Songs of Jamaica (1912)

Ribber Come-Do’n

[Footnote on title: “Ribber Come-Do’n”[1]]

From de top o' Clarendon hill
Chock down to Clarendon plain
De ribber is rushin' an' tearin'
'Count o' de showers o' rain.

An' a mudder, anxious an' sad,
Two whole days be'n gone away,
A-buyin' fresh fish fe tu'n han'[2]
Slap do'n at Old Harbour Bay.

But de dark ribber kept her back,
Dat night she couldn' get home,
While a six-week-old baby wailed,
An' wailed for a mudder to come.

An' a fader too was away
'Cross de Minha[3] wukin' him groun',[4]
So him couldn' get home dat night
Sake o' de ribber come-do'n.

Dere were four udder little ones
'Sides de babe of six weeks old,
An' dey cried an' looked to no use,[5]
An' oh dey were hungry an' cold!

So de lee fourteen-year-old gal,
De eldest one o' de lot,
Was sad as she knelt by the babe
An' byaed[6] her on de cot.

"Bya, bya, me baby,
Baby want go sleepy."

She look 'pan de Manchinic[7] tree,
Not a piece of mancha fe eat;
De Jack-fruit dem bear well anuff,
But dere wasn't one o' dem fit.[8]

Nor puppa nor mumma could come,
Aldough it be'n now nightfall;
De rain pour do'n an' de wind blow,
An' de picknanies dem still bawl.

So de poo' Milly 'tarted out
To whe' a kin' neighbour lib,
Fe see ef a bite o ' nenyam[9]
Dem couldn' p'raps manage fe gib.

"Ebenin', cousin Anna,
Me deh beg you couple banna,[10]
For dem tarra one[11] is berry hungry home;
We puppa ober May,[12] ma,
We mumma gone a Bay, ma,
An' we caan' tell warra' time dem gwin' go come."

The kind district mother thought
Of her own boy far away,
An' wondered much how he fared
In a foreign land that day.

She opened de cupboard door
An' took from it warra be'n sabe,
A few bits o' yam an' lee meal,
An' a pint o' milk fe de babe.

De parents dat night couldn' come,
De howlin' wind didn' lull,
But de picknanies went to bed
Wid a nuff nuff bellyful.

  1. The river in flood
  2. To peddle
  3. The Rio Minho: pronounce 'miner'
  4. Cultivating his ground or provision field
  5. In vain
  6. A verb formed from hushaby
  7. Corruption of 'Martinique,' the best variety of banana in Jamaica
  8. Ripe
  9. Food
  10. I am begging a few bananas of you
  11. Those other ones, i.e., the little children at home
  12. Over at Mayfield


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