VOLUME 10. No. 3.
View of Church Street, St. George's Grenada, West Indies, showing
unusual porch construction. This architectural feature is discussed in
an article by J. R. Groome in this issue.
C A R I B B E A. N
Reprinted by permission of
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Editor: HECTOR WYNTER, Director of Extra-Mural Studies.
Acting Editor: A. A. THOMPSON, Acting Director of Extra-Mural
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Indies, Mona, Jamaica.
The Editor is advised by an Editorial Board, consisting of
members of the University Staff.
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Editorial Comments and Notes 1
THE POEMS OF DEREK WALCOTT
C. G. O. King 3
SEDAN-CHAIR PORCHES: A DETAIL OF
GEORGIAN ARCHITECTURE IN ST. GEORGE'S
J. R. Groome 31
DOCUMENTS WHICH HAVE GUIDED EDUCATIONAL POLICY
IN THE WEST INDIES, NO. 7
BAIN GRAY REPORT, BRITISH GUIANA, 1925.
Shirley C. Gordon 34
COMMENTARY: A NOTE ON JAMAICA'S MARINE FISHERIES
Hopeton Gordon 41
(i) A. Jacques Garvey, Garvey and Garveyism,
Gordon K. Lewis 50
(ii) Ramiro Y Guerra Y Sanchez, Sugar and Society in the
Caribbean, An Economic History of Cuban Agriculture,
Ruall C. Harris 53
BOOK LIST ... .... .... .... 55
VOL. 10. No. 3
NOTE ON MANUSCRIPTS
MSS. and Communications should be addressed to the Editor. Unsolicited MSS
which are not accepted for publication will be returned if accompanied by a stamped
Copyright reserved, and reproduction without permission strictly forbidden
Editorial Comment and Notes
SIR ALLEN LANE of Penguin Books Ltd., gave a prize in 1952 to
be awarded annually to the best essay on some aspect of English
Literature. The competition is open to students of all faculties. The
prize winners in 1953, 1955 and 1957 wrote on works of English authors;
but the prize winners of 1963 and 1964 chose to examine works of
West Indian authors. We published Mr. F G. Rohlehr's 1963 essay on
Naipaul's A House for Mr. Biswas in Volume 10 number 1. In this
issue we print the 1964 essay of Mr. Cameron King on The Poems of
Derek Walcott. Mr. King is from St. Vincent and wrote the essay In
his second year in the English special honours class.
The series of extracts, selected by Shirley Gordon, from documents
which have guided official policy on education in the West Indies which
we have been printing now numbers seven with the publication in this
issue of Extracts from the Report of the Commissioner of Education,
British Guiana, for 1925. The series began in Volume 8 number 3 with
extracts from Reverend John Stirling's Report of 1835. The other parts
are:- the Keenan Report, Volume 8 number 4 and Volume 9 number
1; the Mitchinson Report, Volume 9 number 3; Report on the Juvenile
Population of Jamaica, Volume 9 number 4; the Lumb Report, Volume
10 number 1; Report of the Education Commission, Trinidad, Volume
10 number 2.
The influence of Georgian architectural styles on builders in the
West Indies has been generally realized at least since the publication
of A. W. Ackworth's Report on Buildings of Architectural or Historic
Interest in the British West Indies (Colonial Research Studies No. 2,
H.M.S.O. 1947) gave currency to the styles through the publication of
photographs in the Report. The covers of Caribbean Quarterly and
the advertisements of Tourist Boards have since then made the more
striking examples of West Indian Georgian even more familiar to us.
In this issue we print a note by J. R. Groome of Grenada on an aspect
of this style in the West Indies. He was moved to write his informative
note by a letter in the journal Country Life of May 16, 1963; and we
are grateful to that journal and to Mr. Ronald Haynes for allowing
us to reproduce a drawing of his photograph of the porch at Chester.
The drawing was kindly done for us by Mr. Hugh Marshall. Our cover
is one of the photographs taken by Dr. Groome of the surviving sedan-
chair porches in St. George's. Dr. Groome would be glad to hear if
the style exists elsewhere In the West Indles and he would also
welcome comments. His address is Dr. J. R. Groome, G.P.O. Box 140,
We welcome three new contributors to this issue, Hopeton Gordon,
Ruall Harris and Gordon Lewis. The first two are graduates of this
University and the third Is Professor of Political Science, the University
of Puerto Rico, whose recent book, Puerto Rico: freedom and power in
the Caribbean, on the contemporary history and politics of Puerto Rico
has been widely acclaimed. Hopeton Gordon was teaching at Calabar
High School when he wrote his paper, but is now Resident Tutor,
Department of Extra-Mural Studies, in the Bahamas. Ruall Harris is
a post graduate student in history at Mona.
CONTRIBUTORS TO THIS ISSUE
Cameron King, Undergraduate, Department of English, U.W.I.
Shirley Gordon, Department of Education, U.W.I.
J. R. Groome, Grenada Boys Secondary School, Grenada.
Hopeton Gordon, Department of Extra-Mural Studies, U.W.I.
Ruall Harris, Postgraduate Student, Department of History, U.W.I.
Gordon K. Lewis, Department of Government, University of Puerto Rico.
The Poems Of Derek Walcott
VARIOUS critics of West Indian poetry have declared it unoriginal.
They suggest naively that the West Indian poet, having no tradition
of his own, is simply content to produce 'jackdaw collections' from a
long line of English poets. To such critics Derek Walcott must indeed
be a frustrating figure. For what his work clearly reveals is that a
poet's merit lies, not in creating a medium denoted by a cliquish label,
but in his power to grasp the elements of his own experience, and to
show, by placing them within a universal tradition, that they are a
meaningful part of the world's experience. In Walcott's poetry as well
as his plays, West Indian reality painfully conflicts with that of the
outside world, emphasizing each man's moral obligation to life itself.
Such work draws selectively on important historical lines, yet has its
own originality, shaped by the poet's native experience, and made more
striking by its universally significant context.
The Prelude at the beginning of In A Green Night provides a
suitable basis for discussing the various aspects of Walcott's poetry.
In It he admirably suggests the isolation of his Island home from the
rest of the world, the stagnant nature of the life there Into which one
Is drawn, and finally the awakened sense of purpose, and the revela-
tion gained in the attempt to pierce life's veil. The first three lines
are excellent, giving in atmosphere and tone the essence of the poem.
I, with legs crossed along the daylight, watch
The variegated fists of clouds that gather over
The uncouth features of this, my prone island.
The poet sits "with legs crossed along the daylight," and the unusual
metaphor suggests purposeless relaxation in an oblivion warmed by
sunlight. The clouds are given "variegated fists," an apt description
of the way clouds bunch; and the personification of "uncouth features"
and "prone" not only economically conveys the rugged aspect of the
land in "uncouth," but also completes in "prone" the idea of a bullying
Nature which, battering the island's features into uncouthness, has
floored and has it at its mercy. Movement and compactness of
expression are excellent, and the language serves very well the dual
purpose of vivid natural description and helpless isolation. The island
Is lost, a mere tourist attraction, as proved by the steamers which
"divide horizons," and in the "blue reflection of eyes," "behind ardent
binoculars," that "have known cities and think us here happy." Again,
the Ideas are conveyed with an efficacy which indicates perfectly the
isolation by filling in the visual scene begun with the first three lines.
To bunched clouds over the rugged features of an island sprawled in
the sun is added the sight of steamers crossing between dimly perceived
horizons with tourists on deck, so intent on watching that the binoculars
glued to their eyes seem to have generated an ardour of their own.
The "blue" reflection of eyes suggests also the blue of the sky in between
the white clouds. In this stagnant existence, as is implicit in his tone
of voice, Walcott is not content, simply patient; but "time creeps over
the patient who are too long patient," and so his choice made, he dis-
covers that his boyhood has already "gone over." The very movement
of the lines with the vividly suggestive word "creeps" makes us think
of Time in physical terms crawling cyclically over him, and carrying
in a material sense each phase of age, that of boyhood having
already "gone over" The next section hints ironically at what are
the later stages of life in the island. The "profound" cigarette, "the
turned doorhandle", "the knife turning in the bowels of the hours"
These lines abound in suggestion, as does the greater part of Walcott's
poetry. They conjure up to me an age of retiring ease with profound
drags on cigarettes which are a mere pose to hide the mental stagna-
tion beneath the surface, and which gyrates continually around the
act of sex, if we place emphasis on "turned doorhandle" and "knife
turning in the bowels" which convey in their movement the appropriate
motion. Indeed, there is so much association hidden in the lines that
It is easy to see them as evoking sex images. "Profound" suggests
depth, hence subconscious depth, the idea of "turned doorhandle" that
of entry through, from a door of consciousness to one of subconscious-
ness, and at this level, the "knife" becomes a Freudian male sex symbol
turning deep in the bowels. On another level the knife is a symbol
of the murderous, self-destructive abuse of unbridled sensual living.
A stagnant existence, summed up, as in the Eliot phrase, "birth,
copulation and death." At his stage of development within this life,
the poet goes through all the acts peculiar to it.
I go of course through all the isolated acts,
Make a holiday of situations,
Straighten my tie and fix important jaws,
And note the living images
Of flesh that saunter through the eye.
Such felicitous expression with a definite visual image at its core recalls
clearly the perpetual holiday conditions prevailing in the experience.
It is quite typical of the smaller islands in the Eastern Caribbean, the
procession of acts which have no inherently important meaning, and
the tendency to approach every work situation in a casual, holiday
spirit. The third line is excellent. The picture leaps clear to the mind,
of the poet standing before "a mirror straightening his tie and fixing
important jaws," and we get the idea of an endless daily ritual of tie-
straightening in which an empty self-importance is acted out in "fixing
important jaws." Finally in the middle of the journey through life,
O how I came upon you, my
Reluctant leopard of the slow eyes.
These are two of the most powerful lines in the Prelude. The leopard
image brings to mind an old saying, "Can the leopard change his
spots? Character persists," and in the present context implies that
what you truly are will eventually emerge, once the quest for self-
development is launched. This, at last, is what has happened for the
poet, and the last line with its image of a leopard rolling its eyes
slowly in that calm calculating way which suggests a tremendous
strength and agility ready to be unleashed, very effectively connotes
to the strength and calm produced by inner development and under-
standing. The process of development we shall not of course be
acquainted with till we have examined his lesson of suffering in
"accurate iambics," but this introductory poem places us at the
beginning of the journey, accompanied by the relevant passengers
with whom we must travel in examination, Walcott, his island, a
breeding ground of stagnant apathy, and the outside world from which
the West Indies seem significantly isolated.
The poem, The Harbour seems to strike initially the keynote of
intention and aspiration. The picture created is of fishermen rowing
home in the silent dusk. They do not question the stilness through
which they move, he says, so on the eve of a new sunrise he should
not dwell either on the calm shelter which the harbour has provided,
since its emotional associations are powerful and feeling drowns the
intellect. And so there shall be "no secret faring forth" of what is
within; Time alone knows that "bitter and sly sea, and love raises
walls." Ostensibly then, we are given the idea of a physical journey,
the real implication behind which is the poet's outward journey on
the sea of life. Two preceding lines with their powerful visual impulse
establish a link with "love raises walls."
The night urger of old lies
Winked at by stars that sentry the humped hills.
A vivid picture of night with its stars and hunched hills, made vivid by
the activity of the verb "winked" and the sense of these active stars
appearing to be guards of the "humped" hills, is induced by simply
including the phrase, urgerr of old lies," to suggest other nights in
similar settings and on which some woman inspired by the atmosphere
has perhaps uttered romantic untruths. Love and the perception
which it gives into motive thus raises the walls of internal conflict.
But as one writer says, "ambition is the only power which combats
love," and so this sea, the ocean flow of life on which he is now
travelling, takes priority; it is a more cruel one than any dilemma of
love, one capable of shipwrecking the individual. The unthinking,
those content with simply existing, may "climb safe to liners," to cling
in blind acceptance to the world's enigma; with calm determination
he will venture forth on his own, a seafarer in his small craft on the
waters of destiny, though he may never reach, though they may hear
rumours of his shipwreck Incurred by the boundless nature of his
aspirations. The language of this poem has a compactness and pre-
cision here reminiscent of the seventeenth century, and one thinks
of Donne and Marvell, but the tone is very suggestive of Tennyson's
'Ulysses' and helps to create by association the mood of discovery and
exploration which Walcott would convey. The total meaning is in this
way greatly enriched. Walcott may have learnt the principle from
Eliot whose influence in this direction seems to have been considerable,
extending even as far as the Italian poet, Eugenio Montale.
This desire to pierce life's meaning has been stimulated by the
harsh impact of reality, forcing its shock in on the inner self, a reality
aggravated by conditions in the external environment, of poverty,
isolation and ignorance on various levels. Its impact on the inner life
is dealt with in Orient and Immortal Wheat, as shown in the
experience of a little boy of thirteen tormented by fever and made to
feel the monstrous, oppressive atmosphere of Nature in his affliction.
To grasp the full meaning of the poem it must be read in the context
of the author, Traherne, quoted initially. Traherne was a mystic of
the seventeenth century who believed in the spiritual vision of child-
hood. Heaven for him was there eternally in the present on earth,
completely discernible in the innocent child's vision, but also visible
to the adult, if only he would use his eyes to the purpose for which
God gave him them.
Our blessedness to see
Is even to the Deity
A beatific vision! He attains
His ends while we enjoy. He in us reigns.
Walcott, on the other hand, shows how the belief in the original sin of
Adam with its acceptance of sickness and misery as the inevitable lot
of man plunges innocent youth, "absolved in limacol and evening
prayer," into misery and confused oppression, and cancels all possibility
of vision. This for the poet is what really gives birth to sin, the sin
of ignorance in which the ritual of superstitiously directed prayer
impresses on the receptive mind of a fever-stricken small boy the
heritage of "original sin," and makes his bright world a suddenly horrid
place. The point is emphasized by the dazzling visions of sun-struck
galvanize seen through the youngster's window. This, the poet says
ironically, in answer to Traherne, is the heaven revealed to young eyes.
So many subtle allusions unite in the poem that the total meaning is
greatly strengthened. The youngster "sweats inherent sin"; then in
the excellent portrait drawn, we see him in feverish detachment, "dusk
/ / /
rougeing his peaked face," studying "the swallows stitch the opposing
/ / / / /
eaves/in repetitions of the fall from grace." First, the imagery brings
a clear picture, we see the flushed pink face made more so by the
reflection of red sunset in dusk; then the movement of the next line
which is run-on, with trochaic and frequent pyrrhic modulation on the
base, vividly suggests the sudden and continued downward flitting of
the birds. This image is made to point to the "fall from grace" and
we immediately think of Milton's Paradise Lost and the Fall of Man.
The language is really effective and succeeds in showing how the
physical surroundings of the boy take on to him an appearance
coincident with his own flushed physical condition. So he weeps, as a
youngster in such misery would weep, without quite knowing why, at
"dazzling visions of reflected tin." The circumstance is reminiscent of
Wordsworth in The Prelude where the sudden monstrous shape of a
crag round a curve in the bay filled his heart with dread. In this way
for the boy,
Heaven is revealed to fevered eyes,
So is sin born, and innocence made wise,
In intimations of hot galvanize.
Allusions here to Traherne and to Wordsworth coincide, to the
former in the first line, and to the latter in "intimations" of the last
line. All these parallels emphasize the contrast which Walcott is
making. The conclusive point made is that the endowing of God with
human characteristics throws the very shadows of hell on living instead
of leading to heaven, and lays ironically a charge against Christ who
Himself had such great pity for cripples and for little children. Once
more allusion is effective, recalling the gospel synopses of the New
Testament, while the little boy becomes identified with this past
through "the lamplighter" as represented by his parent. The final
picture is of a youngster weak and helpless, listening to the dread
footfalls on the stair which might well be those of Chaos in the onset
of blackest night, rather than of his Maman approaching with his
In Choc Bay we get, on a more personally handled scale, the
painful knowledge and disillusionment which can later follow
experiences like that recounted in Orient and Immortal Wheat. In a
daybreak scene which is quite West Indian with the sound of the
fisherman's conch shell announcing the catch, Walcott brings every-
thing to life with living description. The sea wakes with birds; the
hawk, a speck on the horizon, is brought strikingly to action as it climbs
over the town then falls upon the sea. As it climbs, the town appears,
very realistically, to fall away, giving the impression of shuddering yet
swift flight upwards. The line itself starts with airy pyrrhic stress,
changes to the disturbing trochee which establishes a sense of the
vastness of the heavens still towering while the bird rises, but towering
less so as the movement switches to regular iambic to suggest regular
upward flight. As the hawk falls, the predominance of heavy spondaic
and trochaic stress creates a clear image of nerveless descent.
/ / / /
In the heaven's eye climbs the hawk
Over the falling town,
/ / / /
Then down, dropping down
Over the water
The fish move and sparkle with the use of such descriptive terms as
"driven," "bright," and the picture of the fishermen throwing the sein
leaps to the imagination with the exquisite "row by rote to spread their
webbed wishes." In the third section the note changes to one of grief
In the prey of creature on creature, the mute mullet, black porpoises,
spearfishing birds, pelicans, heron-necks, and we can hear the
incoherent noise of gulls in a powerfully onomatopoeic line which
appropriately reminds one of the Expressionist Wilfred Owen and his
staccato lines in Anthem for Doomed Youth.
Gulls building babble over the wrecks.
The sudden intrusion of a diver from the bluff into the water intro-
duces "Mary, the sea-lost," and "Venus, the sea-born." From there
we go on to what seems to be the heart of the poem symbolically and
through allusion. Both Mary and Venus are deaf to the rout of waves
representing the internal turmoil of the individual on his sea of life,
and to the wailing horn representative in the fishermen of his people's
cry. Venus it must be remembered was the goddess of Love and Beauty,
but was also associated with Ares or Mars, the god of War, for whom
she forsook at one time her ugly husband Hephaestus. In this way
Walcott's mention of her arouses associations of war and conflict, while
the diver at the beginning becomes representative of the human agency
behind this. The transition to the next few lines thus comes naturally:
And I, with a black
Heart, and my back
Healing from history.
Here is what accounts for some considerable part of the poet's inner
conflict and turmoil, the slave-scourge of history applied to the
black man's, his brother's back. It fuses with his other harsh
experiences, and forces him to challenge life's values, the religious not
excluded. "Black heart" is particularly effective; it seems so incon-
gruous and far-fetched, and thus exposes the fact that whether men's
skin be black or white, their hearts are all the same colour. The
"Blackhanded, hate-bridled fishermen" have no myth like Venus to
support them, only that of a prayer, of belief in the Virgin, for Venus
lives with the aristocrat, the man who uses his power to suppress the
underdog on the self-assumed basis of superiority, and who to remain
aristocratic must continually exert violence. Yet it is not for the
beauty of the conch-blown day so vividly and purposely introduced
earlier that the poet's mind "rides anchor there"; not for the "shell of
the wailing dawn," and the juxtaposing of 'shell' and 'wailing' brings
back the idea of conflict and war, nor is it for stricken love; but It
is for the "rare
Width of blue air,
For the hawk's heel straying
Over blue fields, I still am praying,
For the wheeling spokes
Of gulls from the crusted wreck,
I kneel to the shell's mass....
And at the bells of leaves I pay respect.
There is an almost mystical note struck in these lines. "The rare
width of blue air" reminds one that the element air is taken as a symbol
of released consciousness, as for example, in Burnt Norton of the
Four Quarters where Eliot deals with a moment of expanded con-
sciousness. It appears to be the sort of moment which Walcott is seek-
ing here, a moment as free as the hawk soaring on light wings over
blue fields, a moment which can arise through finding a still point in
the centre of the wheel of consciousness suggested by the gulls moving
in wheeled spokes from the crusted wreck, just as he himself would for
that moment fly in quest of wisdom and insight far from the wreck
which man has made of humanity. And so in the church of Nature's
surroundings he kneels "at the shell's mass," paying respect to the bells
of leaves around him. His mind flies as high as the birds, but the
note of expectancy soon changes to one of sad disappointment as
heralded in "the salt washing his heel," salt suggesting the salt of
tears and the bogged aspect of his heel contrasting with the hawk's
heel high and free in the air to suggest that he never gets off the
ground himself; in the "grey sea's tears," and in the blue and green
colours of Mary's gown which forgive his boyhood that it should have
grown out of "a wise hoax," by symbolically offering something deeper
and higher as yet unattained. Thus, hero temporarily, hallooedd by
the Caves" and haloedd by the Sun," for him there comes the return
to sober reality.
O Time what if I gave the wrong things praise,
The wildest sorrows about.
This is the revaluation of the man who has shed his boyhood; and in
grief for which he has words enough for utterance and tears enough
for shedding, he wheels, trapped like the holy birds, in a dark circle
whose still centre has not been found, and makes a final barefooted
flight from what to him as boy would have been paradise.
The poem Steerman, My Brother records yet another cause of
Walcott's inner questioning and search for true value. It is written in
memory of a friend's death, and throughout we can feel his faith
bending to breaking point under the weight of emotion and thought
produced by the death of this friend, Julian John, who was himself a
firm believer in Christ. In the first section the idea is suggested,
through "several rooted visionaries," that even if "flesh is mortal,"
"love is infinite," and that though the proud endeavours of "ribbed"
man may sink in "dirt or swirling sea," his soul "forever yearns for
the shores of light." Such simple sermons, however, since the shock of
his friend's death in a strange land, have become meaningless. On that
note the poem moves on from there to examine the grounds of faith.
But it is not for John's bones that Walcott writes the elegy, nor for
his spirit which his friend believed was yielded up to Christ, but for
people like himself left behind, "twilight intellects on the edge of
light," people who are always seeking, always on the verge, but never
entering into full discovery.
where a wailing autumn strips the year
And drives the rootless, ageing leaves for miles,
I weep for hearts like mine, continually driven
As these lost leaves across earth's barren ground.
The picture of "rootless, ageing leaves being driven for miles" is a very
sympathetic and evocative expression of the restless unsatisfied plight
of people like him, who are themselves "lost leaves driven" on a barren
soil. He wishes to believe that the path which his friend took will
indeed be trod by Christ's "pierced halcyon feet." That classical
description of Christ's feet with its reference to Halcyon and Ceyx
excellently portrays the lightness of the feet that walked the waves,
as well as their ability to calm the sea's rage. Walcott wishes to believe
that all will move in exultation to God's shore; but at the moment he
can only perceive one truth, that life is a mere endless sphere of
motion, of change, of decay and ebb, its only halcyon days those of
the forever changing seasons. Where in all this ash of energy, he
asks, is his friend's, the lost helmsman's soul,- and where In this vast
waste can man's home be found? It is grief, however, which forces
us, as it has forced him, to search urgently in apparently mapless lives,
for some sort of pattern and control, which induces in us the need
to simplify and forgive. Then do we turn for guidance to minds set
ablaze by powerful heat which burns the trash of thought, leaving
behind pure, inextinguishable elements with which in the clamour and
restless noise of change they are able to weld lives of unshakeable
calm and peace. His friend, he says, would have been one of them.
There is thus a contrast established between his friend and himself.
Yet he once had such faith himself, but the waves of bitterness rolled
over him and his cargo of faith shipwrecked. Faith seemed to perish
utterly with the death of his friend, for the event brought much closer
to him the harshness of life, and dispelled his earlier trust In
eventual safe harbours which vision, blinded by Time's dust, could not
yet see. Questions follow in rapid succession. Why we are here on
earth, defies human thought. Why is it that God is a God of war and
death and equally of a beautiful Nature as epitomized in the exquisite-
ly wrought jewelry of a raindrop? How can the very Maker who
stimulates us to immortal unsatisfied questioning in face of life's facts
produce nevertheless a "simple truth like love"? The poet is here in
the very narrow straits between the "rocks of heaven and this world."
He appeals for the restoration of his faith even In the lesson of a dear
one's death, for the enigma of life wearies his struggling soul as his
"reason seeks a mastery of argument with God." Yet at the end the
note changes to one of quiet, but defiant hope.
Usurp that monarchy, 0 temporal death,
Fallen, fallen, greater than my friend
It does not matter if death, possessed of only temporal power, usurps
life's monarchy. The implication appears to be that greater than the
steersman have fallen, namely Christ whose death has a redeeming
significance. All Death's hosts of reason who would convince one of
its invincibility therefore disperse like "stars drifting across the sands
and bitter pastures" bordering on his sea of life. And so, hands arked
in a gesture of prayer he wishes that the Holy Spirit may enter his
heart. The armoured hosts of all those who reason for Death's finality
merely revolt against themselves, for they are already fallen and await
the final harvest, their pages at the world's end flung away, and their
thoughts destructively warring with each other as they descend in
Vain energies, with life so long to spend,
When simple plants turn to light.
Although the poem ends on this note, we get the feeling that In the
continual recurrence of question and doubt shadows still lurk in the
poet's mind, but he has certainly purged himself of some bitterness
and stimulated his faith. Its sincerity and aim derive increased
impact from a classical precision and form within which the argument
steadily progresses, and from its tone and situation which seem
deliberately reminiscent of a great elegy in English literature, Milton's
Lycidas. This latter aspect comes home sharply where Walcott
claims the real purpose of his elegy not to be on behalf of his friend
who departed in the arms of faith, but for people like him, "twilight
intellects on the edge of light." It reminds us of Milton, at the centre
of whose elegy was the dread and apprehension that he could suffer
the same fate of death as Edward King, before he accomplished his
great purpose. There is in both the same turning to a creed of faith,
to Christ's power, and in Walcott's poem the note, "Usurp that
monarchy," heralding the change in tone recalls the "Return Alphaeus"
of Milton, which ushered in the triumphal conclusion of his elegy. There
are other points of allusion, too, as in the Walcott line, "That He whose
pierced feet stilled the whistling seas," which faintly calls to mind
another line in Lycfdas,-"Through the dear might of Him that
walked the waves." But the grounds for questioning In Walcott's poem
are different, the context that of our own age; while the exploration,
conducted in a greater spirit of community, derives power and force
from being placed within a significant classical tradition.
In Return to D'Ennery contemplation of the poverty in his
environment leads to further conflict, but reveals a growth in maturity.
Caught in the rain, Walcott surveys the squalour of the village. The
opening line has a visual image which reproduces the scene of falling
Imprisoned in these wires of rain, I watch
This village stricken with a single street.
The rain is falling in clearly discernible lines of torrent which look
like wires strung between heaven and earth. The use of the adjective
"stricken" to describe the village sets the tone of what is to come; the
presence of the street is an affliction in its own poverty-stricken aspect.
And the remaining description follows in admirable support. Each
shack worn by the weather is a complacent cripple leaning for support
on its crutch of wooden foundation. Five years ago, in a less
recrudescent stage of his life, even poverty had seemed sweet in the
"azure indifference of the air" and the murmurouss oblivion of the
sea." The place had "seemed born for being buried" there, and his
own feelings merged with the general native acceptance of fate.
So personal grief melts in the general wish.
The whole scene is painted with artistic perception. Hospital quiet in
the rain, naked boy driving his pigs into the bush; "the coast shudders
with every surge," and its vibration comes to life in the evocative
"shudders" and "surge"; a heron appears on the scene to add another
specific detail to our imaginative picturing, and all around, filth and
foam. A sail moves realistically, as in the poet's description it "plunges
and lifts", trochee followed by iamb to give the downward plunge
and upward movement; hills smoke with fog in the thin light, "the
rain seeps slowly to the core of grief." But the purpose of all this
description is not to burst into a bitter tirade at life's inequality. "The
place could not change its sorrows and be home." It is Walcott's way
of accepting the fact that it won't change, though compassion within
him becomes more outward going and demonstrative. He has reached
that point of maturity where he can detach his bitterness from these
very wounds which have led to pained inquiry.
Where is that passionate hatred that would help
The black, the despairing, the poor, by speech alone?
The fury shakes like wet leaves in the wind,
The rain beats on a brain hardened to stone.
There comes a time when man arrives at the limit of suffering, its
anchor, a grave or a bed, and in despair seeks from God the know-
ledge of his home, his place of rest. And thus the poet's grasping of
reality through personal experience ascends in steps to contemplation
of and sympathy with his environment and the people in it, and finally
to the larger environment of the world and all its people who thus
.for no one will save
The world from itself, though he walk among men.
Yet the core of his concern is with his people. The passionate ones
abroad believe, as Julian did, in the ultimate salvation of things, but
for him his heart is too sorrowful, it is crucified in the midst of its
devotion by the general horror of life. All else seems "romantic
nonsense," which "ends at the bowsprit, shearing but never arriving
beyond the reef-shore foam"; -once more we get the picture of the
individual on the sea-journey of life, seeking the shore, but never
reaching. The picture is vivid: that of a boat shearing cutting into
shore, but never passing the reef-shore's foam to arrive In harbour,
and with a subsidiary scene within this larger one, of those who
believe what is to Walcott romantic nonsense running along the spar
protruding from the bow, but still unable by this extension to reach
Yet he is sufficiently perceptive and unembittered to see that his
failure to grasp faith fully is no proof that it is defunct. In this res-
pect his people, in some ways worse off than he is, have a valuable
lesson to teach him. For them, despite all life's afflictions, "Heaven
remains where it is, in their hearts, in the very womb of their church,
though the rain of obscurity may blur the shape of its outer lineaments."
In a very honest and severe self-criticism, he sees himself to be less
than they are, for his general passion of feeling springs from personal
need, from individual desire to quiet the aching pangs within his own
soul. And so in his judgment, he is "the most accursed of God's self-
pitying creatures." This is harsh criticism, perhaps too harsh, but
there is a valuable lesson in the parallel drawn for contrast between
the villagers and himself. Their faith is simple, they are the "simple
plants turning to light"; and perhaps what they have to teach is that
happy absorbtion in the business of living which makes it possible to
bear life's harsher moments. Just as "the white rain draws its net
along the coast" wiping out the weather's frowns in departure, so are
they able with laughter to wipe out the frowns of sorrow. Not so
Walcott; the rain has left yet still seeps in him,
blurring each boast
His craft has made, obscuring words and features,
and for this reason, because he cannot accept the lesson he considers
himself the most
Accursed of God's self-pitying creatures.
However, even if the individual ought to be able to take
life's sunniness as compensation for its gloomier moments, he ought
not to blind himself to those issues which should be challenged,
although inquiry and challenge may reveal much more that is painful
to take. As Chantal says in Malcauchon to the husband who cannot
get the truth from his wife, "if you sure is the truth you want, I
could chuck her in it [the waterfall reputed to expose sinners], but
only if you can stand the truth." Walcott, even where practical
experience implicated him, could stand the truth, could appreciate it
in all its painful significance. In chapter IV, 'Tales of the Islands',
he examines within a personal context the deeper implications behind
the sensual way of life typical of his island, as of the whole West
Indies. The little episode used begins dramatically in the middle of a
conversation with a character called 'Doc', about 'El Greco' being an
Outside I said, "He's a damned epileptic
Your boy, El Greco! Goya, he don't lie.'
With that significant beginning the situation progresses to the point
where Doc suggests that they go and "join the real epileptics." The
connection is clear if we consider the nature of epilepsy. The epileptic
falls down, usually in vigorous convulsions mounting to a climax of
Two of the girls looked good. The Indian said
That rain affects the trade.
But the atmosphere in which the ensuing encounter takes place strikes
the ultimate keynote.
In the queer light/we all looked green.
The beer and all looked green.
Now Marvell uses the colour green in a context of rebirth, of spiritual
vitality as opposed to, or even embracing paradoxically, the condition
of decay which the colour yellow suggests. And so too does Walcott,
as in the poem, In a Green Night. Green, however, has other connota-
tions, that of sickness being particularly, and, as It is in this case,
appropriately related, for instance, to sea-sickness; Walcott uses the
metaphor of the sea for the inner life continually. In this atmosphere,
one of the girls wrapped an arm around him "like a wreath." From an
image connoting sickness, we pass here to a simile suggestive of death.
The remark which follows conclusively links up with the end of the
poem to give the full implication of all this.
'Our mother earth'
I said. 'The great republic in whose womb
The dead outvote the quick.'
To understand it fully, then, we must examine two later economical
but pregnant remarks.
We entered the bare room.
And then afterwards, walking home in the rain, the encounter over, he
"was worried," but Doc said:
'Don't worry, kid, the wages of sin is birth.'
When all these remarks and the atmosphere are combined, the con-
clusion reached is that such activity spells sickness and death to a man's
spiritual nature. Its continued practice leads, as the Prelude endorses,
to a round of stagnant existence, while its more local repercussions, so
feared by a young man entangled in the sensual web of his environment,
and explained with such nonchalant humour by Doc, are to quicken in
the womb another member of the living dead who on earth "outvote
the quick" members, those truly alive in the sense of physical, mental,
and spiritual health or vitality. The conclusion places a much greater
significance on the young man's "was worried," as Doc in unwitting
"The wages of sin is birth,"
Chapter V in the same Tales of the Islands exposes on the other
hand the dark vestiges of savagery and superstition which still lurk deep
in the heart of the West Indian islands, and whose banishment through
enlightened cultural growth has been hindered by white repression. Of
The priests objected to such savage rites
In a Catholic country.
But in exposing the particularly primitive savagery of sacrifice and blood
drinking with which he is dealing in this poem, Walcott Indicates the
ironic twist to the whole situation: a religious culture which in Its dis-
approval marks itself off from such savage practice has its roots in a
similar ritual of bloody sacrifice to a God. This is Implicit in the
ambiguous comment that "one of the fathers was himself a student of
black customs." Then follows the description of this little "fete," which,
most appropriately, took place in honour of "some anthropologist," -
another ambiguous remark, a delicate connoting in one sense, it would
seem, at man's anthropomorphic tendencies in his worship of God. The
sheep are led to the rivulet with a drum, and the people dance with
"absolutely natural grace, remembered from the dark past whence we
come." Again there is ambiguity, in "natural grace," which can mean
a natural gracefulness in dancing, acquired from our ancestors, or can
refer to the state of grace in theology when through the priest's absolu-
tion the penitent is once more received into God's divine favour. And
with that last reference, it is easy to couple the rest of the poem, and
obtain a two dimensional view, one into the present with its repre-
hensibly "bloody picnic," and the other into a past of bloody sacrifice
and the sprinkling of blood.
Bottles of white rum and a brawling booth.
They tie the lamb up, then chop off the head,
And ritualists take turns drinking the blood.
A glance at Exodus, chapter 29 in the Old Testament corroborates the
picture of the past.
Then shalt thou kill the ram, and take of his
blood. .and sprinkle the blood upon the altar and about.
Thus the poem ends on a significant, revelatory note.
Great stuff, old boy; sacrifice, moments of truth.
There exists in the poet, nevertheless, a positive vein of faith which,
in its increased perception of life's perversity, no doubt helps to
strengthen the link of tortured love between himself and his own people,
particularly when feeling is stirred by personal loss or public tragedy.
In the Elegy to his father, he can be free of all bitterness because of a
positive faith acquired from experience. Standing by the calendar he
notes that exactly seventeen years have passed since his father's death.
The measure of his feeling is amply indicated by the expression which
Having measured the years today by the calendar
That marks your seventeenth death,..
Every year is felt as keenly as though it were the actual year of death.
But an honest evaluation reminds him that since his father's absence,
they have lived without him well as they have lived well with him.
Those left behind after the dying have passed on have to face up to the
responsibility and reality of life; and in that mature knowledge which
facing such responsibility brings, Walcott cannot "chide death's hands
nor hurl death taunts or tantrums" about what might seem otherwise
to be life's ultimate tragedy- consignment to a "yellow grave." More-
over, in the strength of Christ's example "who drank the wine and
believed the blessed bread"- and the word "believed" Indicates the
stress placed on faith, the poet is able to receive death's gift greater
than death itself,-that awareness of a man's spiritual presence after
his skeleton has turned to "bright dust." And so his father is there
spiritually, more keenly recalled in the memory of his worth and in the
emphasis which his physical absence laid on those left behind to face
increased responsibility. It does not matter then if the particular faiths
which he embraced are one with his light rotting in the sand, for in
Christ's lesson there is an essential spiritual truth constituting a spiritual
gain greater than physical loss by death, and it is this gift which is
bound up "with the forgotten price of man" and which shines from the
"perverse beauty of the dead."
A similar faith burns in the poem, A City's Death By Fire, which
deals with the burning of Castries. The language in this piece is a most
efficient vehicle of expression: it fuses shock and grief for hopes shatter-
ed in the catastrophe with an appreciation of Christ's spiritual per-
manence and power, and allows the poet to emerge victorious, in the
renewal of a love "he thought was dead as nails." The fire thus
becomes a death and baptism, purging and laying the foundation for
more healthy growth, physically for the city, and spiritually for Walcott
in the lesson which it has brought him. The fire is regarded as a 'hot
gospeller which levelled all but the churched sky,' thus establishing the
religious framework within which the concept of baptism by fire can be
finally introduced. The predominance of consonantal 'Ts" added to the
effective "hot" evoke the visual image of a whole city razed to the
After that hot gospeller had levelled all but the churched sky,
I wrote the tale by tallow of a city's death by fire,
Under a candle's eye, that smoked in tears,
The candle's eyes "smoked in tears,"-a sympathetic description suggest-
ing the grief which Walcott shares with the stricken.
All day I walked among the rubbled tales,
Shocked at each wall that stood on the street like a liar;
"Rubbled" here suggests in its onomatopoeia the crumbling gutted walls
of the city, and "tales," coupled with the idea of each wall "standing on
the street like a liar," thrusts into the mind the shocking contrast
between what they were before and what they are now. The scene is
/ / /
graphically portrayed, up to the noise of a "bird-rocked sky," the com-
pound epithet increasing with its onomatopoeia the sense of catastrophe;
we can hear the incessant perturbed scream of flapping birds in that
expressive sentence with its heavy stresses, beginning emphatically on
"loud" and operating throughout.
/ / / /
Loud was the bird-rocked sky.
An introductory note of hope and faith comes in a line serving the
dual purpose of describing the clouds as well as hinting at plundering
carried out after the fire.
all the clouds were bales
Torn open by looting, and white, in spite of the fire.
The note is there in an emphasis on the fact, further underlined by
internal assonance, that the clouds are still white. This suggested idea
of a purity which cannot be violated is a direct link up with the next
By the smoking sea where Christ walked, I asked why
Should a man wax tears, when his wooden world fails?
There is a contrast in those lines between the spiritually eternal nature
of Christ and the evanescent physical world as implied in the play on
"wax," and in the use of the adjective "wooden" to describe world.
"Wooden" arouses associations of the wooden cross on which Christ was
nailed and which has long since decayed to dust, while the spiritual
comfort of his presence remains.
In town, leaves were paper, but the hills were a flock of faiths;
A similar contrast exists in that line, where perishable paper is put
against the solid faith-inspiring nature of the hills. Again the object
of permanence contrasted is described in terms that deliberately bring
to mind Christ the good shepherd- "a flock of faiths." In such
revealed contrasts 'each leaf' of nature,- and the contrast here is
with the leaves of paper above, - becomes for Walcott a green breath,
Rebuilding a love I thought was dead as nails,
Blessing the death and baptism by fire.
The personal and shared experiences which we have been dis-
cussing gave a fiercely positive note to Walcott's love for his people
and his country. This emerges in As John To Patmos. The title of
the poem strikes up a note of apocalypse, of revelation. In this
revelatory note as John to Patmos, the poet surveys and speaks of his
island in personified terms. As a result its visual image looms vividly
in our sight: "strewn-silver" of foam on waves, "the wood's crude hair,"
"rounded breasts of the milky bays, palms, flocks, the green and dead
leaves," and from this mirror of personification shines the reflected
image of his people. The island
is heaven- away from the dustblown blood of cities;
See the curve of bay, watch the straggling flower, pretty is
The wing'd sound of trees, the sparse-powdered sky, when lit is
The night. For beauty has surrounded
Its black children.
"Dustblown blood" suggests the desert of desolation and blood into
which men have hurled their fellow creatures, with specific reference
here to his people. Therefore, says Walcott,
As John to Patmos, in each love-leaping air,
O slave, soldier, worker under red trees sleeping, hear
What I swear now, as John did:
To praise livelong, the living and the brown dead.
Nor does his love selfishly exclude the other West Indian islands.
This is shown in Map of the Antilles where what does appear to be an
anti-federation argument turns out to be a mature perception, that
the quality missing and needed so badly to make the union more than
the evanescent mockery it seems, is real peace in which love can
flourish. By placing this remark within the classical context of
Odysseus in Circean seas, Walcott conclusively indicates the destructive-
ly selfish nature of the conflicting passions which surround the federat-
And so an emerald sea, wild as this one
Seemed to Odysseus a destructive ocean,
Even as he lingered in Circean seas;
Since in no magic port was there such peace
As where his love remained. This is a brief
Ignored by our first parliaments, to chart
The dangerous currents of dividing grief
That make our union a mockery of the heart.
Time seems not to have falsified his view.
The lovely Sea-chantey conveys more positively in its music and
West Indian sense of community the unifying note of peace and love
which ought to link the islands. It is beautifully and evocatively
lyrical, with names which "tremble like needles," "peace of green
anchorage," the passage of everyday events,-"flight, and Phyllis return-
ed from the Grenadines," baptisms and corals, church bells and
trembling mouth organ music, and town streets "orange with week-
ripened sunlight." Throughout, the atmosphere of enchantment is
well sustained by felicitous expression, and the music kept melodious
by a continuance of full vowel sounds, as for example, in the last few
lines with their repetitive refrain.
The music uncurls with
The soft vowels of inlets,
The christening of vessels.
The alphabet of church bells,
The peace of white horses,
The pasture of ports,
The litany of islands,
The rosary of archipelagoes,
Virgin of Guadeloupe,
And stone-white Grenada
Of sunlight and pigeons,
The amen of calm waters
The amen of calm waters
The amen of calm waters.
In tone and expression the poem recalls the verse of Whitman, that
poet of Democracy and spiritual union. This helps to emphasize
strongly the message so musically relayed. Important, too, and coming
emphatically at a point almost in the middle of the poem, is the mystic
reposs donnez a c'ils. Ringing out there is a half-echo of Baudelaire
who was forever in search of that state he called "le repos." Walcott,
as the allusion effectively suggests, would desire the islands to enjoy a
settled state of united and peaceful communion.
Some considerable part of this love, as we have already indicated
briefly, is bound up with the ethnic origin of his West Indian fellows,
and the painful slur which the white man has cast on this. Walcott's
reaction, however, is a commendable one. There is bitterness, yes, but
narrow prejudice, none. What we have is a reconciling passion which
indicates the irony in a cruel oppression that carries its own self-
afflicting backlash. In A Country Club Romance he tells the story,
with an ironic humour through which the metaphor of tennis runs, of
the blonde Miss Gautier who fell in love with and married Harris, the
black Barbadian. The poem opens with an apt expression, giving both
tone and setting.
The summer slams the tropic sun
Around all year.
Then Miss Gautier is shown at tennis which she has made her
"deuxiememetier." She is described in language which accurately
gives in full-vowelled sounds, movement and stress, the lush heave of
her proud bosom, and in fragrant, bright and clear pictures, her
fragrance and form.
/ /- /
Her breathless bosom rose
/ / / /
As proud as Dunlop balls.
The heavy stress at the end of the first line gives the upward heave of
her breasts, and those of the second connote the firm, weighted com-
pactness of their flesh; while the comparison, "proud as Dunlop balls,"
although it could be construed simply as an effort to continue the
tennis metaphor, does suggest the rather inhuman colour and context
of the pride. We are allowed a sniff of her fragrance in its similarity
/ / /
to that of "the fresh rose on which the white dew falls"; yet even
there, if we stress "fresh rose" and the adjective "white," and inner
meaning, of white aggression despoiling the fresh negro rose, seems to
arise. The shadowy illusion appears to be deliberate, for dew is not
white, but transparent; in which case the whole image has been made
to embody a great deal of irony. Just as the dew which is condensed
by the weather, and which falls on the rose is eventually destroyed in
evaporation by the very weather that distilled it, so Miss Gautier who
is a jewel of the white tradition, and who marries a negro is eventually
destroyed by the very elements in the tradition which produced her.
Laburnum bright hair, eyes as blue as ponds, and tanned, bare thighs,
humorously and jibingly made superior to Government bonds in their
soundness, complete the picture. Mr. Harris works in the civil service,
the employment norm of his class; Miss Gautier, on the other hand,
works in the bank,- a job with boosted class status, which in the past
of the Eastern Caribbean islands was given more or less exclusively to
whites. But, ironically, in the face of all racial distinction, Miss
Gautier falls in love with Mr. Harris.
O love has its revenges,
Love whom man has devised;
The second line suggests that man has devised a peculiar emotion
which, despite its paradoxical demonstrations to the contrary, he
chooses to call love. For the outcome of the marriage in which "they
lay down like slazengers,-- and the simile suggests the sexual vigour
of the match,-- was that "She was ostracized. Even though she her-
self was sufficiently free from prejudice to marry him, the harsh love-
lessness of the traditional attitude to which she belonged would not
permit her to do so in peace. Group snobbery hurt her and set up an
inner conflict which affected the marriage. But Walcott makes no
bones about it; the relationship is obviously wrecked by its incom-
patibility, by the insensitive, unrefined insensibility of Harris, who
cannot understand and treat sympathetically his wife's symptoms. -
in conflict with the whole tradition of white superiority from which
she cannot escape without subconscious torture. They had "a fine set
of twins," and "her thanks went up to God that her children would
not work in banks"; but as the pressure grew, her worries led to an
occasional drink which, we are intended to assume, grew from occasional
Mr. Harris could not understand.
He said, "Since you so damn frisky,
Answer this backhand!"
And yet Harris must have been aware that the failure sprang from a
basic discrepancy between their cultural backgrounds. His remark,
"Be Jeez, it serve us right," suggests this. We are led to believe that
Miss Gautier eventually died of heartbreak, and the final verse has an
ambiguity that emphasizes the radical and irreconcilable difference
fostered by the white oppression of ages.
While the almonds yellow the beaches
And the breezes pleat the lake,
And the blondes pray God to 'teach us
To profit from her mistake.'
If A Country Club Romance exposes the irony behind racial pre-
judice, Ruins Of A Great House records the poet's bitterness at the
cruel past; but it ends on a note of reconciliation through which
oppressed and oppressor merge in a common humanity. First, we are
given in a graphic portrait the decadence of the Great House. The
house is like a corpse. the dislocated stones its broken members. "Its
moth-like girls are mixed with candle dust." Here, "moth-like" very
effectively conveys the flightiness of the girls who once peopled it, but
does so in an atmosphere of funereal decay of which the moth is a
symbol. The whole picture is one of decay: lizards with dragonish
claws in possession, gates streaked with stain, and here and there axle
and coach wheel buried in silt and muck. Three crows flap away at
the poet's approach, symbolic perhaps of the British Isles, but they can
also in the significance of their number, three, suggest a decadence
which has swung full circle. They "settle creaking the eucalyptus
boughs," and this noise adds further to the ruins the air of rust,
dilapidation, and disuse. The next two lines are perhaps the most
A smell of dead limes quickens in the nose
The leprosy of Empire.
The appeal to the sense of smell, the rotten pungency felt in the
nostrils by the evocative "quickens" with its sharp consonants, and the
very unpleasant associations of the word "leprosy" cast a horrid pall
over an already ugly scene of decay. The mention of Faulkner's
'south in stone' adequately gives the context in which the ruined Great
House is to be taken, one of white aggression and incest.
.like Faulkner's south in stone,
Deciduous beauty prospered and is gone.
Description of the very lawn with trees growing on it adds to the
But where the lawn breaks in a rash of trees
A spade below dead leaves will ring the bone
Of some dead animal or human thing
Fallen from evil days, from evil times.
Its condition, as the lines indicate, has a specific cause: something is
buried there. We can hear the sound of the spade on bone in the
second line, while the deliberately indistinct differentiation between
"dead animal" and "human thing" implies the presence of some buried
slave, perhaps, fallen from evil times in which he was no more than a
convenient animal under the cruel yoke of a slave master. But now,
the poet remarks, these "imperious rakes are gone, their bright girls
gone, the river flows obliterating hurt." No rankling hate remains in
his heart. Although the house may have shielded its owners' guilt
behind the iron grillwork "of exiled craftsman," it could not hide them,
as it even now cannot hide itself, from the "worm's rent." Death is the
great leveller, and as he listens, it is as though above the wind shaking
in the limes he can hear "what Kipling heard: the death of a great
empire, the abuse of ignorance by sword and bible." The reference to
Kipling is meaningful. Although quite an imperialist himself, Kipling
had compassion for the other side.
Man cannot tell but Allah knows
How much the other side was hurt,
and Walcott's mention of him suggests the balance towards which the
poem is making. It is worth noticing, too, that Walcott again quotes
Kipling in his play, Franklin in which at one point the voices of
children can be heard singing that poet's great recessional,
'Far-called our navies melt away;
On dune and headland sinks the fire:
Lo, all our pomp of yesterday
Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!
Judge of the Nations, spare us yet,
Lest we forget lest we forget!'
for the play makes towards a similar balance within an atmosphere of
tragedy. In it, the white captain, Franklin's imperialistic and harsh
side is revealed; yet at the same time, he seems in some measure to
have identified himself with the natives of the Antillean islet. Ironically
again, however, the white tradition makes impossible real fraternity
with the hate-bridled natives, and humiliated and doubly saddened by
the defection of two wives as well as by accusations of his First Mate's
murder, he burns himself to death on his own vessel, no longer able
to face life's harshness. But to come back to Ruins of A Great House,
what Walcott does not omit to make clear is the guilt of ancestral
murderers like Hawkins, Raleigh and Drake, peddlers in the slave trade,
and the sick greeness of the age symbolized by a rotting lime "whose
stench became the channel galleon's text." And what we have in that
line there is the stench of flesh from dead negroes rotting in the holds
of galleons. For Walcott, "the rot remains with us, the men are gone,"-
remains in the unresolved problem of which the Great House is a
rotting reminder. Momentarily his rage blazes; and then comes flood-
ing back the reminder that England too was once "deranged" by the
"vain expense of bitter faction." The reality of his own race's suffer-
ing makes it possible to appreciate fully 'how much the other side must
have been hurt' in its own days of trouble, and all bitterness ends in
So differently from what the heart arranged:
'as well as if a manor of thy friend's. '
To A Painter In England also ends with reconcilement, but this
time Walcott goes a step further in frank examination to indicate, in
the passing of the empire, a "Sabbath logic" which "we can take or
refuse." The idea of stagnancy recurs as he addresses the painter.
Where you rot under the strict, grey industry
Of cities of fog and winter fevers.
But this time the reference is used as a contrast with the sunniness of
"personal islands for which Gauguins sicken" to suggest another kind
of desolation found in these islands, of which the parched nature of
the April season becomes symbolic.
you may find it difficult to imagine
This April as a season where the tide burns
Black, leaves crack into ashes from the drought,
A dull red burning, like heart's desolation.
And as he muses on the canoes with their comic names, resting under
trees stricken with "a nervous spinsterish quiet," the poet comes to the
central point which he is concerned to make. The canoes remind him
of the painter's chief scenes for painting, and the days of instruction
at his villa when they "watched his serious experience, learning." And
so he knows that the artist will understand how desolate he feels to see
this gift of the islands 'wasting before the season'
You who defined with an imperious palette
The several postures of this virginal island,
You understand how I am lost to have
Your brush's zeal and not to be explicit.
When we put the reference to the post impressionist school of painting
as represented by "Gaugins" with the remarks in the section quoted
above, Walcott's deeper meaning becomes clear. Post-impressionist
painting was dedicated to expressing the inner truth of a structure as
opposed to its surface effects of light treated by the Impressionists. In
the light of this, the painter with his chief scenes becomes representa-
tive of imperial England, once defining with an Imperious sweep of
her arm the several policies of an island virginal In its experience of
governing; -- an England with its Imperial dominance over the West
Indies now supervened. But the inner truth of the matter is that with
this direction withdrawn, his people, of whom Walcott is representa-
tive in the poem, find themselves with the zeal to direct their affairs
and without the skill to do so, with the result that the gift of directing,
bestowed prematurely, "wastes before Its season." The closing lines
continue the post-impressionist metaphor, and seem to suggest that
this skill which the West Indian has not learnt gives vision into the
inner truth of things, and reveals a "Sabbath logic we can take or
refuse." This last remark would appear to mean that left to itself
islands such as his, where the general attitude in the past has been
to treat every day like Sunday, or in the words of his Prelude, 'to
make a holiday of situations', must fare desolately. Thus, the Individual
is left to whatever decision he would take. He can either stick blindly
to his country, desert it, or withdraw into a rose-coloured dream world
of his own. For him, it would appear, it is a logic which argues for
love and reconciliation by which a sensible, generous approach to in-
dependence can be gained. It is a logic that wins his love, but one
to which the blind world still cannot open its eyes, though he "would
inform that world of its flesh." The idea of native inadequacy express-
ed by Walcott in this poem comes out more openly in the second of two
poems on the passing of an Empire.
In the small coffin of his house, the pensioner,
A veteran of the African campaign,
Bends as if threading an eternal needle,
Or lifts his desert squint to hear
The children singing, Rule, Britannia, Rule,
As if they needed practice to play dead.
Boys will still pour their blood out for a sieve
Despite his balsam eye and doddering jaw;
And If one eye should weep, would they believe
In such a poor flag as an empty sleeve?
In this poem the complete inadequacy of embalmed native helpless-
ness and febrility to direct are symbolically revealed, the arguments
against the other side notwithstanding.
Within the context of such experiences, the individual must face
up to responsibility,- a hard thing to do, when all around, the world's
harshness and perplexity are so evident. In A Lesson For Sunday,
even in the pleasant Sunday contemplation of a little boy and girl
playing in the open, he finds evidence of this. As he watches, the two
children with a "common pin between them" attempt in turns to pierce
1 1 3
the eyes and gouge out the abdomen of a helpless praying mantis, and
shriekingly protest when a black maid removes them from the scene.
An effective contrast is made between 'the maimed teetering thing' that
is left of the mantis as it attempts to fly away, and the little girl,
Herself a thing of summer light,
Frail as a flower in this blue August air,
Not marked for some late grief that cannot speak.
One tends to see the mantis and the negro maid linked in the poet's
mind, with the mantis symbolic of his race, while the little girl with her
fair fragility becomes identified with its white antagonists. Whether
this is so or not, his mind "swings inward on itself once more" in ques-
tioning fear. Everywhere is "the heredity of cruelty," and he takes
the long look back to see where "choice is born," where individual
responsibility begins and ends.
The Banyan Tree, Old Year's Night gives us this process most
clearly. It is prefaced by a quotation from Baudelaire's Voyage, and
once more the parallel aids the contrast. Baudelaire, in a sense, set
a new pattern by giving us a look into a divided mind and heart. For
him, life was a voyage of discovery, an exploration of dark, conflicting
elements in the soul, and no other writer before, it appears, -
Swedenborg, Hugo, the Gothic novelists, Hoffman, none, had attempt-
ed anything quite like it.
Je vois distinctement des mondes singuliers,
Et de ma clairvoyance extatique victim,
Je traine des serpents qui mordent mes soullers.
In this respect, we see the parallel in Walcott. Unlike Baudelaire, how-
ever, he is not merely a poet of introspection, but, significantly, is
concerned, as we have seen, with his society and the part which it
plays in life's conflict. In this poem on the banyan tree Walcott looks
back, then, on the days of his childhood and remembers their activities
and the premature intimations of adulthood gleaned, in almost the
same way as Baudelaire did. Through the narrow focus of memory
he sees the damp park in the square no larger than a stamp. It is the
year's end, and the coloured bulbs in the park "linking the withered
fountain" are evocative to him of his games on that occasion with
other whooping "small savages." As the town's centre, the square
becomes the focal point from which, in his memory, radiates the
"petered pinwheel of dead streets" bringing back to him the "squibs of
boyish jokes," sticky sweets, the brass band with Its marching music
playing for "children punished in their window gaols," and, as is often
the case with memory, bringing back those tiny details sharply, such
as "gusts of tumbling papers, babies, kites blown around the kiosk
bandrails in the wind." But even as he thinks, the panorama of scenes
fades on the memory's screen, "absence crowds the mind," and suddenly
there flashes back a picture of the banyan tree on Old Year's night, the
night before the new year of new resolutions, continued growth, and
Soaring from littered roots, blackened with rain,
With inaccessible arms the banyan tree
Heaves in the last year's drizzle to explain
What age could not, responsibility.
An impression of the tree, it appears, becomes fused with these child-
hood scenes to synthesize and add meaning to the whole range of
recollection. The tree is vividly imprinted on his mind,- its littered
roots, blackened with rain, its movement, in the fine drizzle of an old
year's night soaking it; it becomes personified.in his mind, and is seen
as a symbol of responsibility, having to weather, as he must, all the
storms of life. In that flash of insight, it more powerfully explains for
him than age could at that time, the individual's responsibility to life.
Then he remembers how in heavy rain, foul canals at the town's
"rotting edges" served as channels for "crouched black children" to
send their little paper boats on "little tours," till the boats were caught
up in silt on the other side, and sank after their short voyage. Once
more his mind makes the connection, they remind him of his setting
out on the sea of life's discovery, and just as those small boats "dare
each season," so he thanks whatever wind "compelled his flight," "what-
ever rages urged his impossible exile" impossible because the process
of discovery involved such close identification with his island and
people, that it could hardly make possible any alienation from them.
This is why his mind is so able to fuse his childhood memories with
those of much more recent experience and see a unified pattern. In
the words of the Initial quotation from Baudelaire, "How small Is our
world," how unified, "through the mirror of memory!" But as his mind
returns again to the park, it is rocked with the fear that these insights
and truths gained may be suddenly extinguished, as symbolized by the
sudden vanishing from his memory of the park with its bulbs of
coloured light. He can recall, however, that their glimmerings began
even in his childhood.
Even on silvery days, that classic fount
Being withered to the root, its throat as hoarse
As the last nurse's cry, could not surmount
My growing fear with clarity from a source
No parent knew.
Their source was unknown. Whether his youthful soul divined in the
marching brass band the music of truth, or whether,-as Traherne
would have believed,-its wisdom glimpsed a vision of the secret, in the
fountain's failing arch, he cannot tell. In that reference to the
fountain there is the implication that it became a symbol in its failing
of the growth from youth to adulthood, in which responsibility imposes
itself on the individual, bringing with it a melancholy that may have
originated in his childhood.
or did we march
To the brass tunes of truth? Did I divine
Some secret in the fountain's failing arch,
And was that infant melancholy mine?
What is more likely, of course, as often happens, is that the poet is
imposing a pattern of adult interpretation on childhood hints, which,
at that age, mean little or nothing owing to a relatively large gap in
worldly knowledge, but which in the light of later adult experience
suddenly open up whole vistas of meaning. The final point which he
makes, however, is that "if it were so," if the infant melancholy was
his, It is still there, and the tree remains to him symbolic of his own
position in which he is forced to bear the burden of life's responsibility
in a world where man has no place "to lay his head," but is blown
whithersoeverr the wind listeth."
If it were so, it still remains, its sources
Blank as the rain on the deserted mind,
Dumb as the ancient Indian tree that forces
Its grieving arms to keep the homeless wind.
It is worth mentioning before we leave the poem that in the verse
preceding the one above, Walcott brings off a deliberate echo of Keats'
Ode To A Nightingale-for the poem is essentially the St. Lucian's
in tone and language,-an echo which expands the significance, and
emphasizes the return to a state of burdened reality, childhood
experiences left behind.
Where exactly has Walcott's voyage taken him? The question of
responsibility, though accepted in the above-mentioned poem, brought
no ease to his mind. The banyan tree with its'arms open to the home-
less wind expressed best for him his position. However, we may see
emerging in other experiences a somewhat more settled frame of mind
in which the will to know fully the true self eventually, as in the poem,
In A Green Night, leads to that quiet resolve of "the comprehending
heart." In A Letter From Brooklyn, for example, he learns a lesson
from a very old lady who writes from Brooklyn to tell him that she
knew his father and what a good man he was. So incomparably does
Walcott portray the lady that we see her on the pages of imagination
writing in "a spidery style," her trembling hand translating its nervous-
ness into shaky letters on paper. He shows us the "veined hand,
pellucid on paper," and in the often interrupted motions of its quiver-
ing progress, shows how fragile and how often broken is the thread of
thought in her mind which that hand seeks to transcribe. The mind
has lost its strong sense of logical continuity, "the filaments from which
her phrases are hung" dim to his sense, but when they catch, because
of their simplicity, the thoughts come home with an impact,-"shining
like steel." And this old lady, herself with very little life left to live,
can in praising his father, write:
He is twenty-eight years buried; he was called home
And is, I am sure, doing greater work.
"Called home." To Walcott, such simple acceptance of the fact that
life must be faced with equanimity and resolve, is a lesson in responsi-
bility. The old lady "restores his sacred duty to the Word." If she is
physically withered, such strength of character argues an inner beauty
which elicits tears, and makes it impossible to regard her as detached
from the world "which breaks its lovers so," as it threatens to break
him. To the old lady,
Heaven is... the place where painters go,
All who bring beauty on frail shell or horn,
and this is added encouragement to the poet whose aim as artist is to
take the evil and ugliness of the world and paint it into a meaningful
universal pattern, in which love and harmony are transmuting colours.
It is an inspiring lesson, bringing him strength, and dissolving in power-
ful measure the pain and grief caused by human loss and affliction.
So this old lady writes, and again I believe,
I believe it all, and for no man's death I grieve.
Experiences of this nature help to bring some ease, indeed, but
the positive joy to be found in life is not possible without adequate
knowledge of the true self. The poet expresses this in Allegre, on a
beautiful morning in Nature's unending supply of beautiful mornings,
replete with pigeons on hill-slopes, veering in silvery and white flight
as they pass from sunlight to the blue shadows of the hills, with singing
birds, forest thick with blue haze and smoke from the workman's fire,
wild bees and briar smoke, boyish shouts from the valley, and the
stream flowing by, calm at the edges. In all this radiance of a morning
filled with elation, Walcott finds that the elation can still be useless
and empty where there yet exists estrangement from certain aspects
of the true self.
No temples, yet the fruits of intelligence,
No roots yet the flowers of identity,
No cities but white seas in sunlight,
Laughter and doves, like young Italy.
Yet to find the true self is arduous,
And for us, especially, the elation can be useless and empty
As this pale, blue ewer of the sky,
Loveliest in drought.
It is an estrangement which is reflected even in the love of a
man's life, for if he fails to understand the real motives of the self,
if there is a gap in that inner cognizance which must help to find a
real basis for emotional attachment, then when the obliterating rains
of time fall, his whole house of love may crumble from its foundation
and be washed away. This is the thought that comes over in A Care-
ful Passion, where southern memories of the past contrast and con-
flict with Jamaican experiences of the present to expose the bitter
illusions of marital love. One line in the poem full of meaning, "Hearts
learn to die well that have died before," completely endorses its open-
ing quotation from a Jamaican song.
Hosanna, I build me house, Lawd,
De rain come wash it 'way.
And at the heart of such disillusionment is the failure to discern with-
in the true self between infatuation and the love which springs from
1 1* 3
deeper roots. Too often is the former feeling connoted with love, so
much so that in Parang, the second cuatroman expresses in an idiom
delightfully Eastern Caribbean an extreme view of the idea.
Boy every damned tune them tune
Of love that will last forever
Is the wax and the wane of the moon
Since Adam catch body-fever.
A similar view, though not carried to its extreme, is expressed in A
Careful Passion. There, it throws more light on that gap in self-
knowledge; for when the self-seeking heart desperately searches "for
some mirror to believe," it is apt to see, in the "stirring of the old
original curse within strange eyes," the true gospel.
And that is all the truth
All Is exhilaration on the eve,
Especially when the self-seeking heart
So desperate for some mirror to believe
Finds in strange eyes the old original curse.
So cha cha cha, begin the long goodbyes..
Finally, in that enchantingly evocative poem, In A Green Night,
the "fable becomes perfected," and all these experiences of life, bring-
ing with them their bitter potions, coalesce into that wise calm of "the
comprehending heart" which nothing "can quail." In the orange tree
with its burden of fruit, Walcott can see an adequate symbol of this
The orange tree, in various light,
Proclaims perfected fables now
That her last season's summer height
/ / /-
Bends from each over-burdened bough.
In that first verse he gives us a clear visual picture of the orange tree
bathed in contrasting shades of light. From this point, run-on lines,
alliteration with a different consonantal system In each line, contrast
between the height of the tree in the third line and its bending in the
fourth, Initial heavy stress in the fourth line Introducing a disturbed
trochaic rhythm and followed by a heavy spondee, plosive quality of
alliterative words in the same line, - all these forces build up to a
weighted climax which allows us to see most vividly a very significant
detail of the tree,--its profusion of fruit under whose weight each
loaded bough bends. The aim, of course, is to let us see as fully as
possible the tree's maturity, so that the comparison being made may
be perfectly clear.
The tree, then, with its full, ripe fruit In summer, represents the
poet's mind matured by experience. And like the tree, the mind has
its seasons other than summer, too, its winter of cold, uncomforted
barrenness, its spring of light, slowly dawning on the mind, Illuminating
its dark recesses, until, brilliantly lit, it has reached its splendid
summer of perfection as represented by the orange tree. The tree,
however, when it reaches that stage of maturity passes beyond into a
season of decay, each "golden sun" of fruit luxuriously dipping the
magic of its maturity in the cool of night, only to have its splendour
quailed in the harsh fires of the Autumn sun by day. Or perhaps the
dew of night and the dust of parched noon, which in summer co-
operate to add lustre to the tree's maturity, may in autumn conspire
to spread over all that very splendour the rust of decay so successfully
repelled throughout the summer.
For if by night each golden sun
Burns in a comfortable creed,
By noon harsh fires have begun
To quail those splendours which they feed.
Or mixtures of the dew and dust
That early shone her orbs of brass,
Mottle her splendours with the rust
She sought all summer to surpass.
So too with the mind. The "comfortable creeds" which it works out
in a period of maturity, and in which its sun of intelligence may com-
placently burn for a time are soon destroyed by the steadily increasing
intellectual heat which brought it some degree of maturity. Or per-
haps the dust of doubt and uncertainty may insidiously mix with its
dew of ripening intelligence to corrupt all with the rust of despair.
However it may happen, the change will come, and as with the orange
tree, the mind then experiences its autumn season in which outworn
creeds and wayward beliefs fall, like the "moult of leaves" from the
tree, to expose fresh areas of truth and light. And so by the law of
change and progressive development, both Nature and man revolve in
cycles towards increasing maturity. Summer, autumn, and each
autumn is a "zone truer than the tropical" one before it, because it
leads to yet another summer of greater promise and maturity than
the one before.
By such strange, cyclic chemistry
That dooms and glories her at once
As green yet ageing orange tree,
The mind enspheres all circumstance.
The contrasts in that verse touch off one another's distinctions and
become ultimately lost in the all-embracing sphere of mind. Walcott's
use of the word "green" there takes on a dual meaning, -"green" in
the sense of being unripe, immature; and "green" connoting the
spiritual bloom which comes in old age. The latter connotation is
adopted from Marvell, as is the poem's title which is taken from a line
in The Bermudas.
He hangs in shades the orange bright
Like golden lamps in a green night.
Marvell's poem describes the fervent belief but unattainable aspiration
of some Protestant refugees that they have reached in the West Indies
a life-haven of eternal splendour and perfection. Thus, the allusion
serves to emphasize the point that the cyclic history of man is one in
whose annals he can never reach, while on earth, the still point of
perfection. And so we move steadily to the poem's conclusion. No
holiday splendour, says Walcott, no purposeless basking in a vacation of
indifference, can calm the darkening fear in the poet's mind when he
has travelled so far in his search for greater understanding that he
leaves far behind his "passionate hatred," the "visionary rage" which
has its roots in limited conception. But, the search ended and the
goal reached, fear departs forever, and the heart surges in the power
of its new found comprehension. Thus, if subsequently in the con-
tinued cycle of existence, the harsh fires of intellect appear to blight
the poet's talent bursting into a summer splendour, neither the
autumn's "fierce noon" nor winter's "lampless night" can daunt the
heart exulting in the comprehension that autumn must fall, winter
yield to spring, and a more glorious summer come. Not ever again can
life's changing experiences, however bitter their potions, "quail his
The orange tree, in various light
Proclaims that fable perfect now
That her last season's summer height
Bends from each over-burdened bough.
We leave Walcott at this stage of his experience. Indeed, no poetic
statement could go further in defining the calm which ought to exist
at the heart of life's diverse stormy aspects. To use his own metaphor;
in a journey made painful by the rough seas of experience, he has
arrived, though not at the end, since for all of us the life craft must
continue to weather new storms of experience till the final harbour;
but his has drawn to itself from continual weathering a power which
creates its own calm to brave subsequent passages. We cannot under-
estimate the greatness of his achievement. It was his ambition to
write "verse crisp as sand, clear as sunlight, cold as the curled wave."
His success has been superlative. The language of his poems is his
own, compact, precise, classical, devoid of unconscious imitation; their
quality of thought and recorded experience, rare. Dipping freely into
the universal and traditional current of poetry, he has fused the
elements of his West Indian situation and experience with those of the
world's experience, so that the relevance of both to life's essential
meaning stands out all the more, and has done it with such skill that
his own originality has been enshrined.
C. G. O. KING,
University of the West Indies.
Sedan Chair Porches:
A Detail of Georgian Architecture in
COUNTRY LIFE published in May 16, 1963, a letter from Ronald
B. Haynes which in part reads: "On a recent visit to Chester I was
interested to read in a local guidebook that a house dating from 1780,
at the corner of Stanley Place, has still preserved its sedan-chair porch. 1
This porch, with a door and steps on either side and an imitation
window in the centre, enabled the sedan-chair men to deposit the
chair outside the front door of the house, and during inclement weather
the hirer or owner of the chair was enabled to step into it without fear
of becoming wet or soiled."
Mr. Haynes' letter induced replies from Sir John Summerson of
Sir John Soane's Museum, Lincoln's Inn Fields, and from Mr. D. F.
Petch, Curator, The Grosvenor Museum, Chester. Sir John wrote to
Mr. Haynes on 17th September, 1963, "I have never heard of 'sedan-
chair porches' and very much doubt if this term has much authority.
I suspect also that the term has been applied because the plan of such
a porch is analogous to that of the sedan-chair and not because it
provided more convenience than any other porch. Porches open at the
sides are not very common but are sometimes used in street architecture
where forward-projecting steps would be inappropriate and might
even trespass beyond the owner's curtilage." Mr. Petch wrote to Mr.
Haynes on 26th September, 1963, that he had "reason to doubt the
description of this admittedly unusual porch as a sedan-chair porch.
there is said to have been another sedan-chair porch at Bath, which
may now have been demolished. Although limited perhaps by legal
problems to a certain extent one would have thought that a true form
of sedan-chair porch on the lines of the porte cochere would have been
very popular and that many instances would still survive." Mr. Haynes
concluded on 6th November, 1963, "I am afraid the results of my
enquiries concerning these porches are rather disappointing, as it would
seem that these do not really exist."
However, this may be, he has been instrumental in bringing to
notice the three interesting, and apparently very unusual, examples of
Georgian architecture in the town of St. George's, photographs of which
are reproduced with this note.
Before further particularization, it would be well to quote Dr.
Brewer's definition of a sedan-chair. "The covered seat so called,
carried by two bearers on poles back and front, first appeared in Italy
in the late 16th century and was introduced into England by Prince
1. The Editor thanks Mr. Hugh Marshall of Chalmers, Gibbs & Associates (Architects), for
making the drawing of the porch in Chester which we publish in this issue.
Charles and the Duke of Buckingham on their return from Spain
On the origin of the name, Dr. Brewer says that "the name 'Sedan'
was first used in England; it was probably coined from Lat. sedere, to
sit, though it is just possible that Johnson's suggestion, viz: that it is
connected with the French town, Sedan, has something in it." The
French, however, seem to make no claims to nomenclature, and Larousse
merely refers to it as chaise a porteurs.
It seems extremely unlikely that the sedan-chair was ever used in
Grenada, both on account of the unsuitability of such a confined
vehicle to the climate and the extreme gradients of many streets.
There can be little doubt, however, that the careful passenger,
approaching the centre of Bath, would have instructed the chairmen
to bring the chair down Bathwick and Lansdowne in reverse; so that a
similar type of transport cannot be ruled out in Grenada.
The prosperous burgess of St. George's may well have owned a
slave-borne litter, to take "his sisters and his cousins and his aunts"
on afternoon visits, in view of the impracticability of contemporary
European clothing, the cobbled streets and primitive drainage. Whether
he did or not, the possession of a sedan or litter porch would have
been a status symbol. This is suggested by a story about Richelieu
(1585-1642), who being "malade, faisait abattre des pans de mur des
villes pour donner passage a sa litiere." Richelieu's letter would in fact
have been carried by two horses in tandem and would therefore have
been one of the longest unarticulated vehicles yet put on the road; so
that, whether the comment is made factually or metaphorically, it is
intended to reflect his status and is a minor triumph of propaganda
for the Capuchin Father Joseph du Trembley (the original Eminence
grise). The tropical litter was, and indeed still is, a light couch con-
structed for manual transport; the occupant being protected either
by curtains or an umbrella.
It is regrettable that the early colonists of Grenada found an
island with stones having no predictable plane of cleavage for building
purposes and so utilized the ample growing timber. One of the results
was that on December 27th, 1771, the town of St. George's, then con-
sisting of wooden houses, was completely destroyed by fire. The town
was apparently rebuilt with the traditional material, and on November
1st, 1775, the greater part of the town of St. George's was again destroy-
ed by fire. Mr. E. Gittens Knight has written that "in consequence of
this second fire a stringent Act was passed by the Legislature with
respect to the erection of future buildings in the town, which were con-
sequently reconstructed of brick or stone and covered with tiles."
The brick and tile houses of Church Street are constructed of
imported ceramics, no doubt used as ballast in the sugar schooners, and
the texture and style almost certainly place them in the last quarter
of the 18th century. The similarity of the porches in construction and
proportion to the 1780 Chester example is an additional index.
4 PORCH I: N. ASPECT
. .. ..
PORCH III, II AND I: N. ASPECT >
4 PORCH I: S. ASPECT
PORCH IN CHESTER THAT MAY HAVE
BEEN BUILT FOR THE USERS OF
SEDAN CHAIRS >
PORCH II: S.E. ASPECT
Postulating that such a porch was functional as a pedestrian porte
cochere, its use in Grenada would have been limited to 15-20 years,
as after the Fedon rebellion of 1795 there would have been no reliable
household slaves to carry litters, let alone any delicate ladies to be
carried. This, however, does not rule out the possibility that when
first constructed, it was intended to serve as a porte cochere.
Porch (1) is apparently in its original condition, with doors on
each side and a louvre window to the front. Porch (2), which is
proportionally most like the Chester example, was in original condition
up to ten years ago when the roof was replaced with galvanized sheet-
ing and the South door by a louvre window. The history of porch (3),
see cover photograph, Is unknown, but it is conjectured that removal
of the internal plaster on the southern side would reveal an original
doorway. A fourth porch further to the south on the same side of
the street was removed during private alterations some 25 years ago.
It is not unusual for colonial architecture to follow the current
taste of the mother country, as for example the Dutch-type buildings
of Curacao and of South Africa; so that these examples of porches in
St. George's need not necessarily have been functional. They still have
their uses, however, as the houses face east into the prevailing trade-
wind; so that they deflect driving rain from the entrance hall, whilst,
by manipulation of the lateral doors, providing a reasonable form of
air-conditioning. The nubile daughters of the house are also known to
have appreciated them when under mild chaperonage. In addition,
it may be noted, with reference to Sir John Summerson's letter, that
the freeholders concerned claim ownership of the pavement in front of
their houses so that the porches demarcate the limit of the owners'
curtilage. On the other hand the public by long usage, must have
established right-of-way on the unobstructed lengths of pavement.
If this type of porch is as scarce as indicated, it would be interest-
ing to know of other examples in the Caribbean and whether steps
should be taken to preserve some of them. The St. George's Borough
Authority has scheduled Church Street to remain unmolested, but this
does not interfere with the right of the freeholder to alter his property.
Are they for instance worth maintaining by private subscription or
Public Works Department grant? Or, if threatened with demolition,
should provision be made for the removal and re-election of at least
one on public property?
J. R. GROOME
Documents Which Have Guided
Educational Policy In The West Indies
REPORT OF THE COMMISSIONER OF EDUCATION,
BRITISH GUIANA, 1925.
MAJOR BAIN GRAY'S departmental report on the work of his
Education Department for 1924 was one of the most forthright criticisms
of a system of education in the British Caribbean ever to be issued. It
was far more trenchant in tone than any preceding special commission
on education in British Guiana and certainly abandoned the establish-
ed conventions of an annual departmental report. However, Bain
Gray's comment was timely to the point of receiving support in prin-
ciple from the Teachers' Association and from a section of the press
that clearly recognized a potential new departure in the administration
of education in British Guiana. "Under an earlier dispensation," the
Daily Chronicle pointed out, "Major Gray's report would never have
seen the light of day; even if he had had the courage to write it."
Bain Gray had in fact only taken up his appointment as Com-
missioner of Education three months before he wrote his first, and most
critical, report. He was commenting on a system of education which
had recently received its third Code of Regulations in the twentieth
century. The system introduced in 1920 had, belatedly in British
Guiana, abolished a system of payment-by-results which had danger-
ously debased the quality of primary education. In particular it had
over the years reduced the prospects of the teachers who were in-
creasingly, in consequence, abandoning an unremunerative profession.
The fixed salary scale introduced in 1920 was still too low to attract
or retain teachers of any quality; based on qualifications and the size
of schools, the salaries paid were in any case largely at the lower end
of the new scale, because teachers had little means of improving their
qualifications and pupils were loath to attend the schools.
Bain Gray regarded the employment of untrained and underpaid
teachers as the most dangerous aspect of the education system that
he was surveying for the first time. The inadequacies of the schools
and their curricula, which he attacked at all levels, were a consequence
largely of the inadequacies of the teachers. The Commissioner
indicated that he sought injections of reform into the whole system
from the youngest classes to the classes for older pupils, which he
strongly criticised for their lack in any form of practical or pre-voca-
tional training. The absence of a training college for teachers was one
aspect of the total neglect of technical or professional training in
It is clear that public opinion was already sufficiently aroused by
the parlous state of education for Bain Gray's strictures to be welcomed
as a ray of hope for better things in the near future. His attack on the
administration of education, which involved more than an implied
criticism of the denominations, was more controversial. The new Com-
missioner was thought by some not to give due credit to the Churches
as the originators of schools in British Guiana. By others he was
called to order for objecting to the limitation of the powers of the
Commissioner, the professional officer, by the Board of Education. Here
again he was on dangerous ground because constitutional conflict was
arising between the electives of the Combined Court and the Colonial
Office in the very months that the public first received Bain Gray's
Report. It says much for the effectiveness of his personality and the
apparent rightness of his cause that he was not more often accused
of colonialist presumption. His arguments for a unified attack on the
deficiencies of public education obviously gave promise of action. There
was enough appreciation of such a hope for criticism to be slight or
suspended, both by the Colonial authorities and by articulate public
opinion in British Guiana. The document was widely read, which is
seldom the fate of an annual report from a government department,
and its proposals for new provisions were well accepted.
EXTRACTS FROM THE REPORT.
1 A first impression of an outdated system.
The first impression which the primary schools make on
the mind of a visitor is that they have not been altered in any
important respect for at least thirty years. The buildings,
the furniture, the books, and the slates all suggest the eighties
or nineties of last century. The curriculum has, no doubt,
been modified in certain directions, but the modifications are
too few and feeble to dissipate the general atmosphere of
2. Criticism of the lack of physical education or practice in manual
skills in an area where they are at a premium.
The whole system completely ignores the fact that the
child has a body as well as a mind. The sanitary conditions
of the majority of schools are rightly condemned by medical
and enlightened lay opinion. There is no systematic physical
training, and a large number of schools have not sufficient
space, either indoors or outdoors, to carry out this branch of
education. No serious attempt is made to provide any form
of manual instruction at any stage of the child's school life.
Very few schools have furniture suitable for infant handwork;
and at the other end of the scale there is neither accommoda-
tion, staff nor apparatus provided for the purpose of intro-
ducing the elder boys to wood-work or any other craft, or the
elder girls to cookery, mothercraft, or any of the necessary
duties of women in the home. From the fifth standard up-
wards a large proportion of the boys and girls are "marking
time" with little profit to themselves or the state. Most of
the teachers, through no fault of their own, are entirely lack-
ing in manual dexterity; yet they are blamed for producing
pupils who are devoid of any desire to learn a skilled manual
occupation either agricultural or industrial.
3. The employment of unqualified and underpaid teachers is the
greatest evil of the system.
Within the limitations imposed by the state of the exist-
ing buildings, the inadequacy of the equipment, and the
squalid surroundings of many of the schools, the present
system of primary education seems to have reached its maxi-
mum efficiency. The evil results of these material defects are
intensified by another factor which is even more important -
the employment of unqualified and underpaid teachers, who
are a danger to the schools and the community. Their
presence seems to arise from the belief that two unskilled
workers can do the work of one skilled worker a belief
which every employer of skilled labour knows to be a fallacy.
It is particularly untrue of education, which is at once a
science and an art. If an assistant teacher is now, with the
cost of living at its present high level, worth only from $8 to
$15 a month to the community, he or she is unfit to mould
the minds and characters of the next generation of citizens.
Most of these underpaid teachers in our schools are women,
but it is clear that neither a man nor a woman can be self-
supporting on the sum of $10 a month. Even the maximum
rate of $15 is only half of the maximum pay of a messenger
in the government service, whose work cannot in any way
be compared to that of a teacher, who is in charge of at least
fifty children every year, and thus, in twenty years' service,
may influence for good or evil the lives of a thousand men
4. The absence of facilities for technical or professional training.
In education beyond the primary stage there is a great
lack of facilities for technical education of every kind. There
Is hardly any calling agricultural, industrial or commercial
of which even the rudiments can be satisfactorily learnt
in the colony. In the teaching profession, this lack of a
training institute has led to the multiplication of inferior
practitioners, which is most dangerous to the efficiency of any
art or craft. The same result is noticeable in skilled manual
occupations throughout the colony.
5. The poor administration to be expected from divided control
between the Board of Education and the denominations, and the
lack of powers for the Commissioner of Education.
My predecessor drew attention to the unsatisfactory work-
ing of the Board of Education. The real evil seems to be
that the control of the schools has been divided between the
Board and the denominations. The Board contains only a
few members (the representatives of the Combined Court)
who are responsible to public opinion, while the denomina-
tions have very little legal and no political responsibility. The
Commissioner of Education has been deprived of all real
power, although he alone is fully responsible to the govern-
ment and to the community for the efficiency of the educa-
tional system. In the few instances where the Commissioner
is mentioned in the present code, his powers are reduced to
an almost absurd minimum, e.g. he can withhold the grant
for latrines (of which the maximum monthly value is at
present $1.50). The appointment of teachers is so far out
of his control that he must acquiesce in the appointment of,
and pay a salary to, a teacher whom he knows to have been
dismissed from another school for very good reasons. In
this instance even the Board cannot control the matter,
which rests entirely with the denomination concerned.
6 Recognising the past and present contribution of the Churches to
education, the Commissioner still blames the poor physical con-
dition of the schools on an undefined division of control between
church and state which enables both to avoid responsibility.
My objections to the present methods of administration
do not prevent me from appreciating to the full the great
services which the churches have rendered to education in
the past. I appreciate, also, the fact that it will be a long
time before the Commissioner of Education can hope to find
elsewhere than in the churches any organised body of public
opinion which will take more than a languid interest in educa-
tional progress. But the present insanitary condition of
many schools, and the general lack of furniture and equip-
ment, are due to the fact that each party the churches
and the state has been able to prove to its own entire
satisfaction that the responsibility rested upon the other. In
the meantime the physical welfare of the children has been
lost sight of. It is essential, therefore, that in the future the
relations of the two parties should be clearly defined, and
that each should accept full responsibility within its own
7. An assertion that the existing separate administration of primary
and secondary education is anachronistic.
The question of responsibility reminds me of the existence
of two separate departments of the government, both dealing
with education one directed by the Principal of Queen's
College, and one by me. In spite of the disadvantages attend-
ing a public expression of opinion on a matter which so nearly
concerns my own future, I feel bound to say that the public
interest demands that this state of things should end at the
earliest possible moment. Whoever may be the future head
of it, there must be one department which will administer all
the educational activities of the state. There is no need to
labour analogies from other departments or other countries;
the existence of two departments in this colony is undoubtedly
an anachronism which cannot be defended on any ground
of public policy.
8 Criticism of a system which neglects the actual circumstances and
prospects of different categories of pupils.
In primary education we have a system which ignores the
difference between town dweller and country dweller, between
the dweller in England and in British Guiana. In the higher
education of girls we have a system which ignores science as
a field of human knowledge and endeavour, and even the
fundamental fact that every woman should be educated with
a two-fold aim to take charge of a home and children, or
to earn her livelihood in industry.
9. The necessary reforms and new provision are stated, with the
recognition that they will cost money.
Like the law, education seeks to provide for each wrong
an appropriate remedy, but the costs must be paid in both
instances. The introduction of practical work into the Infant
school system, the establishment of central schools for the
elder children (where education can be conducted on practical
and modern lines), of a technical school for "vocational
training," and of a training institute for teachers, the pro-
vision of domestic and other forms of science teaching for
girls, the improvement of the physical conditions of the
schools, and the guarantee of an adequate pay to a properly
trained and qualified teacher, will all cost money. In parti-
cular, a practical system of education which demands benches,
tools and materials, is obviously more expensive than a purely
10. A suggestion for inviting individuals and corporations to endow
some of the necessary educational developments in British Guiana.
I know of no reason why the state should not invite the
financial co-operation of public-spirited individuals and
corporations in undertaking the reconstruction of the educa-
tional system. The record of the past is not encouraging, as
the number of bequests for educational purposes has been
very small, and they have not come from those who made the
largest fortunes in British Guiana. But in other countries,
especially Scotland and the United States, there has been in
recent years a revival of the spirit of liberality which, in the
past, led pious founders to establish the greatest educational
institutions of England.
11. The need for a strong public opinion in favour of the reform of
such a vital matter as the education of the community's future
workers and citizens.
In addition to the benefactions of the rich, the schools
are greatly in need of the assistance to be derived from an
enlightened public opinion, which would rightly condemn the
present system of bringing up our future citizens amid
surroundings which are often much worse than those of
barracks or hospitals, or even prisons. In a country where
the high death-rate and other problems of public health are
so urgent it should be remembered that the primary schools
are the readiest and most efficient, in fact almost the only
means by which the state can hope to raise the physical,
mental and moral standard of the community. Whatever
system of education be adopted, the boys and girls from these
schools will find their way into the labour market and the
polling booths. Nothing can keep them out. But it is a
matter of vital importance to the community that the workers
and citizens who flow into it every year from the primary
schools should show, under the difficult conditions of the
modern world, the highest qualities of character, intellect and
Bain Gray's first report was supported in all its main assertions
by the Parliamentary Commission set up by the British Government
in 1927 to advise on the better administration of British Guiana. This
in its turn led to the new constitution of 1929 which more closely
resembled a Crown colony administration than British Guiana had
ever had. Chapter 8 of the British Guiana Commission Report con-
demned the educational provision, made pointed remarks about the
lack of practical training for young Guianese who were consequently
left unemployed while skilled workers were imported from Surinam,
and supported the Commissioner's contention that little could be
achieved in educational reform with the current divided administration.
It was during this constitutional crisis that the balance of power
in educational administration was changed. In 1928 Bain Gray's post
was retitled Director of Education and his staff was increased to build
up an efficient Education Department; the Board of Education was
first disbanded and then recreated as an advisory body only. This re-
o'ganisation was effectively a microcosm of the larger issue of con-
stitutional change. Bain Gray himself was one of the seven members
of the Crown Colony Commission and so was associated directly with
the larger movement to give more power to the colonial administration
as well as with his own departmental version of it.
In the circumstances protest was to be expected and there is no
doubt that Bain Gray had many enemies for his direct assumption of
responsibility as a colonial civil servant. The more educated Guianese
in particular resented what they regarded as his arrogance; his tactics
in gaining more control over Queen's College were particularly resisted.
For a time even the British Guiana Teachers' Association became
critical because of Bain Gray's active role in reducing Guianese responsi-
bility in their own government when elsewhere in the British Caribbean
the reverse process was starting.
It is remarkable that in this climate of opinion and during a major
world economic depression, Bain Gray was able to attack the worst
evils that he had outlined in 1925. In 1928 the Government Training
College was opened and even before that a systematic programme of
teachers' courses was launched. There were publicity campaigns to
improve school attendance and a particular effort was made to get
children of East Indian families absorbed in the school system.
Practical training centres were opened for the older pupils and the
Carnegie Trade Centre for women was started in 1933 with a 10,000
grant from the Carnegie Corporation. An equivalent trade centre for
boys and men also did much to alleviate the chronic unemployment of
One of the most controversial aspects of Bain Gray's programme
was the starting of government or "colonial" schools. This he regarded
as necessary to extended educational development. Here however lack
of funds defeated him. Only the Government School in Georgetown
was achieved; but this was in itself an administrative tour de force
because the building was financed from an Imperial Government grant
for relief of unemployment.
Bain Gray was undoubtedly one of the most effective colonial
administrators in the British Caribbean area between the two world
wars. The promise of his first departmental report was action, and
this he achieved against heavy odds during the depression period. He
was the classic type of colonial administrator in that he declared his
views early and then administered unambiguously for what he wanted,
using his full powers in a Crown colony to do so. His success was
rewarded with an unusual promotion for a director of education; the
British Government expressed their approval of his work by appoint-
ing him Administrator of St. Vincent in 1938. He left in British Guiana
some abiding critics; but there are still many elderly teachers who
express admiration for Bain Gray's activities in raising the standards
ot teachers, and consequently of their pupils, in Guianese schools.
SHIRLEY C. GORDON,
Department of Education,
University of the West Indies.
A NOTE ON JAMAICA'S MARINE FISHERIES
THERE is a widely held view in all developing countries that much
of their current underdevelopment is due to, and is being maintained
by the economic activities of those commonly referred to as "exploiting
foreign capitalists." Whatever may or may not be the truth of this
assertion there is little doubt that now we are an independent country
the continued underdevelopment of certain areas of our Jamaican
economy is due to our own failure to acquire or develop and then apply
intelligently and energetically appropriate technological practices.
This thesis is not one which is likely to evoke affectionate responses
from some of our local "progressives" but to them I would suggest that
at least as much energy ought to be expended in detecting and develop-
ing those areas of our natural resources which could rapidly be made
more highly productive as is spent on detailing the activities of the
"capitalists" however valuable, therapeutically and otherwise, such an
exercise may be considered to be.
To illustrate this, let us look at the present state of our marine
fisheries. This is not to suggest that no progress at all has been made
in their development. The work already done in this field has con-
sistently won the approval of fishery experts and has been paid the
very high compliment by FAO of adoption as the pattern to be recom-
mended to developing countries for the "first stage" development of
their fisheries. Close examination confirms that these successes con-
stitute but the first step and that any further development requires
imaginative and energetic application of advanced techniques to every
stage of our fishery operations: to production (boats, fishing gear and
methods), handling and processing (if feasible), distribution and
marketing as well as to the general administration and organisation of
What has been achieved so far? In the late 1940's the Jamaican
Government realized that for nutritional as well as economical reasons
it was desirable to develop our fisheries and that this required Govern-
mental intervention. The first tangible expression of this was the
establishment of the Fisheries Division in 1949. In a country then, as
now, riddled with malnutrition fish was a readily available first class
food rich not only in high quality protein but also in valuable fatty
substances (lipids) and most of the water and fat soluble vitamins and
minerals. Then there was, and indeed still is, the paradox that although
Jamaicans are such great fish eaters consuming per capital almost four
times as much as do Europeans and North Americans and although
Jamaica has such an extensive coast line (in relation to the size of the
country) yet most of the fish consumed is imported. Today, despite
the improvements, this situation remains substantially the same. In
1962 fish imports totalled 35,272,000 lbs. (equivalent to about 118,000,000
lbs. of fish food) with a total value of 2,585,000. In the same year local
production was estimated at 29,243,674 lbs. with a value of 2,255,969.
It was, and still is, hoped that by increasing local fish "production"
the quantity of imported fish and fish products could be reduced there-
by improving our balance of payments and at the same time improving
the economic and social standards of the local fishermen.
For convenience we can consider the fishing grounds available to
us as falling into three distinct "zones" Let us note that in talking
about the marine fisheries we cannot really speak of "our fisheries
resources," denoting fish stocks belonging exclusively to Jamaica as do
for example our forests or our bauxite deposits. Not unless we intend
to restrict our activities to those fishing grounds located entirely within
our territorial waters in which case we would be condemning our
marine fisheries to remain permanently at the subsistence level. For,
as will be shown later, the most productive fisheries are those to be
found in international waters open to fishing by the nationals of all
countries. Of the three zones that nearest to land is the narrow island
(continental) shelf extending out to approximately 15 miles from the
South coast but only to about 2 miles from the North coast. This is the
traditional fishing area for the Jamaican fishermen utilizing the canoe
with fish pots and line fishing, and nets as the chief methods of capture
responsible for 33%, 14% and 33% of the total catch respectively
(1962 figures), boats using mixed gear being responsible for the rest.
As long ago as 1945 Thompson 1 reported that the island shelf had been
overfished, a finding which in the absence of supporting statistics or
systematic scientific surveys seemed to have been based on the oral
evidence of fishermen. Hickling 2 in 1949 and the International Bank 3 in
1952 again without any stated supporting evidence, also reported that
the shelf "is. already being fished to the limit." Despite the absence
of objective evidence there is no doubt that fishermen today catch less
fish in their fishpots than they used to and that they have to go
further out to do so the tale of diminishing returns is widespread
and insistent. Yet it should not be considered that this is necessarily
a case of overfishing of the classical type, i.e. a depletion of all catch-
able and marketable stock in the area, as some of these experts have
implied. The fishpot is a crude, static method of catching fish and as
has recently been confirmed by experimental fishing of the Fisheries
Division there are many first class marketable pelagic fish which never
enter these containers. To rely on the fishpot to catch fish is rather
as if we relied on traps consisting of holes in the ground for catching
cows in a pen.
The next fishing area beyond the island shelf consists of various
offshore banks the best known of which are those in the vicinity of
the Pedro and Morant Cays. Fishing here is also by traditional
methods and there are various types of relationships between the
canoe fishermen and the large scale operators who transport the
catches into the Kingston markets. In contrast to the island shelf
those offshore banks are much under-fished. In 1961 it was estimated
that only 18.5% of the three main banks was being exploited. It must
be noted however that not all of the unexploited area can easily be
successfully fished by the traditional canoe based on the beaches from
which they now operate. It does seem that these offshore banks have
enough fishstocks to support a much more intensive fishery than is
now being operated. Further, the recent discovery of the "Henry
Holmes Bank" off the northeast coast suggests that there may be other
highly productive banks which are now unknown.
Beyond the Cays are the offshore Caribbean fishing grounds report-
ed to be areas of medium productivity but little exploited and said
by some to contain very good fish. Jamaican fishermen do not now
operate on these grounds although it is reported that some of them are
being fished by Japanese and there have been reports of some Russian
activity in the area. At least some of the Japanese are based on
Curacao and reportedly land 10,000 tons of Tuna alone annually.
Beyond these grounds in the Caribbean Sea is the open Atlantic the
fishing grounds of which extend from off the North American coast to
the west of the European and the West African coasts to the east.
These areas are fished by all the main European nations. Let us note
that the Portuguese, for example, travel approximately 3,000 miles to
fish on the banks off Newfoundland and Greenland the former area
being also about 3,000 miles away from Jamaica.
Why haven't Jamaicans been exploiting these offshore and oceanic
fisheries? One reason is that our fishing craft, gear and methods are
too primitive. Let us take a closer look at these. The boats are tradi-
tionally manually operated dugout canoes. The Boat Mechanisation
Scheme introduced by the Government in 1956 was designed to reduce
the considerable time lost in travelling to and from fishing grounds
in such canoes, and at the same time to enable Jamaican fishermen to
acquire some familiarity with mechanical equipment in anticipation of
the inevitable day when the local fishing fleet would consist mainly of
highly sophisticated mechanised units. Under the scheme outboard
engines are made available to canoe fishermen. Largely due to the
parallel Credit Facilities Scheme, the Mechanisation Scheme has been
deemed a success. In terms of the repayment of loans the former has
undoubtedly been successful. Of the 88,000 loaned to fishermen under
the Scheme up to July 1961, 78,000 had been repayed. As regards the
general effectiveness of these Schemes one must look more closely at
the figures. The 1962 sample survey showed that of a total of 3,487
boats, 699 or 20% of the island fishing fleet (responsible for 38% of the
total catch) had been mechanised in the 6 years of the Scheme's opera-
tion. Does this make the Scheme a resounding success? Twenty percent
does not seem like a lot yet with the staff then available to have mech-
anised 699 boats in 6 years may perhaps not be an inconsiderable achieve-
ment. For comparison, we may note that Malaya increased the
number of mechanised boats in the 5 years 1950-1955 from 11 to 474
(% age figures unavailable); also that in the 6 years starting 1953
(5% of fleet mechanised) Barbados completely mechanised her fishing
fleet but then the total number of boats involved were much fewer than
ours about 400. Moreover, this rapid rate of change-over was
facilitated by hurricane Janet in 1956 which destroyed most of the old
boats. But, to put these figures in their proper perspective, it must
be noted that both in the cases of Malaya and Barbados mechanisation
involved much more than merely sticking an outboard engine on to
the tail of a canoe as in both these countries mechanisationn" con-
sisted of a replacement of the traditional boats by larger boats equipped
with inboard diesel engines.
These Schemes have undoubtedly achieved some success in their
secondary objectives as some fishermen have gained experience in the
operation of mechanised units and the central authorities some
experience in the operation of credit schemes.
Should we continue to give priority to the mechanisation of these
dugout canoes or should all or most of our efforts be concentrated on
the development of mechanised decked fishing vessels for medium and
long range fishing? Let's face it in terms of range and effective-
ness the dugout canoe bears the same relationship to modern fishing
vessels as does the slingshot to the modern inter-continental ballistic
missile! Mere mechanisation of its propulsion does not make the canoe
more seaworthy or greatly increase its range of action or enable it to
operate more gear or carry more fish or ice boxes. Also, if the island
shelf on which these canoes operate is already overfished (at least by
certain techniques) it would seem pointless to increase our capacity to
fish in this area. Further many pelagic fish and shell fish seem to
spawn in this area and in the absence of rigidly enforced conservation
regulations their abundance is being adversely affected by our fishing
activities. It should also be noted that to achieve maximum efficiency
not only the method of boat propulsion but the fishing operation itself
needs to be mechanised. This cannot be satisfactorily done in a
canoe. Then in our insistence on mechanisation of these canoes we
must bear in mind the repeated reminders of the former Federal
Fisheries Adviser, Dr. Hess, that mechanisation by itself does not
necessarily create higher incomes but is merely a tool by which fisher-
men can earn more if they are prepared to put greater efforts into
their fishing operations as considerable additional catches have to be
landed before mechanisation can pay its way. This means that more
time must be spent fishing and that maintenance and operating
expenses be kept to a minimum. It does appear that mechanisation
has enabled the fisherman to increase his net earnings. But no records
are available concerning this aspect of the Scheme, and therefore one
cannot determine precisely the extent to which this is so, or how
mechanisation may have affected fishing behaviour of local fishermen.
One cannot therefore critically assess the claim made by some that
mechanisation has in fact caused some fishermen to become lazy and
to fish only when out of money, actually spending less days per year
at sea than they used to.
The success of the scheme is to be judged, not only by whether it
has resulted in an increase in earnings of the individual fishermen, but
also according to whether it has resulted In an increase In the total
landings of fish or in a significant increase in the rate of growth of
the industry. There has been an increase in total landings from
17,000,000 lbs. in 1956 to 24,000,000 in 1962. (Catch from Morant and
Pedro Cays not included). These estimates of the annual volume of
fish caught are not the most reliable and are used here merely to in-
dicate relative changes from year to year they are taken from the
sample survey by the Division of Economics and Statistics of the
Ministry of Agriculture and Lands. It is difficult to determine just
what percentage of this increase can be attributed to mechanisation
but it must have had some effect since although representing only 20%
of the fishing fleet mechanised boats brought in 38% of the total catch
in 1961. The other 62% was brought in by the 80% manually operated
canoes. What is perhaps more instructive is that despite mechanisation
the annual rate of growth of the industry was actually less (7%) during
the first 6 years of the Schemes operation than it was during the
previous 6 years (9%). Bearing in mind that other factors may affect
output, this nevertheless suggests that although mechanisation has
contributed to the continued growth of the industry it has not been
sufficiently extensive to maintain the previous rate of growth let alone
achieve the higher rate of growth which would be required to fully
supply the local demands. The slower rate of growth may also partly
be due to relatively fewer boats. Overfishing of the island shelf may
also have contributed to this relatively slower growth.
These problems are already being faced by Government officials
hence the acquisition of the 90 hp 43 ft. "Blue Fin" in 1961 which is
being used for experimental and exploratory fishing and to introduce
fishermen to a larger and more sophisticated vessel. But, as is realized
by the Government, the problem of providing boats suitable for fishing
the offshore banks is unlikely to be solved by importing boats of a type
now being used elsewhere. This is because fishing boats are generally
highly specific, i.e., they have to be specifically designed to meet the
requirements of a particular fishery. An FAO architect has already
designed at 35 ft. prototype fishing vessel which, it is considered, will
be appropriate for use on the offshore banks. This vessel had a long
gestation period but at least seems to have been launched. It will no
doubt be difficult to arrange for the general introduction of such boats
as few of our fishermen can afford to acquire them individually and
no one would wish to put small fishermen out of business by bringing
in large scale operators indiscriminately. Perhaps much of this will
have to be done through the Fishermen Co-operatives thereby enabling
small fishermen to participate in the modern developments and at the
same time a certain number of largescale operators will have to be
permitted to come into the business. A similar arrangement works
satisfactorily in Japan perhaps the world's greatest fishing nation -
where largescale operators co-exist with local co-operatives of which
there are 4,000 with a membership of over 1 million. Capitalization
has always been a difficult problem in the fishing industry of all
countries since even the most intrepid entrepreneur considers the risk
to be very great. There is a risk of loss of boats, of gear and equip-
ment, risk of failing to locate and catch fish, risk of rapid deterioration
of catch and of fluctuating prices and markets.
In its development programmes the Government has been mainly
concerned with increasing production but has not overlooked the fact
that in dealing with a commodity as highly perishable as fish, increased,
landings require improved facilities at the points of landing, improved
methods of handling and improved distributing and marketing arrange-
ments. In a climate such as ours perhaps the single most important
factor in ensuring that fish reach the consumer in first class condition
is that of rapid and sustained cooling either chilling or freezing. At
present apart from the boats which carry fish from the Morant and
Pedro Cays into Kingston few other vessels have adequate icing
facilities. Limited cold storage facilities are now available in Kingston
and at certain other of the larger beaches. There has also been some
other improvements in shore facilities and services with the erection
of gear houses and offices, and fuel pump stations, which supply fisher-
men with a tax free gas/oil mixture. Up to the end of 1962 some
1,186,000 gallons of such fuel had been made available to fishermen.
Marketing and distribution arrangements are still far from satis-
factory. Until these are improved production cannot be greatly in-
creased as this will merely result in an increase in the incidence of
"apparent gluts" already recurrent phenomena. There is need for a
well organised fleet of suitably equipped vehicles to take fish from the
beaches to inland centres. For a variety of reasons (some of them
very good) it would be very difficult to persuade Jamaicans, particular-
ly those living in the country, to change from salted cod, mackerel and
other imported fish to fresh fish. Whatever else is done this change
will never be effected unless the consumers can be assured of regular
supplies of fresh fish in good condition. To the consumer in a country
village, without electricity and hence no refrigeration, salted cod and
pickled mackerel have the advantage of always being available in the
local shop. Further, when a 4 lb. or so is bought and put in the
kitchen it does not spoil but can be kept almost indefinitely and eaten
bit by bit until it is finished. The amount of say salted cod fish eaten
by any one person at one sitting especially in a poor household is
very little, which is another advantage i.e. it can "stretch." Even if
fresh fish is fried thus preventing immediate spoilage (especially when
liberally sprinkled with vinegar) it just cannot "last" as long or
"stretch" as far as the equivalent piece of salted cod or mackerel. More-
over, whatever the relative gastronomic merits may be the taste for
salted cod, for mackerel and for tinned sardines is already well
established and traditional eating habits are notoriously difficult to
change. Imagine eating ackee with fresh fish!
These stubborn dietary and economic facts are doubtless realized
and are being faced by our Government officials. Short of restricting
their importation or imposing such high import duties as to price them
out of the reach of the average consumer, procedures which could only
be contemplated if suitable alternatives were made regularly available
to all at moderate prices, it seems unlikely that it would be possible to
persuade consumers to substitute fresh fish for more than one half of
the 32,272,000 lbs. of imported fish. But even this would be of signi-
ficance as it would represent more than a 50% increase in our con-
sumption of locally procured fish. Then another 50% increase of
consumption could possibly be achieved by meeting the already existing
demand from people who at present either buy no fresh fish at all or
who, if they do, would buy even more (but not to replace imported
products) if supplies were regularly available. It must be borne in
mind that increase in the supply of fresh fish will result in a lowering
of prices and therefore increased consumption. In addition we could
explore the possibility of utilising locally procured fish in canneries,
for fish-meal production and perhaps in other processing operations,
even if it is merely to have them filleted, frozen and packaged for sale
in supermarkets. It should therefore be possible to double our con-
sumption of locally procured fish over a period of say five years. In
the absence of any available market research data these estimates are
mere guesses but should prove to be conservative ones given a vigorous
and sustained promotional campaign. We should not be over-optimistic
about this as even the U.S.A. the home of high powered salesmanship
and of the "hidden persuaders," has had to admit (in 1961) that "fish
has not managed to achieve a breakthrough in the minds of the U.S.
An increased demand of the order of 100% would require a doubling
of the amount of locally procured fish within a five year period a
task which should not be beyond us given the necessary trained per-
sonnel, hard work, inventiveness and managerial competence. In this
connection it is worth noting that local fish "production" was more
than doubled between the years 1950 (12,000,000 lbs.) and 1962 (29,243,674
lbs.). (Incidentally, over that same period the quantity of imported
fish increased by only 50% from 22,000,000 lbs. in 1950 to 35,272,000
lbs. in 1962). If "production" was doubled over this 12 year period
during which there was no significant extension of the marine fisheries
nor, apart from the limited mechanisation, no major technological
advance it should not be difficult to achieve a similar doubling of pro-
duction in slightly less than half that time (5 years) if we extend the
range of our fisheries and introduce modern boats and gear capable
of medium or long range fishing. No reference has been made so far
to a possible contribution from fresh water fisheries, rivers and ponds,
but then only the marine fisheries are being considered here. How-
ever this possibility can be borne in mind.
If we do succeed in persuading consumers to substitute fresh fish
for 50% of the fish and fish products now imported what should we
then do about the other 50%? Should we continue importing these?
If the answer is "no" what then can we do about it? As a logical
proposition the solution is simple, namely if consumers cannot be
persuaded to purchase what is now being produced then we have got
to produce what the consumers will buy. As a commercial proposition
however it is not quite so simple as it would involve Jamaican fisher-
men fishing for say cod on the banks off Newfoundland and then the
salting or other processing in order to meet the taste of the consumers.
There would be nothing unique about such a solution. In England, for
example, no one hopes that consumers can be pressured into purchas-
ing only fresh fish but herring for instance is kippered or cured to meet
varying tastes. The distances involved and other obvious difficulties
should not lead us to assume that such long range fishing by Jamaicans
would necessarily be uneconomical or impossible for other reasons.
There is at least a good case for a thorough feasibility study of the
economics of long range fishing based on Jamaica.
It is true that such fishing is a highly skilled business and that
at the moment we do not possess enough fishermen with these skills.
But such skills like any others can be acquired. There are no biological
or other reasons which make Jamaicans incapable of learning the skills
necessary for modern, medium and long range fishing. The view that
because we lack centuries of seafaring traditions our fishermen
cannot adapt to the rigours of medium and long range fishing should
be firmly resisted.
It would no doubt take decades to develop a sizeable fleet of
modern Jamaican owned and operated fishing vessels but unless train-
ing is started now it will take even longer. Attention must be directed
to the young men almost none of whom are now entering the fishing
industry. There are all sorts of training possibilities. A scheme similar
to Mr. Lightbourne's admirable overseas apprenticeship scheme could
be instituted enabling youngsters to work on modern fishing boats of
say the Japanese or Canadians; arrangements could be made for say
the Japanese or Portugese to operate medium or long range vessels
from our ports for given periods on the understanding that local per-
sonnel be trained and gradually replace expatriate crew. Then some
"assistance scheme" could be devised by which young men would be
trained and then assisted in obtaining a boat possibly through a co-
operative. Also a fisheries school could be established locally perhaps
in association with the College of Arts, Science and Technology. Suit-
able courses could also be designed for use in our technical high schools.
We can note here that while our University does not offer courses in
fisheries technology considerable attention is given to marine biology
in the Zoology courses and a marine laboratory is operated at Port
Royal where much excellent research is being conducted. Research
scholarships could be sponsored for work in fisheries biology. Let us
remember that the Japanese at whose fishing expertise we marvel -
have an entire University devoted to the study and research of fisheries.
In conclusion then abundant resources exist in offshore and
oceanic fishing grounds; the technical know-how can be imported,
learned or developed; necessary capital can surely be obtained;
we have repeatedly been told that lack of capital has never
been the limiting factor in our development programmes.
It would seem that all the factors necessary for a complete
modernisation of our marine fisheries either already exist here or can
be acquired. Despite this, we may allow our marine fisheries to remain
underdeveloped. That may be our choice. But if so let us clearly
realise that this would be entirely due to our own local inertia and not
to any sinister machinations of "foreign capitalists." Fortunately
there are signs that neither inside or outside the Government is Jamaica
altogether without the interest and determination to modernise and
extend her marine fisheries.
Department of Extra-Mural Studies,
University of the West Indies.
Ernest F. Thompson The Fisheries of Jamaic,
Development and Welfare in the West Indies Bulleli No. 18, 1945.
2. C. F. Hickling Report on the Fisheries of the Britis West Indies,
Development and Welfare in the West Indies Bulletin, No. 29, 1949.
3. International Bank for Reconstruction and Development,
The Economic Development of Jamaica, 1952.
Garvey and Garveyism, A. Jacques Garvey.
United Printers Limited, Kingston, Jamaica, 1963, 18/6d., pp. 287.
THE WIDOW of Marcus Garvey has put together in this volume,
which is at once a labour of love and an act of dedication to her
husband's credo of Negro freedom, a remarkable memoir of the remark-
able career of the "black prophet." Like Marx before him, Garvey
died in obscurity and poverty in London; and, again like Marx, he has
had to wait a generation or more before the world begins to pay full
and appropriate homage to his work and influence. Understandably,
it is not a critical book in the academic sense; Mrs. Garvey is not a
Mounier writing a sociology of colonialism but a fellow-member of the
Negro freedom movement in the Caribbean and the United States of
the period between the wars. So, she has little to say about the
elements of Black Fascism in the movement her husband created, or
about the Emperor Jones-style trappings he and his officers aired so
flamboyantly, rather like the aping of the Napoleonic court which
Henri-Christophe sponsored in his Haitian Citadelle. Nor is she critical
of the tendency of Garveyism to replace one myth of the Negro past
with another myth, that is to say, the romanticisation of the Negroid
element in the great classical civilisations, Graeco-Roman, Arab and
African. At the same time, however, she is surprisingly frank about
Garvey's private defects as a husband, so that the reader sees him
completely, warts and all.
What does emerge graphically in the book is the picture of the
supreme sacrifices this self-educated Jamaican exile made, the daily
struggle, the sordid preoccupation with money and how to get it, the
effort to meet the challenge of ruthless enemies and unreliable friends.
Mrs. Garvey notes how so many of his fellow officers in the UNIA were
corrupted by the materialism of American capitalist culture, although,
like Garvey himself, she was no socialist in any full theoretical sense
of the word. There was the struggle with the West Indian colonialist
mentality, in which the worst enemy of Negro emancipation became
the mulatto middle classes of the islands; the disgraceful letter sent by
a West Indian naturalised American citizen to all West Indian colonial
governors in 1920 which Mrs. Garvey reprints (pp. 43-44) is a fine
example of the class-colour hatreds of West Indian life. The inherited
slave complex of telling the master what was happening on the planta-
tion, Mrs. Garvey writes as her own acid comment on the episode, dies
hard with some of us. There was, too, the hostility of the colonial
official machinery itself, Garvey being forced out of Jamaica twice
during his lifetime. Yet it is worth nothing that his own programme
for Jamaican social improvement was mild enough, though perhaps
seeming rather revolutionary in the early 1930s. The Manifesto of
Garvey's early Peoples' Political Party certainly does not read like the
Communist Manifesto, (as reprinted by Mrs. Garvey, pp. 196-197),
although present-day Jamaicans might be startled to realise that many
of its items remain still to become Jamaican realities, including legal
aid for the poor, the compulsory improvement of urban areas and
the establishment of a National Opera House.
Garvey, all this is to say, did not fashion a theory for the Negro
struggle. He assumed, quite unscientifically, the paramountcy of
racialist sentiment as the key to human behaviour: "if I were a white
man," Mrs. Garvey quotes him as writing, "I would have the interest
of white people at heart; if I were a Chinese, it would be but natural
that I would make as much money as I could and send some of it to my
people in China. If I were a Syrian, I would sell my cloth and goods
at as high a price as I could get for it, and help my people in Syria
and Lebanon" (p. 201). His message, throughout, was sentimental
rather than sociological, couched in vague religio-apocalyptic terms.
For he was not a West Indian for nothing; he was shaped, unconscious-
ly,.by the prejudices of Jamaican Victorian Christianity. That fact
explains, perhaps, to take another aspect of his teachings, why he never
seemed to make much-as did D. W. Rogers in his curious book on
Race and Sex of the part that the Negro has played in the history
of sexual prowess throughout the story of civilisation. His "back to
Africa" theme, finally, was never rooted in the grim realities of African
life, and is interesting primarily to the student of Caribbean life and
culture because it is a further example of the nomadic quality of these
uprooted peoples, the diffuse quality of their immigrant mentality,
always looking outwards to some external deliverance against their
The real achievement of Garvey, and it emerges quite fully In this
book, was that he created a new strategy of freedom for the Negro
struggle. He would welcome the expatriate white ideologue who
sympathised with the Negro cause, and Mrs. Garvey's pages are full
of examples of his friendships with white men. But he saw, with
brutal clarity, that only the organised brute power of the Negro masses
could ever emancipate them. He saw clearly the hypocrisy of Northern
whites in the United States when they used the Southern white as
the scapegoat for their own brand of subtle discrimination; and when,
today, Malcom X of the Black Muslims asserts that the American South
starts at the Canadian border he is echoing one of the basic tenets of
Garveyism. Garvey, as a friend wrote, demonstrated two things: that
Negroes can be organised and that Negroes are eager to repose con-
fidence in and support sincere Negro leadership. In that sense, Garvey
is one of the founding fathers of the modern Negro revolution in
American life and his Universal Negro Improvement Association nothing
less than a dress rehearsal of the contemporary Civil Rights movement.
In the graphic phrase of one coloured Southern woman quoted by Mrs.
Garvey, "Garvey is giving my people back-bones where they had wish-
bones." He stands, all this is to say, as a further example of the
necessity of the agitator in politics; it is the ultimate act of revolt, not
the creation of a theory of revolt, which forces established social systems
to accept change. And all this, finally, has to be seen within its
historical framework, for Garvey brought his message of racial pride
and racial self-respect to an Anglo-American society which, for all of
its political liberalism, has been, and still largely is, a white society
founded upon racism, overt or covert. Professor Gossett has shown,
in his recent book Race: The History of an Idea in America, how deeply
imbedded race prejudice has been in American intellectuals, from
Jefferson to Jack London, and how racism, as an "intellectual system,"
flowered with the growth of colonialism in the 19th century. Men
like Garvey had to pit themselves against all of the massive power of
that tradition. Mrs. Garvey's book helps us to understand, in some
measure, the full majesty of his struggle.
GORDON K. LEWIS,
University of Puerto Rico.
Sugar and Society in the Caribbean : an economic history of Cuban agri-
culture, Ramiro y Guerra Y Sanchez, Yale University Press,
(Yale Caribbean Series No. 7) New Haven, 1964. $5.00 U.S., pp. 211.
DR. GUERRA wrote his reflections on the significance of the
latifundium in Cuba in 1927; since then the book has been re-edited
three times, the last being this 1963 English translation published in
the Yale Caribbean Series. In a foreword to this edition Sidney Mintz
traces the growth of the plantation system in the Caribbean and puts
Guerra's work in general perspective.
Dr. Guerra discusses the growth of the latifundium in Cuba and
its destructive effect on Cuban society. For purposes of comparison
he traces the history of the sugar plantation in Barbados and argues
that sugar could not have succeeded without the plantation system.
The profits from sugar encouraged the development of a monocrop
economy, and the plantation system scotched the previous growth of
a class of small and medium-sized independent landowners by driving
them off their lands and eventually out of the country. Another direct
result was the importation of slaves from Africa, providing an abundant
labour force, which became necessary to the successful cultivation and
manufacture of sugar.
Description of the economic and social condition of Barbados In
the 17th century is used to bring into relief a similar situation in Cuba
at a later date and for both the given explanation is the same: sugar
and the latifundium. Dr. Guerra reviews the history of his native Cuba
from the point of view of land ownership and points out that up to
the mid 19th century the sugar latifundium had not yet dominated
the land system of the island. Before this period sugar was not yet
'king,' since the cultivation of tobacco and the rearing of cattle pro-
vided profitable alternatives for the colonists. But after the 1850's and
1860's there was an increased mechanization of the sugar factories
financed for the most part by American investors, especially after
Cuban independence. Greater mechanization and more efficient mills
meant that there was need for a greater supply of canes during the
crop season, or zafra, than formerly. As a result there was competition
between mills for canes from the farmers or colonos, who were eventual-
ly bought out by the mill owners. The latifundium was built up so the
vast area of land which served and was dominated by a central sugar
mill moreover, as ownership passed into the hands of foreigners the
profits from the sugar industry generally went abroad. Labour was at
first provided by slaves, but after emancipation (1886), large numbers
of free immigrants came from Barbados, Jamaica and Haiti. These
immigrants were given a subsistence wage, which the native Cuban
labourer was eventually forced to accept.
Dr. Guerra's basic contention is that the latifundium has
demoralized Cuban society by depriving the colono of his small or
medium-sized farm, and thus of his independence; by creating a rural
proletariat dependent on the money wages offered during the zafra
and that, due to large scale immigration, these wages are low; and
that the sugar industry is too dependent on American business and
capital and most of the profits go abroad.
Dr. Guerra not only diagnoses, he also prescribes. His prescrip-
tion is based on a view of economics which was current in the late
1920's: when industrial capitalism seemed to be failing to provide the
answers: "Economists of all periods and of all schools have recognized
that agriculture is the activity most productive and most conducive
to real wealth for the general population, much more so than forestry,
fishing and mining, with industry and commerce trailing far behind.
For this reason, national welfare depends on how much widely land
is divided and distributed among the people. When the latifundium
deprives the Cuban farmer of his land, it takes away the most effective
and often his only means of self-support" (Page 87). The latifundia
comprised half the arable land of Cuba, but the benefits of the sugar
industry could not in Dr. Guerra's view compensate for the colono's
lost independence. His prescription therefore follows an easy but
logical plan according to his way of thinking. He suggests that the
growth of the latifundia should be curtailed by limiting the number
of caballerias "in the hands of a single entity of company" ., that
immigration of cheap labour should be controlled, if not prohibited;
and that there should be a redistribution of land to the colonos, to
be financed by the allocation of "a large share of the annual budget
to a loan program that facilitates the purchase of farmland.
These loans (should be made available to) workers with families who
intend to go on living there (i.e. in the country side) and engaging in
agriculture." (Page 133). For the purposes of comparison it should
be noted that a similar programme was undertaken by the Mexican
Revolutionary party in the 1920's and 1930's.
In an epilogue to the books Dr. Guerra's son states that this plan
was attempted in Cuba in the 1930's, though without much success, and
here again a comparison with the Mexican programme would be
The book was originally a compilation of a series of newspaper
articles and this English Translation has been shortened in some places
to avoid repetition. As a result one understands why Dr. Guerra might
not have been able to develop some of his points more fully. It would
have helped to have had a more detailed definition of the Internal
structure of the latifundium; and a discussion of the problems of
achieving efficiency, which the medium-sized colono have faced, would
have been useful. His main theme however cannot be missed: he points
out that he is neither anti-sugar, nor anti-foreigner, neither American,
nor anti-Jamaican nor anti-Haitian but "we are combating a system
of land exploitation that has been widely censured in the name of
justice, social order, and humanity" (Page 126). The book is easily
read and as Mintz in his foreword has said, it still makes very relevant
reading today for anyone interested in the history and the problems,
not only of Cuba, but of the Caribbean as a whole.
RUALL C. HARRIS
THE HERALD LTD., Printers. 43 East Street, Kingston.