Songs of Jamaica (1912)

Quashie to Buccra

You tas’e[1] petater[2] an’ you say it sweet,
But you no know how hard we wuk[3] fe it;
You want a basketful fe quattiewut,[4]
‘Cause you no know how ‘tiff de bush fe cut.[5]

De cowitch[6] under which we hab fe ‘toop,
De shamar[7] lyin’ t’ick like pumpkin soup,
Is killin’ somet’ing[8] for a naygur man;
Much less[9] de cutlass workin’ in we han’.

De sun hot like when fire ketch a town[10];
Shade-tree look temptin’, yet we ca~m’ lie down,
Aldough we wouldn’ eben ef we could,
Causen we job must finish soon an’ good.[11]

De bush cut done, de bank dem we deh dig,[12]
But dem caan’ ‘tan’ sake o’ we naybor pig;
For so we moul’ it up he root it do’n,[13]
An’ we caan’ ‘peak sake o’ we naybor tongue.[14]

Aldough de vine is little, it can bear;
It wantin”not’in’ but a little care:
You see petater tear up groun’, you run,[15]
You laughin’, sir, you must be t’ink a fun.[16]

De fie!’ pretty? It couldn’t less ‘an dat,[17]
We wuk de bes’,[18] an’ den de lan’ is fat;
We dig de row dem eben in a line,
An’ keep it clean-den so it mus’ look fine.

You tas’e petater an’ you say it sweet,
But you no know how hard we wuk fe it;
Yet still de hardship always melt away
Wheneber it come roun’ to reapin’ day.

  1. Taste
  2. Sweet potato (Ipomaea Batatas)
  3. Work
  4. Quattieworth: quattie, a quarter of sixpence
  5. Becanse you don't know how stiff the bush is to cut, i.e., what hard work it is to fell the trees and clear the land.
  6. Mucuna Pruriens
  7. Shamebush, the prickly sensitive plant (Mimosa Pudica)
  8. Terrible stuff
  9. More
  10. In
  11. Because our job must be quickly and thoroughly done
  12. The clearing of the land done, we dig the banks-kind of terraces on the steep hill-side—but owing to our neighbour's pig they cannot stand. "Bank dem " = banks. This intrusive "dem" must be tacked closely to the preceding word. It occurs again below—"row dem."
  13. For no sooner do we mould it up, than he (the pig) roots it (the bank) down. " Down" is pronounced very short, and is a good rhyme to "tongue"
  14. And we cannot complain, for this would 'bring confusion' i.e., cause a row.
  15. A piece of humorous exaggeration: "When you see the potatoes tearing up the ground in their rapid growth you will run to save yourself from being caught and entangled in the vines
  16. You are laughing, sir—perhaps you think I am exaggerating
  17. Less than that = be otherwise
  18. We work as well as we possibly can


Icon for the Public Domain license

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