feel out with longing towards the life of the
common people, scorning the pattern of middle class life, in which most of them
are forced to participate, they cannot recross the great cleavage which divides
West Indian Society, though they may help to narrow it6.
Unfortunately our short voyage of discovery cannot be expected to explain
this cleavage. The social history of these islands remains unwritten. But there is
sufficient evidence in the folk customs extant today, or described by the older
heads, to assert cautiously that the populace, ejected from the crudely imposed

(6) Selvon's story "The Cane is Bitter" describes the return of a young East Indian boy
to his labouring family after being away at a Secondary School, and his total inability to
return to his parents' way of life. The "gap" is not confined to the creole community.

social institutions of slavery, has struggled ceaselessly for the appropriate forms of
regulating its own social life, for sustaining attitudes toward the unaccountable in
man and nature, and for the means of holding high those things which it cherished
most dearly. These forms, customs and institutions were called forth by the varied
types of social and economic activity of the emancipated slaves, and included
systems of credit, methods of joint production and distribution, rites connected with
birth and death, ceremonies for the purpose of placating or consulting ancestors,
methods of preserving authority, regulating behaviour, creation of myths, songs
and pastimes, methods of curing sickness, and indeed many other essential
functions of life in society.
But the major institutions, the "civilization" of the larger West Indian society,
has not sprung from these roots. It has been erected by the European colonisers,
administrators and merchants, and until recently accepted readily by the growing
middle-class which has sought to acquire standing and security by the closest
conformity to it, regardless of its fitness, whether they are coloured West Indian,
Syrian, English, Portuguese, Chinese, East Indian or recent arrivals from the
populace. The insecurity and uncertainty of these various groups struggling against
one another, the absence of a common experience in the achievement of common
ends, have hitherto prevented this middle class from becoming a coherent social
force, and precluded the enjoyment of national (West Indian) self-esteem.
Certainly its creole? members of whatever colour have shown themselves most
anxious to sever connections with the "African" populace.
The social cleavage is therefore marked by the failure of indigenous folk
institutions to become established in anything but underground gnomic form, and
equally the failure on the part of the state and the major institutions effectively to
penetrate the populace. This has resulted in the absence of those intermediate
organs of control and responsibility in the body politic such as village councils,
peasant associations, &c., which act as channels of communication between the
administrators and the people, and develop political experience and a sense of
unity of social purpose.
The road to nationhood lies through the successful response to the challenge
inherent in the situation. Forces of integration are at work, of which urbanization
may be the strongest. It is producing a working-class with its own forms of
association, and conscious of the means of social and economic progress, though
this is accompanied by the dangerous accumulation of a workless mass, and the
erosion of the folk way of life, with its traditional sanctions on behaviour. Only a
small glimpse of this important process can be seen in the stories. Taxi Mister is
the monologue of a pirate taxi-driver in Trinidad. He is the product of urbani-
zation, and, be he Grenadian, or Hindu or Trinidad creole, he has rapidly taken
on characteristics of his own. He does not work for a wage. He has made a down
payment on his car, and he scours the road for passengers in sharpest competition
with at least 2,000 other pirates, cutting fares discreetly when his business is bad.
He is a picaresque figure, with brethren in all parts of the world where urbanization
is rapidly uprooting rural communities. He has sloughed off traditional loyalties
and specific superstitions, but remains generally superstitious; his speech is full of

(7) Creole: This is the usual Trinidad word for the people of Africa or mixed African
descent. It is used in this sense throughout the article.

politics, economic and philosophical concepts, but he has not learnt what political
action means in practice, and remains too individualistic, too "smart" for joining
in effective association with others for common ends-his political inclinations are
determined by the show of wealth, and "de Power" which manifests itself in
inflated rhetoric, rolling from tongues which may preach Race or Revolution or
Religion. He has little respect for State or Law, is both ruthless and humane. He
is potentially both the big-business tycoon, and the labour leader.
In Joe's Place, Charlie concocts a scheme to revive the flagging restaurant of
his friend Joe, which is being undercut by "big business" There is inter-play
between human motives and individualistic business sharpness as in Taxi Mister !
Joe wins back his customers by an appeal to their kind hearts and self-interest,
but the author throws a cynical aroma over the story by making Joe refuse to
help friend Charlie when the latter in his turn is out of luck. In the background,
undercutting Joe and victimising Charlie, is the shadowy menace of the Imperial
Investment Company. The story tells of a new form of social activity, a new
abortive association, which we have seen in no other story, in which a group of
wage earners and a small proprietor try to work out a course of action for the
mutual benefit of all-the line of action from which Co-operatives and Trade
Unions grow.
Alongside the process of urbanization, other forces tending towards greater
unity are at work. Education is penetrating the community more deeply than
before, though it is lamed as a preparation for life by scarce resources and
formalism. Some small progress has been made in recreating organizations and
self-help groups among the populace from above. And universal suffrage is throwing
responsibility for public affairs on all classes: yet it is precisely at this point that
the heritage of a cleft society becomes a troublesome legacy. The attitudes and
sentiments engendered by the gnomic popular institutions issue forth in mass
movements led by demagogues possessed of "de power" (and as shrewd an eye to
business as the traditional obeah man) and the mass emotion (for example, a
momentary sense of glory in an illusory African unity), is momentarily a hundred-
fold more powerful than the reasonable advantages offered by irrigation, co-opera-
tives, &c., by strange officials. Meanwhile the middle-class remains divided,
apprehensive and politically incapable of pursuing its own politics or providing
leadership for the masses.
The writer is hardly to be blamed if he is the victim of a sense of anxious
isolation. Seeking his own identity, he is most eager to enter into his just birthright
of Western civilization, with its literary and artistic traditions, its values, yet he is
inhibited by the example of polite West Indian society, which, he feels, apes its
forms and ignores its spirit. At the same time he recognizes that characteristic
texture of West Indian life to which he responds most warmly has been created
from below. To this he is also heir, though this inheritance carries with it much
that is ugly, superstitious, malformed and unacceptable from which he may wish
to avert his eyes.
Whether he wishes it or not, the writer has great responsibilities in the
formation of society, and in giving it some identity and coherence. He helps to
establish a common pool of experience of "being West Indian", thus providing
common ground for the maturing of ideas. He brings into the realm of serious
discussions matters which were formerly subjects only for gossip and the play of

prejudice. And if the reader of "Bim" feels that the scope of the themes of the
stories is restricted, and that many of them lack a third dimension, he has a right
to look for an advance toward greater maturity, and certain minimum standards8.
Too often our writers fail in perception. This may be for want of looking, since
they share with their fellow countrymen a truly formidable ignorance of their
native land. The lack of bookish descriptions is no acquittal on this charge, but
rather a mandamus to go restlessly in search of what is his, bush, creatures, rocks
and rivers, his share in the sky and the sea, and the people: the folk-ways of the
"old parents" their speech, myths, songs, dances: their heroes, and the ripples
made by birth and death, the shock of "de Cholera", famine and hurricane upon
them; the rough and tumble of the schooner trade, the exact processes of
a multitude of minor crafts, the shock of the town on the uprooted peasant, rackets
great and small, the physiognomy of hunger and the anatomy of officialdom.
Not only must we demand that the writers' range of subjects should be
extended: we must look for greater insight. For even in those stories which deal
with easily accessible subjects, many of the writers have not enabled the reader
to become aware of unique individual beings, oddly compounded of incompatible.
Rather, stereotyped characters in typical situations are presented, which often
amount to little more than a statement of their own attitudes towards, for instance,
middle-class snobs or mother-heroines. The clear sharp eye may be blurred by the
projection of the writers own uncertainties and anxieties. It is easy for him to
recoil from the many distressing situations of West Indian life into a stock attitude
-stoical self-pity, inappropriate absorption in the spiritual malaise of certain
contemporary European writers, or flight abroad for flight's sake. But the way to
maturity is not a road determined by a chain of subjective reactions. That which
moves us, whether to joy or to disgust, must be subjected to the most penetrating
scrutiny, demanding full deployment of our intellectual and imaginative powers:
and in the process of setting the events and situations to which our emotions are
subject against the touchstone of our individual sense of moral and aesthetic
values, we are freed for self-absorption and gradually create a terra firma for
ourselves, from which we can look out clearly, and operate with greater boldness,
precision and lucidity of purpose.

(8) No attempt can be made in this article to assess the authors' individual merits.

Glimpses of a Lost Civilization


Hamilton Anderson is a hard-working District Commissioner in
El Cayo, the capital of the Western District of British Honduras. His rabid
interest in the ancient Maya has to be satisfied in what little time he can
snatch away from the multifarious duties of his office. His intimate yet
wide knowledge of the Colony is probably as great as that of anyone alive,
and has made him the Editor and Compiler chosen by Government for the
excellent little handbook, "Brief Sketch of British Honduras" But he is
at least equally at home on a jungle trail with gun and machete, and is
known to be expert at repairing over-age motor cars with biscuit tins-
a valuable accomplishment in the hinterland of British Honduras.

BRITISH HONDURAS is rich in remains of the ancient Maya Indian Civilization,
which reached its apogee probably some centuries before the first Spanish invasion
of New Spain (1517). It is commonly believed that the Maya Indians are descended
from Asiatic Nomads who probably drifted into the American Continent by way
of the Bering Strait in palaeolithic or neolithic times. Many centuries must have
passed in the transition of these ultra primitive hunters, nomadic from necessity
and fighting a grim battle for existence, to the settled agricultural communities
which emerge, skilled in many arts and crafts, in the dim dawn of Amerindian
history. Archaeological research is slowly lifting the veil of obscurity from this
lost civilization.
Scientific excavation of the so-called Indian Mounds has brought to light masses
of interesting material in the form of pottery ware, celts and other artifacts. Not
the least interesting are the pottery figurines which, even those crudely moulded
and obviously of very early date, are usually very realistic and furnish valuable
information on contemporary knowledge and customs. Warriors with their weapons,
women holding babies and various domestic utensils, men carrying maize, wielding
quaint tools or beating drums, ball players in their leather armour; each figurine
is a facet reflecting some aspect of ancient Mayan life. Collectively they show that
these people were skilled in weaving, pottery, basket-making and other domestic
crafts, while the possession of maize, a cultivated 'grass' (probably developed by
intensive cultivation from the Teosinte or Teosintli-Euchlaena mexicana) coupled
with the extensive terracing of hillsides indicates that they were advanced
The Maya evolved a complicated form of glyphic writing with which they
recorded dates and other calendaric data; whether it was also capable of carrying
a connected narrative remains to be discovered. They reached a high standard in
the twin arts of weaving and dyeing fabrics, and worked the barks of certain trees
into cloth of the consistency and durability of fine leather. The gorgeous plumage
of the Macaw, the Quetzal and the Wild Turkey were sewn or gummed, feather by
feather, on to cotton cloth to form resplendent cloaks. A durable paper was made

CARACOL-Stone Head


~~ I

Manuel Villamor



Grace Woods

S- j

Eric Griffith

Manuel Villamor


XUNANTUNICI-D-I ),iil )f the Sun God

Xu NANI ItNI(C'Hi--Knee1liniI Figure


XUNANTUNICH-This picture shows excavation going on. The large squarish face
is the Sun God, and above it to the left is a kneeling figure.

from the fibres of the Agave Americana coated with a thin layer of fine clay (it is
notable that modern high grade photogravure paper, too, is impregnated with
superfine china clay). With this paper excellent pictographic codices were pro-
duced, both the glyphs and the numerous vignettes being executed in colours (red,
blue, green) and black.
Pottery of good quality and high artistic conception was made, the polychrome
ware in particular revealing craftsmanship of no mean order. Nevertheless, the
Maya were apparently ignorant of the potter's wheel, and their pottery was com-
monly formed by coiling a flat ribbon of plastic clay spirally into a vessel of the
desired shape and size, the junctions of the spirals being smoothed off with a wooden
spatula. Designs were applied by incising or by stamping with a mould while the
clay was still plastic and by engraving after the vessels had been baked. Elaborate
decoration by means of relief applique figures, attached before baking, was also
done. In the finer grades of polychrome ware the decoration was applied either
directly to the paste or on to a fine wash or slip previously applied. While no
evidence has been found that the Maya ever discovered the secret of glazing, highly
polished slip ware, in red or red and black chiefly, was produced in certain localities,
notably at Pusilha in the Toledo District of British Honduras. From the nearby
site of Lubaantun have been recovered scores of quaint whistle figurines, evidently
the speciality of that place.
Although cut off from cultural and competitive contact with the Old World,
the Maya achieved an amazing civilization. There is reason to believe that they
anticipated their Old World contemporaries in certain matters as, for example, their
calendar system based on the movement of the heavenly bodies and accurate to a
degree not attained in Europe until some centuries later. This calendar was the
scientific outcome of, probably, hundreds of years of careful observation and patient
study by a primitive race lacking scientific instruments. It embodied a surprising
knowledge of the movements of the Sun, the Moon and Venus, and of the rudiments
of mathematical computations, including the use of the 'zero' They used two
calendars, one of 260 days (the Tzolkin or Sacred Calendar) and one of 365 days
which were interlocking; both show an easy familiarity with numbers. The former,
for example, employed twenty names and thirteen numbers; each day was given
a name and a number, the numbers repeating after thirteen and the names after
twenty. A simple calculation will show that the conjunction of a particular number
and day name could occur only once in every 260 days (twenty cycles of the numbers
and thirteen of the names). The latter was even more elaborate: and the odd
quarter-day was carried in a separate count instead of being adjusted by a periodic
inter-calary day. The Maya also employed positional mathematics, the values
progressing up columns in multiples of twenty (Vigesimal). They also kept a "Long
Count" of the days, using positional mathematics to record the totals.
For a people so far advanced in other sciences it is strange the Maya never
discovered the true arch: in its place they made extensive use of the corbelled arch
with its extremely awkward masses of counterbalancing masonry and narrow spans.
Nevertheless, many of the surviving stone buildings reveal a fine appreciation of
the laws of balance and perspective which evokes the admiration of modern archi-
tects. Several buildings have been discovered in this Colony, some of which have
not been excavated, and none is whole, and others will undoubtedly be found as
more of the country is opened up.
6 2

In other directions the Maya never emerged from the neolithic age. Although
a small amount of copper and gold was used, chiefly for jewelry, they relied on,
one might say even preferred, flint and obsidian (volcanic glass) to furnish their
knives, axes and other tools, and in the working of these intractable materials they
attained great skill. Jade, more highly esteemed than gold, was carved into
figurines, amulets and other ornaments. Some of the surviving coloured mosaic
work and wood carving would tax the skill of a modern craftsman equipped with
steel tools. No indication has yet been discovered that they ever evolved wheeled
vehicles, doubtless due to the fact that they had no beasts of burden; nevertheless
they traded over great distances.

The Maya indulged in human sacrifice, though it is doubtful if they engaged
in the orgies of slaughter attributed to their Aztec neighbours, and made war from
time to time to procure victims. In battle they used primitive swords (macana or
maquahuitl), spears, javelins, slings and, less frequently, bows and flint-tipped
arrows. The swords were two-handed blades of hard wood three to four feet long
with razor-sharp flakes of flint and obsidian set into the edges. The spears were
tipped with flint or obsidian, and occasionally with copper. The javelins were
made of hard wood with fire-hardened points and were hurled from an atlatl or
throwing stick, a device which so increased the striking power of the javelin that
even the armoured Spanish invaders were daunted by it. For protection the war-
riors wore quilted and padded cotton 'armour' which the Spanish subsequently
adopted, and carried decorated, high-covered wicker shields, round or oblong
in shape; the latter were large enough to cover the whole body and could be folded
up when not in use. The Chieftains wore enormous feather headdresses supported on
light wicker frameworks, and a Maya army moving to attack accoutred in barbaric
splendour, beating drums, blowing conchs and whistles and shouting must have
presented an awe inspiring spectacle. The Spanish invaders, for reasons which
doubtless appeared good to them at the time, set to work to destroy and obliterate
this ancient culture and achieved a most regrettable degree of success. With their
leaders and wise men killed, harried and oppressed, mowed down by famine and
by deadly and unfamiliar European diseases, soon only the remnants of this once
great people remained. Mounds, buildings, terraces and other signs indicate that
British Honduras was once thickly populated by the Maya, but today the Maya
Indian population numbers only a few thousand, and they migrated here from
neighboring territories in comparatively recent times. They are decadent,
retaining little of their past culture beyond their bush craft and strict adherence
to maize growing. They still speak Maya dialects, but even these are now inter-
larded with Spanish. On the other hand, the design of their attractive, white-
washed mud and thatch houses probably has changed little since their illustrious
forefathers' day.
Under local laws, a permit must be obtained to work on Maya sites on Crown
Land and all pottery, artifacts and other articles found are the property of the
Crown. It is usual, however, for accredited archaeologists to be permitted to retain
half of their finds: the division is arrived at by alternate selection by the finder
and the representative of the Government. Previous to the opening of the Jubilee
Library and Museum (Belize) in 1935, the Government's share was sent to the
British Museum in London. The Jubilee Library and Museum possesses a small but

interesting collection of exhibits and a number of excellent plaster replicas of glyph
covered stone steles found in the Colony.
During 1938 the writer, on behalf of Government, investigated and reported
on two sites in the Cayo District named by him Awe Caves and Caracol. At the
latter he made several interesting discoveries, including a masonry building with
wooden lintel beams still in position. That year Mr. Eric Thompson of the Carnegie
Institution of Washington concluded operations at his Cenoti site in the Orange
Walk District and returned to the United States. From then on until 1949 the only
archaeological work in the Colony was done by the writer, and his efforts were
restricted by more important duties to little more than superficial explorations.
However, besides noting several new sites he made discoveries at the already much
explored Xunantunich site near Benque Viejo, Cayo District, which suggested that
elaborate stucco mouldings lay buried under the fill. Such a find in this area was
precious but lack of time and money prevented him from testing his theory by
In 1949 two American student archaeologists visited the Cayo District and found
and excavated the remains of an interesting masonry building at Holhah. Later
that year Dr. Linton Satterthwaite, Associate Curator of the Pennsylvania University
Museum and a Mayanist of note, was put in touch with the writer. Correspondence
followed between them and in March, 1950, Dr. Satterthwaite arrived in the Colony.
After visiting sites including Xunantunich, with the writer, Dr. Satterthwaite spent
several weeks exploring a site near El Cayo and was rewarded by finding a Ball
Court, believed to be the first authentic one found in the Colony. He has since
named the site Cahal Pech which means the Place of Ticks, a well-merited name.
In April the writer, with the kind consent of Government, went with the Doctor to
Caracol for a fortnight. After the passage of nearly twelve years he found his 1938
trail and trail marks completely obliterated. The whole area is covered with
extremely dense jungle and looking for his pet plaza group was rather like the pro-
verbial hunting for a needle in a haystack. However, the many weary miles of
machete work were not wasted as more finds were made and some idea of the
enormous area of the site gained. Each traverse made revealed some new aspect;
nevertheless, he was very thankful when he finally located the desired group. His
stay at Caracol in 1938 had been limited by circumstances to three rain-
interrupted days, but even so he was able to report that the site covered a very
large area (how large he did not realise until 1950) and that he had seen a large
masonry building with at least three of its walls intact and, crowning find, wooden
lintel beams in place, eight carved steles and altars, the remains of several other
masonry buildings, many tall mounds or pyramids, what appeared to be an artifi-
cial reservoir and other items of interest.
Although the 1950 expedition concentrated most of its efforts on the 1938
plaza group, raising the total number of steles and altars to thirty-two, the traverses
made proved that the site covers several square miles and is an amazing complex
of plaza groups, courts, sacbes (stone roadways), domiciliary mounds, pyramids
and terraces. Dr. Satterthwaite continued work at the site for a further week after
the writer had to leave, and made many more discoveries, including a Ball Court.
He has returned to Caracol this year accompanied by two students to spend the
dry season there. Already he has found more carved stones and it is patent many
more remain to be found.

Caracol is undoubtedly the most important and imposing site so far explored
in the Colony. It is interesting for several reasons: it is a "Classical" site, thus dis-
puting the previously held theory that this Colony lay outside the Classical area; it
has an unusual wealth of carved stones and many evidences of a very lengthy occu-
pation. It is full of surprises, such as slate steles pre-dating the more common lime-
stone ones, although the nearest known source of slate lies around fourteen miles
away over very rugged country. The carving of this rather frangible stone with primi-
tive stone tools must have been difficult, yet the figures and glyphs, although now
much weathered, are neatly and cleanly cut. Almost all the altars found are carved
with the sign of the Day God Ahau and a bar and dot number (a bar represents
five and a dot one); each altar is in fact a huge day glyph marking the end of a
Katun (7,200 days). Many are still decypherable and these cover a period of nearly
one hundred years, while others not so certainly decyphered extend this period
considerably. The Maya Long Count was somewhat cumbersome and complicated
to record, and adjacent areas, while copying much of the culture, contented them-
selves with adopting only a portion of the calendar system, the simpler but not so
satisfactory Katun or Short Count. Caracol furnishes the first real evidence that
this simplification was also used by the Maya themselves quite early in the
classical period.
The cycles of the Short Count repeat, but the Long Count continues its orderly
progression. The disadvantages of the Short Count from the archaeologist's
viewpoint may be illustrated by a reference to our system of time count.
In our "Long Count" a date, 1st April for example, is pinned down in
its chronological position by the century and year count: thus 1st April,
1951, 1st April, 1798, and so on. If, however, we dropped out the use of
the century count the effect would be somewhat similar to that of the Maya Short
Count; we would know that 1st April, 51, meant the first day of the month
called April in the fifty-first year of a century (or cycle of 1.00 years) but not which
particular century or cycle. Incidentally, we do on occasion write, for example,
"On 1st April, '51 .", usually in connection with some well-known event already
so well recorded in our Long Count that confusion is unlikely to arise in our minds,
whatever headache this shortened date reference may cause some student a thousand
years hence. Possibly the Maya felt the same way about their Short Count.
Fortunately at Caracol the ancient inhabitants in several instances considerately set
up beside the altars stelae bearing Long Count glyphs including the altars' Katun
numbers, thus setting the Katun dates into their correct positions in the Maya
chronology. Unfortunately most of the Long Count glyphs are very badly
weathered and either illegible or so nearly so that final decypherment will take
much time and patience. The exact correlation of the Maya and our calendars
has not yet been achieved and there are several schools of thought in this matter;
but in the most commonly accepted correlation one such complementary (and
legible) stele/altar group gives a date around the middle of the Sixth Century A.D.
This group helps to pin down the chronological position of many of the other altars
and so to show that the site had been in occupation long before that date.
Incidentally, this group lies on the platform of the building with the wooden lintel
beams, but this is no proof that the group and the building are contemporary.
A section of the lintel was extracted in 1950 and sent to the United States for
dating by the Carbon 14 Test; the results may settle this interesting point.

On his return from Caracol in 1950, Dr. Satterthwaite concluded his season by
excavating a part of the stucco work at Xunantunich. The results far surpassed the
most sanguine hopes of the writer and the photographs (taken by Dr. Satterthwaite)
illustrating this article give some idea of this imposing example of the work of
these ancient craftsmen. For several reasons the remaining two-thirds of existing
panel work may be expected to be in an even better state of preservation, but
their excavation and, equally if not more important, preservation, must await the
generosity of some patron. With money provided by Government the writer has
erected a shed over the exposed panel to protect it from rain.
A common custom of the ancient Maya was to fill in and bury an existing
building with earth reinforced with mortar to form a solid platform on which they
erected another building. This was done at Xunantunich and the panelling is
actually mounted on the roof batter of an older building so buried and supporting
a later building. The later building is now in ruins, but enough remains to show
that it was a twelve-roomed 'palace' type structure; the outer walls are gone, and
although there are suggestions that it, too, was decorated with similar stucco work,
this cannot be verified. The older building definitely carried stucco work at each
end and very probably on the sides as well, but only at one end is it preserved,
although there is evidence that the Maya when burying the building took steps to
protect the mouldings from major damage.
The panel exposed is astronomical in motif; above is a niche edged with repeti-
tions of the glyph for Venus, possibly to indicate that star's appearances as the
morning and evening star. Below is an enormous moon glyph-a conventionalised
crescent-and next to it the mask of a god stands out in bold relief. This mask
in general concept follows the pattern of the conventional glyph for the Sun God,
but there are several differences which create an element of doubt. However, it
probably is the Sun God. On either side of his mask are his ears with ear plugs,
and what appear to be projecting flames. A small section of the "Sky Band"
projecting from the fill suggests that this astronomical motif is continued in the
centre panel, which may well be even more elaborate and bold in design.
The mask pyramid forms one side of a rectangular plaza on top of a high hill
and the view from the top of the later building is magnificent. Unexplored pyramids,
two of them very high, form the other sides. At the base of the tall pyramid
opposite the mask pyramid is an intricately carved limestone stele depicting in
bas-relief a figure with an elaborate head-dress seated before a featherwork screen.
Although much weathered, the delicacy of the delineation of the feathers is amazing,
and it is hard to realise it probably was done with stone tools. The presence of
such an elaborately carved stone at its base suggests that this pyramid would repay
proper excavation.
Caracol is still difficult of access even in dry weather, but Xunantunich can
now be visited throughout the year; in fact, it is easy to make the journey from
Belize to the site and back in one day. Xunantunich is pronounced approximately
Shoenahntoonitch and may be interpreted as the Maiden of the Rock. Although
the modern Maya have a legend about the goddess of this site it is highly improbable
that the name is even remotely connected with the original one. So far no dated
stele has been found at this site, but it belongs to the classical period, possibly
around the Eighth Century A.D.

Art in British Honduras


ELSEWHERE in this journal is an article describing some of the artistic achievements
of British Hondurans nearly fifteen hundred years ago. It may well be asked,
therefore, whether any traces of this notable heritage remain in the work
of the present century. Briefly-and the answer does not sacrifice accuracy to
brevity-there is an almost complete hiatus.
The Ancient Maya were exterminated in British Honduras by the Spaniards,
but the latter did not colonise the area. At the end of the seventeenth century
British buccaneers founded Belize, and were joined in time by Negro slaves. Actual
settlement was limited at first to the Belize district, and even that was made pre-
carious by the attack of the Spaniards and Yucatecan Indians. The frontier
mentality was fostered by this necessity of being always alert for attack, and the
high profits to be made from the export of logwood caused a get-rich-quick attitude
which was inimical to any development of the arts. This has continued in large
measure to the present day; mahogany-cutting replaced the export of logwood
when the German synthetic dyes appeared early in the twentieth century, and only
in very recent times have the thoughts of the majority of the inhabitants been
turning to more settled pursuits and other means of earning a living.
The majority of the inhabitants of British Honduras are of mixed Negro and
European descent, and to them the ancient Maya culture is as unreal as that of
the Ancient Egyptians. There is a large minority of Latin Americans, mostly fairly
recent political refugees from the neighboring republics, and there are other small
pockets of the usual Caribbean minorities-Syrians, Chinese, East Indians and
Caribs. The whole population amounts to rather less than 60,000.
This highly simplified and condensed historical and ethnological information
is not offered as a serious introduction to a study of British Honduras. It is simply
the minimum that needs to be known before one surveys the cultural scene. In
the past the Colony has been chiefly a logging camp on a large scale, so that we
must not look for development of the arts before the beginning of the present
In September, 1950, the Jubilee Library in Belize sponsored an Art Exhibition
on the initiative of Mr. Leo Bradley, the present Clerk to the Librarian. There
were sections for children and adults, and about three hundred entries were received.
The children's section offered many excellent examples of the ability to transfer
images to paper, and an almost complete lack of freshness and originality. The
selection committee could not echo Mrs. Manley's complaint about market women
with fair hair and blue eyes, if only because hardly any of the entries came so
near home as the market place. There was no lack of scenes from the Canadian
Rockies and the American or English farmyard-in short, almost every entry was
copied from an imported source, magazine or print. Melancholy confirmation of
this occurred a little later when the Resident Tutor accompanied Dr. Margaret

Read of the University of London Institute of Education on a tour of schools in
the Northern District. In one school the children were painstakingly copying
formal designs which had their origin in the American magazine, while in the
thatched roof a few feet above their heads were designs which arose naturally
from the nature of the building material, designs which have probably
altered hardly at all since the days of the Maya civilization. It is fortunate that
the Education Department is well aware of this situation, and hopes to remedy it
by the institution of a peripatetic art teacher.
The works in the adult section illustrated both the strength and the weakness
of the Colony's artistic activity. On the one hand was evidence that it is dangerous
for a modern community to be semi-isolated culturally-isolated from the best but
not immune to the attractions of the meretricious and the second-rate. On the other
hand, in a few exhibits one saw the results of the mingling of native talent with the
best influences from abroad. Easily the most talented artist in the Colony is Manuel
Villamor, a young painter whose works can hold their own with the best that is
being produced by the younger artists of the Caribbean. Villamor is part Spanish,
part Maya, and his paintings exemplify both influences and prevent one from
saying that the ancient Maya culture has completely passed away. He works in
water-colour, used with almost an oil technique, and his powerfully rhythmic
pictures show at once the influence of Mexican artists like Diego Rivera and some-
thing of the formalized decorative quality of the Mayan plastic arts. Villamor has
a flair for dramatic, significant composition, and his portrait of an Indian woman,
which won first prize in the exhibition, links artistic sympathy with a compelling
technique. The colouring, while not subtle in detail, owes far less to Gauguin and
Matisse than the great majority of Caribbean paintings, and has a more subdued
attraction that partly arises from the balance of colour planes. Villamor has pro-
duced several variations on the theme of peasants cutting sugar-cane; the best of
these are excellent in their powerful, swirling motif, and the slight formalization
gives them a wider validity.
Villamor's formal art education is slight-he is perhaps unusual amongst
Caribbean artists in having attended a Secondary School-and has been obtained
in desultory fashion on holiday in Mexico City. Very recently he has begun to
attract attention, not unmingled with surprise, outside the Colony, and there is
a good chance of his work's becoming more widely known in the future if he can
exhibit in Jamaica.
Villamor overshadows all other artists in the Colony, but perhaps one ought
to mention Eric Griffith, who renders flesh surfaces and pigmentation in pencil
admirably, and can draw with a shrewd irony. He also has a talent for wood-
carving, and in this medium has contributed to the decoration of the Legislative
Council Chamber in Belize. Grace Woods, whose local output is small as yet, paints
more in the 'Caribbean' style, with an emotional content which is as yet not matched
by her technique.
The rest of the Caribbean thinks of British Honduras as a cultural desert, and
it is true that the Colony cannot entirely escape this charge. The signs of grace
are on a few who work in various media. For the rest, the British Honduran
scene shows that it is culturally fatal for a country to concern itself with the
outward and technological paraphernalia of more sophisticated communities whilst
remaining ignorant of the spiritual forces which justify these things.

A Note on Verse in British Honduras

LIKE the other territories in the British Caribbean, British Honduras has little or
no literary history, apart from the apparently area-wide doggerel of the late nine-
teenth and early twentieth centuries which is so frequently eulogised in West Indian
reviews (but not so often quoted). In spite of the incentive of the annual
St. George's Caye Day Literary Contests, there is only one good poet in the Colony,
with perhaps three others who narrowly miss the mark. The article by
H. L. V Swanzy in Vol. I, No. 2 of this journal gave the basic reasons for this,
and the writer's own remarks elsewhere in this issue on the paucity of British
Honduran art supply a few additional local ones.
Raymond Barrow is a young Civil Servant, intelligent and sensitive, who has
contributed to Poetry of the Negro, by Langston Hughes and Arna Bontempts, and
to the B.B.C. Caribbean Voices programme. His verse is often quiet and unpre-
tentious, although some of his latest poems show a pretty turn of violent metaphor.
Within his self-imposed limits he can write melodiously with an ear for the dying
fall and a quick eye for the attractive comparison. So far his poetic aims have
been limited-perhaps wisely so, for he is well aware of the difficulties of being
universal in a parochial environment. The signs of development which have been
clear in the past two years arouse hopes that he may broaden his scope in the
Honourable mention should be given to Hugh Fuller and Leo Bradley, both
of whom have senses attuned to the beauties of the land, if in a somewhat conven-
tional manner, and to Branston Clark, whose experiments with metre and sensitivity
to word-nuances are at present rather obscured by a metaphysical turn of mind which
leads to clotted imagery and some obscurity.

Four Poems



Dawn is a fisherman, his harpoon of light
Poised for a throw-so swiftly morning comes:
The darkness squats upon the sleeping land
Like a flung cast-net, and the black shapes of boats
Lie hunched like nesting turtles
On the flat calm of the sea.
Among the trees the houses peep at the stars
Blinking farewell, and half-awakened birds
Hurtle across the vista, some in the distance
Giving their voice self-criticized auditions.

Warning comes from the cocks, their necks distended
Like city trumpeters: and suddenly
Between the straggling fences of grey cloud
The sun, a barefoot boy, strides briskly up
The curved beach of the sky, flinging his greetings
Warmly in all directions, laughingly saying
Up, up, the day is here! Another day is here!


At twelve o'clock the maddened sun charges
the city; a flourish of klaxons, cycle bells,
and counter-clerks' hurrying to their
appointed meal prelude his daily tantrum.
Watch him propel his entrance from a door
sprung vertical to the reflector-sky-
a frothing bull dropped into the arena
of guttered streets and wilted wooden houses.
His purpled rage disintegrates the asphalt,
and city folk, entrenched in sheltered niches,
helplessly view the wanton holocaust
of brittle grass, and paint-peeled walls, and trees
stoutly assuaging heat for park-benched stragglers.
Blindly he flings his fury at closed doors
of shops, and errant drays wheel cautiously
along the vacant streets once thick with noise.
His frenzy spent, he squats above the square
surveying in disdain the rampage grounds
And people stir and the bustling city throws
taunts of indifference at this jaded foe
as chatter surges and the cycle bells
resume their spate of talk at one o'clock.


There is a mystic splendour that one feels
Walking this shore in the half-light of dawn,
Placing one's footprints on the sands where keels
Of ancient vessels must have beached and drawn.

For there are tales that speak of glorious days
When martial shouting rang within our Bay,
And cannons thundered, and black battle haze
Clouded this sickle isle with dark affray.

Those were the times when privateers fled
The predatory Brethren of the Coast;
Pirates and buccaneers-all these are dead,
And all their lordly sway seems but a ghost.
But even now the surf's loud thunder brings
Sound strangely clear-like battle cries of old;
And palm trees murmur of deep-sunken things,
Of buried treasure chests and Morgan's gold


Deep in the heart, beyond all sight, there lies
A volume of those long-remembered things
Which, in the gloom of sorrows and of sighs
Crept forth and sang of hope a stout faith brings.
And from these things has drawn, this heart of mine,
Comfort and succour that will prove full meed
When in the drought of aging years I pine
For sustenance in some small hour of need.
Clear on each page they are: a touch of hand
In sympathy; or laughter of surprise;
Or morn of beauty; or some romping band
Of children with adventure in their eyes.

And yet invisibly, a knife-like blade
Marks where one beam brought sunlight to my shade.

Financing British Universities


This article is based on an address given by Sir Raymond Priestley
to the Association of Universities of the British Commonwealth in New
Zealand, September 1950.
Sir Raymond is Vice-Chancellor of the University of Birmingham and
was until recently a member of the Inter-University Council for Higher
Education in the Colonies. He has had experience of the Universities of
Bristol, Birmingham and Cambridge in England and Sydney and
Melbourne in Australia.

WHEN I first took part in university administration in the early part of what may,
I fear, prove to be the first interlude in the First World War, the country at large
was AWARE of its universities but not greatly interested in them. It thought of
them chiefly in terms of Oxford and Cambridge, and, perhaps, the London external
examination system, and as something rather apart from the general stream of the
national life. A large number of scholars from all walks of life IN FACT went to
the universities, but the mass of the people still regarded them rather as the home
of privilege and as a place apart. I was then at Cambridge and I certainly at that
time rather welcomed that attitude and was inclined to feel that we were sufficient to
ourselves and to be supremely uninterested in life outside. I believe I was not
atypical in those days. As the result of the War of 1914-1918 the State had been
obliged to come to the rescue of the universities with a grant which, by the time
peace was once more broken in 1939, amounted to two and a quarter million pounds
a year. By some national standards the Old Country was being rather parsimonious
with her universities, but she was still more than well abreast of most nations in
the Commonwealth. When I arrived in Birmingham from Melbourne in 1938 my
new university received, from National and local governments combined, about
110,000 a year for 1,720 students, of whom 1,500 were full-time. Melbourne at
that time was struggling along with over 4,000 students, more than half of them
full-time, with less than 70,000 a year from the State and no help at all from the
city. I should add that in the following decade its position so far improved that its
State grant is now 400,000 a year. But when I first arrived in Melbourne I asked a
policeman the way to the University. He did not know. I said, "I believe it is
somewhere beyond the Carlton Brewery" "Ah!" he said at once, "then it's just
along up there"
But the thing that really mattered in the United Kingdom was the way the
national grant was administered. Britain delights in anomalies of government, at
least she always has so delighted in the past. Where else could one find the
Treasury directly administering a large spending organization like the universities?
The system is extraordinary, but among its many virtues is the fact that it has

worked to admiration. Whoever devised it is unquestionably the greatest bene-
factor the British universities ever had, and they have had many great benefactors.
Directly under the Treasury stood (as it still stands) the University Grants Com-
mittee, a body of responsible citizens, chosen on their individual merits, representing
no interests; seized of the vital importance of the universities to the national welfare
-a crucial fact of which at that time, we should remember, the nation as a whole
was quite unaware. Most of these men had university experience-the Chairman
for many years was an ex Vice-Chancellor. Every five years they made a visitation
round the universities and an assessment of their needs. In between they leaned
over backward to avoid interference, in substance or in shadow, with the use of the
block grants they persuaded out of Parliament through the Chancellor of the
Exchequer. They were always available if advice was needed. They proffered
unsought advice less often even than some university administrators and teachers
thought desirable. The universities, if somewhat cramped financially, were at any
rate completely free inside the external financial strait-jacket within which they
were confined.
There was, of course, quite obvious justification for this policy of non-
intervention. The university income was roughly one-third fees, one-third income
from investment, only one-third Government grant. There were wide departures
from the norm, but this was the over-all picture. The supporters of university
autonomy had lots of ammunition for their guns, and governments were not quite
the armour-clad leviathans they have become today. We had reason to be proud
of our system which consorted well with the Briton's passion for freedom and his
ingenuity for shaping government to his ends and making principle take precedence
over logic and symmetry of form. Government-aided universities in less happy
lands were not faring so well.
Then came the war, and the uneasy peace that has followed the war. The
change in the university situation has astounded the most farsighted university
officers-teachers and administrators alike. We have been SHOCKED in the best
sense of the word.
Until the war broke out Britain had treated her universities well as regards
freedom of development and administration, but had been, as I have said, rather
niggardly towards them. If there is truth in the old proverb "the nearer the bone,
the sweeter the meat" the quality of our products should have been very good.
These were the days when from month to month every pound had to be looked
at twice.
As regards capital development, we received no significant help from the State
at all. In this fact there was implied a seldom recognized threat to the autonomy
and free development of the university though, in fact, under British conditions,
it never became more than a threat. We were entirely dependent for development
upon benefactions from individuals and interested firms. Already the trend of
social evolution was such that substantial increase in income from fees was
impossible without increase in numbers. Already it was recognized throughout the
universities that original contribution to knowledge was an essential part of the
university teacher's job. It followed from this that no new student paid anything
like the full cost of his education even if he paid fees in full. It is very seldom
that a benefactor is a big enough man, or sufficiently interested in university
education as a general proposition, to give money without strings. A benefaction

of half a million pounds to enable Cambridge University to teach Chemical
Engineering would, for example, urge that university willy-nilly a fair distance
along the path away from what is euphemistically called Pure Science. So, just as
we need to remember that in their earliest days universities had a vocational angle
to their objective, turning out divines, lawyers and legislators; we must not claim
that before the days of State support the British universities were free to develop
entirely uncontrolled. It was true that they had it in their power to be selective
and in consequence to stand quite still. Sometimes they did, with surprising and,
to outside observers, somewhat appalling results.
During the 1914-18 War the universities had practically ceased operation except
for the then comparatively few women, for conscientious objectors and for invalids
not fit to bear the strain of war. They contributed rather more than their fair share
to the national toll of one million dead. Through 1939-1945 things were different.
We were kept at full stretch all the time. There was a certain disturbance in our
balance. In the Humanities and the Social Sciences staff and students dwindled
as men and women were called away to service in the armed forces or in the
Government machine and the munitions industry upon which the defending and
striking forces of a people in arms must be based. Numbers in the biological
sciences also shrank. A decision at Cabinet level kept medicine and dentistry at
full strength for obvious reasons. Science and applied science were not only main-
taified at full strength: more rapid turnover was achieved through shortened
courses so that output was substantially increased. The introduction of modern
battle training in the reorganized Training Corps gave a sense of urgency and a
somewhat warlike appearance to the whole, and created a vital atmosphere that
was intensified in the case of some universities by the rain of bombs.
On the research side activity never slacked; it merely suffered change of
emphasis and direction. My own university, typical of the university scene of those
war days, produced the Magnetron valve; made significant contributions to the
tempering of tank armour; experimented with flame-throwers and incendiary fuels;
made an essential contribution to the theory of atomic fission; and sent a large team
overseas to participate in the manufacture of the Atomic Bomb.
The result of all this was that when the war ended the nation was thoroughly
seized of the importance of the scientist and the engineer to its welfare in war. It
was also clear as crystal that, if Britain was to keep her head above financial
waters in the post-war world, it could only be through the success of an all-out
export drive. Her financial resources were over-strained: her investments realized:
across the "Pond' there was a giant that had emerged from war as Antaeus rose
refreshed from contact with Earth. It would require a Hercules to keep on terms,
and in the post-war world of mechanism that Hercules would require to make the
most of both head and hand. That, again, meant more scientists and engineers.
The result of the Government's survey of the situation was the Barlow Report.
The universities were urged-even instructed-to double their output of scientists
in the next ten years. A slightly academic but welcome afterthought doubled the
task again. To prevent lack of balance and departure from the university ideal,
the number of students in other Faculties was to be similarly increased. The
Cabinet approved the report. It was transmitted to the University Grants Com-
mittee as the basis of their policy. All necessary finance was promised. For the

first time the State undertook responsibility for major capital development. The
whole university financial scene was transformed.
In the years that have followed it has, for the British universities, been some-
thing of a race against time. As regards quantity, that race has been won: about
quality, we are not quite so sure, but we believe that, on the whole, standards have
been maintained. In five years numbers have been practically doubled. The
annual Government grant has risen from 2j million to 12 million pounds a year. At
the end of the present quinquennium two years hence it will be near 15 million
pounds. A not inconsiderable proportion of this money has been devoted to
improving the attractiveness of our teaching posts, particularly the senior teaching
For the first time the Government has made itself responsible for capital
development over the whole University field. The sum of 40 million pounds has
been placed at the University Grants Committee's disposal for capital development,
and more is promised.
The building and housing situation has, of course, prevented the use of this
money for its intended purpose but something has been done, partly through huts,
partly through purchases and conversions, partly though far too little, through
new permanent buildings. We remain overcrowded and frustrated, but we are
sustained through the feeling that we share our disabilities with the rest of our
world, and that these disabilities are the result of circumstance and fate and not
caused, as so often in the past, by the wilful obstruction and neglect of those who
should have been our backers and our friends.
We have, as I have said, maintained our academic standards better than after
the 1914-18 War. I think the staff-student ratio has, in fact, improved, at any rate
in the civic universities with which I am now more particularly concerned. The
amenities that make for true university education have suffered it is true. But
we are aware of the lack and the danger that it brings in its train. We are
all making experiments in "liberal" education, as this essential aspect of university
education has been somewhat unhappily termed.
The acceptance by the Government of responsibility for capital development
brings consequences in its train. Today in most of the countries with which we are
concerned we have-for good or ill-gone a long way along the road to the Welfare
State. It is inevitable that the State should be the main support of the universities.
The rl6e of the private benefactor has changed, but we have more need of him than
ever before. It is for him to provide the "frills" that make all the difference
between competent professional training and university education in the best and
widest sense. A great benefactor left my University nearly one million pounds to
inculcate in the whole University an appreciation of Music and the Arts. It never
had a better gift. This is an example few could duplicate, but it illustrates well my
present thesis. We need men all over the Commonwealth who will, within their
means, aid us in making university education a civilizing force in an increasingly
technological world.
What about university autonomy in all this turmoil and change? The answer
is that it has been maintained in all its essentials. The universities themselves
suggested that, with government support increased from 30 per cent. to 60 per cent.
it was reasonable that the University Grants Committee should abandon its complete

neutrality. The principle of the block quinquennial grant has been, broadly speak-
ing, maintained. The University Grants Committee has been widened in its per-
sonnel and the average age of its members substantially reduced. Today it contains
serving professors. I can imagine that fact might occasionally embarrass individual
Vice-Chancellors, for professors are human and have human frailties, as indeed
Vice-Chancellors have, but their presence on the Committee as a class cannot but
strengthen the universities' position. The terms of reference of the Committee have
been widened. They are now specifically charged with the duty of seeing that the
whole field of university studies is covered and that, outside the essential corporate
body of knowledge that every university must teach, unnecessary duplication does
not occur. In the pursuit of this objective they have had, in certain major fields,
to resort temporarily to earmarked grants. The universities have acquiesced, but
both Committee and universities are at one in the determination that the return to
undifferentiated block grants covering the whole university field should not be too
long delayed. Apart from these developments, acceptable and unavoidable in such
a fluid situation, no jot or tittle of State intervention has appeared.
If I have one passionate faith it is that the Commonwealth we represent has
something to give to the world in its agony today that no other group of peoples
can provide. Among these gifts are toleration arid humour: respect for truth in
essentials: a sense of the overriding importance of man as an individual, with the
twin corollaries that in the long run good government must be firmly based upon
self-discipline and that the rights of minorities must be safeguarded by the dominant
majority. The universities should be the fine flower of the spirit of the Common-
wealth. This can only be if they set greater store than ever by the basic values
and principles for and by which a university stands. In a true university the
twin primary objectives are the fearless, selfless and unceasing pursuit of truth and
new knowledge, and the unbiassed interpretation and objective transmission of the
body of experience and knowledge already gained. Whatever his creed or his poli-
tics, the university-worthy teacher will not swerve from these two goals. For their
attainment the university must be free to take its own path so that it can create,
through community activity of one sort or another, an environment-physical,
mental and spiritual-which makes for education for life in the broadest sense. It
cannot do this if it is starved: nor can it achieve its objectives if it is cramped in the
strait-waistcoat of totalitarianism. Of this the world has surely had sufficient
proof. I say to you as I have said at home: trust your university and finance it so
that it will attract the right quality of staff and students. Equip it adequately.
Leave the essentials of administration in academic hands. Give it a staff-student
ratio such that its staff can devote a fair proportion of their energy to original
research. It will repay you by safeguarding the standards by which alone Man
may walk with self-respect before God and his Neighbour.


The Green Flash


IN THE WEST INDIES, where so many people live within sight of, if not actually on,
the sea, we have the finest opportunities for observing the phenomenon of the Green
Flash. Its demand on our time, moreover, amounts morning or evening or both to
a mere couple of minutes, and is not compulsory. I refer to the bright green-blue
light flashed from the sun at the moment of sunrise and at sunset.
Perhaps your observations in this matter have been the same as my own, but
possibly you have not had the good fortune to have had them ratified and explained
by a scientist.
Before beginning to compare notes, it will be interesting to remind ourselves
that light takes time to travel. When the sun in the evening is about to touch the
horizon, it is not really the sun we are looking at at all, but the light from it, which
has taken all that time to travel to us; for actually the whole orb is already entirely
below the horizon. And when we are watching for the last flash, the sun is about
to be already three times as far below the horizon as before. Similarly at
sunrise, when we are patiently waiting those few minutes for the appearance of the
green light, the sun is already entirely clearing the horizon.
Anywhere in the world, I suppose, and in the tropics on not too bright an
evening, when you have been able to look at the sun, you may have noticed how
much larger the orb seems to be at sunset than when high up in the heavens in the
middle of the day, and how its colour seems to have changed from pure gold to
red gold. Here is my friend's explanation:

The white light of the sun can be split up into the Spectrum colours,
either by a prism, or by a raindrop which has the same effect as a prism-
hence the Rainbow. This is called Refraction because it has to do with
Breaking. Before the "breaking point'' is reached, light can be bent, as is
obvious if you put your arm into water-it appears to be bent at the point
that it enters the water.
When the sun is setting, its rays strike the atmosphere at an increasingly
oblique angle, with the result that as the rays become appreciably bent, the
size of the sun appears to increase (towards sunset) and its colour turns to red.

But what of the green flash itself ? If you were born in the West Indies, you
may have been introduced to the phenomenon as a youth. If on the contrary you
became a resident out here later in life, it will have been pointed out to you. There
it is. Not on any specially brilliant evening, but even when there are clouds about,
some of them actually in part obscuring the sun, you will see it, and may well
wonder what it is and what causes it. The trick about seeing it of course is on no
account to look at the sun until it has all but submerged : otherwise your eyes

will be completely dazzled, and you may see (or not see) anything. Then, having
become interested, in what you have seen with the naked eye, you may have the
brain wave to use your field-glasses or binoculars. What you see then will fill you
with excitement, and possibly make you exclaim "Am I the first person ever to look
at this thing through field-glasses ? No, you are not scientists will tell you that
this is of course far the best way of observing the phenomenon.
However, before proceeding to relate all that may be seen, it will be well at
this juncture to explain how and why the green light appears at all. Of course, all
sorts of amateurish explanations have been offered. Scoffers will tell you that it is
all imagination, hallucination, occasioned by your eyes being completely dazzled.
Fortunately there is no need to start arguing as to whether or not we were
dazzled in the evening, because the quickest answer is that there can be no question
of our being dazzled in the morning before ever the sun has risen, and yet it is then
too that the green flash is to be seen to perfection. Another suggestion made on
one occasion was that the green light, which in this case was admitted as real, was
nothing else than the sun shining through the surface of the sea as it finally descended.
I backed this theory myself for some time, and I was in good company. But the
bottom was knocked out of it when we learnt that the phenomenon was visible over
dry land, and even, as will be seen just now, when the sun disappears behind a
cloud. After this there was nothing left to do but to appeal to the scientists, and
they have not been found wanting.
As we have already been informed, the light of the sun can be split up into
the colours of the rainbow, red and yellow, green and blue and all the colors in
between. No less an authority than the Royal Astronomer some twenty years ago
made the following statement from Greenwich about the green light itself

The component light rays are refracted (split up or broken) unequally
during their long passage through air, green and blue light being refracted
through a greater angle than red and yellow on account of shorter wave
length. At the instant when the last solar ray is cut off at the horizon, the
blue and green components alone are horizontal for the observer, and the
sun disappears from his view as a greenish-blue point. Given the necessary
atmospheric conditions, the phenomenon may also be seen at sunrise.

This then is the scientific explanation of the Green Flash. Whether it answers
all the questions you will want to ask after you have finished making your observa-
tions, remains to be seen.
What is it you have observed, looking at the last rays of sunlight through your
binoculars ? To begin at the end, on good evenings, when the atmosphere is not
excessively clear and the light therefore less than ever likely to dazzle you, you have
seen two green lights, seemingly growing in dimensions, in reality spreading and
meeting and finally producing the one great Green Flash. Yes, as you look at the
little arc of what is left of the sun just before it submerges, you will see that the
two extremities touching the horizon are the first to become green, followed pretty
quickly by the whole of the now tiny arc becoming green.
But long before this you will have noticed other things. Your friends may
be already smiling at you for now seeing two green lights instead of one; so that

when you return home next day and say you have seen the Green Flash twice on
the same evening, they may begin to fear for your sanity. And when finally you
come bursting in upon them with the news that you have seen the thing six times
in half that number of minutes, they will be convinced that you have gone clean
crazy. Never mind: leave them alone, to die in their-innocence. Or better still,
lead them out, complete with field-glasses, to see for themselves the error of their
ways teach them to enjoy the thrill of the Green Flash. For, actually, with a
shaft of dark cloud cutting conveniently through or across the sun, it is not so very
uncommon an occurrence to see two green flashes near the horizon. But where
you will get a pleasant surprise is when there is a cloud just clear of the horizon,
and the sun gives the green flash as it disappears behind that. This opens a whole
field of possibilities; and you look forward to evenings when, far from being
cloudless (a condition that may well be essential for the observation of the phenome-
non in colder climates, but not in this) there are good clouds about, and you will
have the satisfaction of counting the flashes of green by the half dozen. On the
first occasion that you saw the flash above a cloud, you may have thought for the
moment that it was too good to be true, or that then, at all events, it ought by
rights to be seen over the desert. And you may rest assured, for the phenomenon
has been observed over the desert, and may be expected over any clear-cut horizon
not far above the level of the sea.
We are not as yet, however, quite out of the wood. Given a good cloud well
clear of the horizon, you will see the flash as the sun disappears be'ow it, but never
when the sun emerges from beneath it ; and look as you may, you never will. That
astonished me until I was enlightened. The explanation is this. The rays of the
sun appearing below the cloud are not sufficiently bent (as explained above) and
they will only become so again when the sun submerges below another convenient
cloud, or below the horizon itself.
But this raises an interesting point. Whereas layers of cloud are common
enough at sunset, they are by no means common at sunrise. But if, watching the
sunrise, you are lucky to meet with layers of cloud, you ought to see a succession
of flashes as the sun appears above each one. Because we must make it clear to
ourselves that the sun rising from below the horizon is a quite different proposition
from the sun dropping below a cloud and there is no reason why you should not
see the flash a second time at sunrise, or even a third time, when the sun emerges
from any clear-cut clouds just above the horizon. I have never witnessed this
myself as yet but opportunities for watching the sunrise are not as easy for me
as the sunset, and in any case it is a well established fact that the necessary atmos-
pheric conditions are not as common in the early morning as they are in the evening,
and seldom do the kindly layers of cloud we want put in an appearance. On the
other hand I have seen some magnificent flashes at sunrise, for example last
Christmas-eve, when the flash seemed to last for years (!), that is for about three
And this brings me to the final point. How long does the flash last ? Is it
always of the same duration ? Should it not rather be called the Green Light instead
of merely the Green Flash ? Certainly, when one sees it at dawn, the clear-cut
change from the green to the orange can but remind one of the changing lights on
our highways. I may fittingly conclude therefore with a final quotation from the

Master of Science who has so kindly instructed us from three thousand miles across
the Atlantic

A further point that you may be interested in following up is the duration
of the flash. As you doubtless know, the axis of the earth is oblique to its
path around the sun, and this inclination varies from a minimum at the
Equinox to a maximum at Christmas and midsummer. The minimum dura-
tion of the flash at the Equator would be the time the sun takes to pass
from the position 36 minutes (angular minutes) below the horizon to
364 minutes below. This period, at the Equinox, would be 2 seconds. The
duration would increase as one passed away from the Equator. From the
map I see that you are not far from the Equator, so you see the flash for
the shortest time near the Equinox, and for a longer time towards Christmas
and midsummer.


A Letter to the Editor

Dear Sir,
May I ask space to correct the serious
misapprehension under which Dr. Henriques
is labouring when he attempts to phrase
(Caribbean Quarterly, Vol. II, No. I, p. 17)
my position concerning the origin of family
types in the West Indies. It is a serious
distortion of the findings of my research to
describe it as holding that "the original
West African forms of the family survived
in the Caribbean and the New World
generally" The dichotomy set up between
my presumed view and his-which I will
not here criticize, since its inadequacy will
be patent to any Africanist, and its logic
is, in any event, difficult to follow-is
merely to lay the background for serious
The point I have advanced in my research
and publications, insofar as Africanisms are
concerned, can be summarized by the two
concepts retention and reinterpretation.
Dr. Henriques is obviously not familiar with
the work by Mrs. Herskovits and myself
entitled Trinidad Village, where the reinter-
pretations of African family customs, under
the influence of the New World setting, are
analyzed in detail (pp. 9-17, Ch. V, and
especially pp. 293-296).
To clarify the presumed issue, I may
quote from my most recent statement on
the point, contained in a paper entitled
"The Present Status and Needs of Afro-
american Research", and published in The
Journal of Negro History, April, 1951:

"African custom, in relative purity,
does exist in the New World, often
in unsuspected places and to an
unexpected degree But taking
the entire New World into account,
purity of retention is the exception,
not the rule. Retentions of African
behaviour, it is true, are found in most
New World Negro communities, but
they are present principally in reinter-
preted form. The degree of reinterpre-
tation varies with the geographical and
political unit studied, and from region
to region. Above all, it varies with
socio-economic status. In those strata
of society where there has been full
access to the cultural resources of the
dominant group, even reinterpreted
element would be idiosyncratic, rarely
patterned." (p. 145)
Should Dr. Henriques feel that he could
scarcely be held to account for not knowing
a paper published so recently, it can be
pointed out that Trinidad Village appeared
in 1947, that another book of mine, The
Myth of the Negro Past, in which this point
of view was put forward, appeared in 1941,
while he could have found still a further
development of my position in a paper that
appeared in Phylon in 1946, entitled "Pro-
blem, Method and Theory in Afroamerican
Very sincerely yours,



'LETTERS TO A YOUNG TEACHER'-A. V. P. Elliott-(Longmans Green
& Co. pp. 66.)

THE TITLE of this booklet might be a little
misleading. These letters are to the teacher
in training. Their aim is to help to develop
in the students the right attitudes towards
Training College work, towards practice in
the schools and towards their vocation
generally. It does not pretend to be an
exhaustive treatise on education but sets
out simply and in a charmingly intimate
and sincere way the direction in which the
young teacher ought to be looking. A few
quotations will indicate the general tone of
the letters.

'Don't be misled by the expression
"Teacher Training" The staff of the
college can start you on the road to
becoming a good teacher, but neither
they nor anyone else can "train" you,
in the sense in which people train a dog
to do tricks, a horse to carry a rider, or
a camel to kneel down when its master
makes a gurgling noise in the back of
his throat'

'Education thrives in an atmosphere
of friendliness'.

'Never be afraid of things above your
head. It's good to look up at the stars
occasionally. You may never know all
about them, but you ought to walk in
their light'.
The first letter attempts to persuade the
would-be teacher to look realistically at the
profession he has decided to enter and to
consider carefully its disadvantages as well
as its attractions. The writer next com-
ments on the nature of the work of the
Training Colleges and begins a discussion on
the fundamental aims and methods of
education which takes up the major part of
the work. In the last four letters he has
some very useful and shrewd things to say
about the young teacher's relations with his
colleagues and with parents when he enters
his first job.

The limited scope of the letters makes it
easy to criticize omissions according to the
particular predilections and prejudices of
the reader. Neither the aesthetic nor the
scientific sides of education receive more
than a brief mention, and surely a much
better case could be made out for manual
education even within the narrow limits of
this booklet. The important thing is that
the author achieves what he has set out to
do. He has written a book which it is fun
to read-and can be read comfortably
within a couple of hours; and he has pre-
sented basic issues of education in clear-cut
terms that should challenge even the most
indifferent student.


"THE BRITISH WEST INDIES"-W. L. Burn-(Hutchinson's University
Library. London, 1951.)

PROFESSOR BURN'S small book should be of
value to all those who are interested in
West Indian history. According to the pub-
lisher's note, the University Library series,
of which this work forms a part, is meant
to provide "popular yet scholarly introduc-
tions" for the general reader and especially
the non-professional student interested in
systematic study of his chosen subject.
There is no doubt that Professor Burn has
fulfilled this limited purpose most admir-
ably. His book-an exercise in compression
-offers an accurate and precise summary
of the more important modern contributions
to the study of British West Indian history.
In the West Indies, both teachers and
students, whether reading West Indian his-
tory in extra-mural classes or in schools
under the new Cambridge Higher Examina-
tion syllabus, will find this short text-
with its appended booklist-among the most
useful of the studies at present available.

This book is not merely a summary, how-
ever. By his analysis and correlation of all
these other works, the author of this new
book produces a more integrated interpre-
tation of the whole area and its historical
background. His approach is, generally
speaking, chronological. The book is divided
into seven chapters-the first of which is
introductory and the last a survey of the
dilemmas which face these territories at the

present day. In the remaining five chap-
ters, he describes and analyses the initial
period of expansion and colonization from
the days of Drake and Hawkins to the
Restoration of the Stuarts in England: the
troubled yet stabilizing period of wars at
the end of the seventeenth century; the
great central and formative period of the
eighteenth century, with its slavery and its
more extensive wars; the significant times
which produced the movements for abolition
and emancipation; and, finally, the slow and
painful adjustment of a freed society in the
later nineteenth century.
In tracing this story, Professor Burn
stresses the fact that the share of the West
Indies in shaping their own destiny has
always been limited. This is both obvious
and true-as his book illustrates at every
point in its chronicling of wars, diplomacy,
and rivalries, of trade relations and of poli-
tical dependence. But is it enough to regard
the story of the British West Indies, as Burn
at one time seems to suggest, chiefly as an
opportunity for studying "the thoughts and
activities of men, and especially of English-
men, over three centuries?" The emphasis
surely involves something of a distortion.
To describe the career of such a man as
Lord Willoughby in the seventeenth century
is to illuminate the whole period of which he
was a product. But the biographical details

of the life of John Eyre, while they eluci-
date, cannot explain the events of 1865 in
Jamaica, when rioting broke out at Morant
Bay. For Eyre was, after all, hardly more
than a pawn in the game, broken in the
play of explosive internal forces. The sig-
nificance of 1865 and Morant Bay cannot,
in historical perspective, admit of an inter-
pretation centring around the figure of Eyre,
significantt as he himself was in the imme-
diate situation. It is one of the defects of
this book that Professor Burn treats these
events as an isolated occurrence, neglecting
to link them to the series of social disturb-
ances which form a theme of West Indian
history and which culminated in the great
outbreaks of the 1930's. His failure to note
any significant historical connection between
these events makes his judgment on the
Underhill letter a rather superficial one.
This superficiality stands out all the more
markedly in contrast to his penetrating
analysis of the structure and function of
Crown Colony government, which emerged
as a predominant form after x865.


The book shows, nevertheless, that Pro-
fessor Burn has that perception of differ-
ence-socially rather than racially deter-
mined, it might be added-which is of such
fundamental importance in the writing and
understanding of West Indian history. In
his discussion of the West Indian commu-
nity in the eighteenth century, he explicitly
stresses the fact that the existence of slavery
as an institution affected the nature of the
whole society, emphasizing its divergence
from the traditional society of England.
Both the strength and the weakness of his
book are related to the extent to which he
feels, and makes us feel, the tensions set up
by this duality-the almost casual ambiva-
lence, born of real dependence in conflict
with emergent separateness of identity. The
questions which he asks in his last chapter
concerning the present and future of the
West Indies are very relevant to this situa-
tion. Perhaps also, there is a moral in the
fact that he himself has not really attempted
to give a direct answer to any of them.