Songs of Jamaica (1912)

Out of Debt

DE Christmas is finish’;
It was rather skinnish,[1]
Yet still we are happy, an’ so needn’ fret,
For dinner is cookin’,
An’ baby is lookin’
An’ laughin’; she knows dat her pa owe no debt.

De pas’ hab de debtor,[2]
An’ we cannot get her[3]
To come back an’ grin at us as in time gone:
Dere’s no wine fe breakfas’,[4]
An’ no one fe mek fuss,
We all is contented fe suck one dry bone.

No two bit o ‘ brater[5]
Wid shopkeeper Marter,
I feel me head light sittin’ down by me wife;
No weight lef behin’ me
No gungu a line fe[6]
De man who was usual[7] to worry me life.

We’re now out o’ season,[8]
But dat is no reason
Why we shan’t be happy wid heart free and light:
We feel we are better
Dan many dat fetter
Wid burden dey shoulder to mek Christmas bright.

Some ‘crape out de cupboard,
Not ‘memberin’ no wud[9]
Dat say about fegettin’ when rainy day:
It comes widout warning
‘Fo’ daylight a marnin’,[10]
An’, wakin’, de blue cloud ta’n black dat was gay.

De days dat gwin’ follow
No more will be hollow,
Like some dat come after de Christmas before:
We’ll lay by some money
An’ lick at de honey,[11]
An’ neber will need to lock up our front door.[12]

Jes’[13] look at de brightness
Of dat poor an’ sightless
Old man on de barrel a playin’ de flute:
Wha’ mek him so joyful?
His lap is of toy full,
A pick’ninny play wid de patch on his suit.

Ours too de same blessin’,
An’ we’ve learn’ a lesson
We should have been learnin’ from years long ago:
A Christmas ‘dout pleasure[14]
Gave dat darlin’ treasure,[15]
An’ duty to Milly is all dat we owe.

  1. The fare was rather meagre
  2. We were in debt last Christmas, but now we are free
  3. The past
  4. The midday meal
  5. Shopkeeper Marter and I are no longer two brothers: meaning, I am not always going into his shop, and so keeping in debt. Pronounce brahter
  6. Friends plant their gungu (Congo peas) together, and, in picking the crop, are not particular about the line between their properties. When they cease to be friends, they have no gungo a line. The phrase is equivalent to 'to have no truck with.'
  7. Pronounce without sounding the second u. Was usual = used
  8. Past Christmas
  9. Entirely oblivious of the proverb (word) which tells us not to forget to make provision for the rainy day
  10. In the
  11. Enjoy the pleasure it brings
  12. Against the bailiff
  13. Just
  14. Without pleasure, i.e., a sober and quiet Christmas
  15. Our little pickny


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