Songs of Jamaica (1912)


You axe me as de bell begin fe ‘trike,
Me Mikey, ef de wuk a didn’ like;
De queshton, like de bell, soun’ in me heart
Same how de anvil usual mek me ‘tart.[1]

You’s a chil’[2] an’ know naught ’bout de wul’ yet,
But you’ll grow an’ larn t’ings you won’t feget;
You lub you’ life, an’ t’ink dere’s nuttin’ better,
Yet all you’ pickny dream dem soon will ‘ketter.[3]

Tek me advice ya, chil’, an’ as you grow
Don’t choose a wuk dat you no like: aldough
You might see money in o’ it, at lengt’
You will get tired o’ it an’ repent.

A suffer, but I t’ink it mek me wise;
It wasn’ fe de money ‘trike me yeyes,[4]
But “water mo’ ‘an flour”[5] is true wud,
An’ eye-water run too long tu’n to blood.[6]

Hard life caan’ kill me, but annoyance might,
Me lub me right, an’ fe it me wi’ fight:
Me wi’ lef beef fe nyam an’ choose cow-lung,
Fe sabe meself from an annoying tongue.[7]

But sometime’, chil’, you jump from fryin’-pan
‘Traight in a fire; an’, try as you can,
You caan’ come out, but always wishin’ den
Fe get back in de fryin’-pan again.

Ole Buccra Dabis, libing easy life,
One night get mad an’ kill himself an’ wife;
Den we hear t’ings we neber be’n know yet,
De b’uccra man was ears an’ han’s in debt.

Miss Laura lean back in her rockin’-chair
So sweet dat we might jes’ t’ink she no care
‘Bout naught; yet some say dat ‘cos she caan’ get
Mas’ Charley fe him husban’ she deh fret.

Dat’s how life ‘tan’,[8] me chiI’; dere is somet’ing
Deep down in we dat you can neber bring
People, howeber wise, fe understan’:
Caan’ feel man heart same how you feel dem han’.

Fe lub, me chil’, lub wha’ you natur’ hate![9]
You’ll live in misery, prayin’ hard fe fait’,
Which won’t come eben ef you ‘crub you’ knees
In fifty quart o’ corn an’ lady-peas.[10]

Fe hate a t’ing you whole min’ come in one:
You try fe keep it[11] back much as you can,
But” flesh caan’ conquer ‘perit” Bible say,
You hab fe give it up,[12] an’ den ‘top pray.

Me carry hell, me chit’, in a me ches’,
Me laugh, me cry, me couldn’ get no res’ ;
Eat all de same an’ neber fatter less[13]
Dan now, aldough me min’ was so distress’.

An’ though a feel it hard, a wouldn’ fret;
Me min’ don’t mek so, but it eber set
Fe conquer, yet it couldn’ wash away
De t’oughts dem dat come ‘tronger ebery day.

You ‘stan’,[14] me chil’? I caan’ explain it mo’ :
Life funny bad, so is de ways also;
For what we fink is right is often wrong,
We live in sorrow as we journey ‘long.

  1. Just as the sound of an anvil-the speaker was a blacksmith—makes me start and arouses disagreeable recollections, so does your question
  2. Child
  3. Scatter
  4. It wasn't the attraction of the high wages
  5. "Beggars can't be choosers." The reference is to dumplings made with too much water
  6. This means that he (the speaker) was unhappy at home
  7. Prov xv. 17; xvii. I.
  8. Stands=is
  9. If you try to make yourself love what your nature hates. This line is partly an exclamation, partly an interrogation
  10. Black-eye peas
  11. The hatred
  12. Give up trying
  13. Less fat
  14. Do you understand?


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