Songs of Jamaica (1912)

Fetchin’ Water

Watch how dem touris’ like fe look
Out ‘pon me little daughter,
Whenever fe her tu’n[1] to cook
Or fetch a pan of water:
De sight look gay;
Dat is one way,
But I can tell you say,[2]
‘Nuff rock’tone in de sea, yet none
But those ‘pon lan’ know ’bouten sun.[3]

De pickny comin’ up de hill,
Fightin’ wid heavy gou’d,[4]
Won’t say it sweet him, but he will
Complain about de load:
Him feel de weight,
Dem watch[5] him gait;
It’s so some of de great
High people fabour t’ink[6] it sweet
Fe batter[7] in de boilin’ heat.

Dat boy wid de karásene pan,[8]
Sulky down to him toe,
His back was rollin’ in a san’,[9]
For him pa mek him crow:[10]
Him feel it bad,
Near mek him mad,
But teach him[11] he’s a lad;
Go disobey him fader wud,[12]
When he knows dat his back would sud![13]

But Sarah Jane she wus ‘an all,
For she t’row ‘way[14] de pan,
An’ jam her back agains’ de wall
Fe fight her mumma Fan:
Feelin’ de pinch,
She mek a wrinch
An’ get ‘way; but de wench
Try fe put shame upon her ma,
Say dat she cook de bittle raw.[15]

Dis water-fetchin’ sweet dem though
When day mek up dem min’,
An’ ’nuff o’ dem ‘tart out fe go,
An’ de weader is fine:
De pan might leak,
Dem don’t a ‘peak,
Nor eben try fe seek
Some clay or so[16] to mek it soun’;
Dem don’t care ef dem wet all roun’.

Dén all ’bout de road dem ‘catter
Marchin’ álong quite at ease;
Dat time listen to deir chatter,
Talkin’ anyt’ing dem please:
Dem don’t a fear,
Neider a care,
For who can interfere?
T’ree mile — five, six tu’n, — an’ neber[17]
W’ary, but could do it[18] for eber.

  1. It is her turn
  2. The 'say' is redundant
  3. In allusion to the Jamaica proverg, 'Rock'tone (stone) a river bottom no feel sun hot'
  4. Struggling under his head-load—a gourd (calabash) filled with water
  5. The tourists watch his upright carriage
  6. Favour think = seem to think
  7. Labour and sweat; toil and moil
  8. The favourite receptacle for water is a four-gallon kerosene tin (pan)
  9. In the sand
  10. Cry out
  11. But it will teach him
  12. What? —disobey his father's orders
  13. Get a lathering
  14. Threw down
  15. Said that she cooked the victual raw, i.e., only half cooked it
  16. Or something
  17. For rhythm, read thus: T'ree mile — five, six — tu'n, an — neber
  18. Pronounce dweet


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This work (Poems by Claude McKay by Claude McKay) is free of known copyright restrictions.