Songs of Jamaica (1912)


DE mule dem in de pasture an’ de donkey ‘pon red groun’,[1]
An’ we boys mus’ ketch dem all befo’ de evenin’ sun go do’n;
De tas’ it isn’t easy for de whole o’ dem can run,
An’ grass-lice[2] lie do’n set.’

Grass-lice dat mek you trimble long time more dan when you meet
A man dat mean to fight you who you know you cannot beat;
Dem mek you feel you’ blood crawl from you’ head do’n to you’ feet,
An’ wish dat you b’en wet.

An’, like a ‘pite, see all de mule a ‘ketter t’rough de grass,
So chupidly a-followin ‘ de foolish ole jackass;
But when you hea’ we ketch dem, we wi’ serve dem such a sauce
By ridin’ dem to deat’!

We breat’ is partly givin’ out as up de hill we go up;
De beast dem seem to understan’ say “Day longer ‘an rope,”[3]
An’ dat de night wi’ come befo’ we ketch dem is deir hope;
But we shall conquer yet.

For though dem t’ink dem hab some sense, dem all run right between
De rocky road above de swamp, where it hab eber been
Our luck to nab dem in de trap dat neber can be seen
By dem — Dey’re in de net!

We hab dem pullin’ on de bit as we race mile ‘pon mile,
An’ grass-lice in we back a crawl an’ ‘ting us all de while;
But blood is drippin’ from dem mout’, ’twill teach dem not fe vile,
We’ll race dem out o’ breat’.

  1. Poor patchy land with open spaces of red earth
  2. Small ticks
  3. Ro·op, in two syllables. The proverb means, "I'll be even with you"


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