Songs of Jamaica (1912)

The Biter Bit

[“Ole woman a swea’ fe eat calalu: calalu[1] a swea’ fe wuk him[2] gut.”-JAMAICA PROVERB.]

CORN an’ peas growin’ t’ick an’ fas’
Wid nice blade peepin’ t’rough de grass;
An’ ratta[3] a from dem hole a peep,
T’ink all de corn dem gwin’ go reap.

Ole woman sit by kitchen doo’
Is watchin’ calalu a grow,
An’ all de time a t’inking dat
She gwin’ go nyam dem when dem fat.[4]

But calalu, grow’n’ by de hut,
Is swearin’ too fe wuk him gut;
While she, like some, t’ink[5] all is right
When dey are in some corner tight.

Peas time come roun’[6] —de corn is lef;
An’ ratta now deh train himse’f
Upon de cornstalk dem a’ night
Fe when it fit to get him bite.[7]

De corn-piece lie do’n all in blue,[8]
An’ all de beard dem floatin’ too
Amongst de yellow grain so gay,[9]
Dat you would watch dem a whole day.

An’ ratta look at ebery one,
Swea’in’ dat dem not gwin’ lef none;[10]
But Quaco know a t’ing or two,
An’ swear say[11] dat dem won’t go so.

So him go get a little meal
An’ somet’ing good fe those dat steal,
An’ mix dem up an’ ‘pread dem out
For people possess fas’ fas’ mout’.[12]

Now ratta, comin’ from dem nes’,
See it an’ say “Dis food is bes’;”
Dem nyam an’ stop, an’ nyam again,
An’ soon lie do’n, rollin’ in pain.

  1. Spinach, but not the English kind
  2. His = her
  3. The rats
  4. Juicy
  5. Thinks: but it also means 'think', and so equally applies to the plural subject
  6. The time for harvesting the peas arrives
  7. And (every) rat now practises climbing the cornstalks at night, so that he may get his bite when the corn is ripe
  8. This refers to the bluish leaf of the maize
  9. Supply 'all this makes so pretty a picture'
  10. They are not going to leave any
  11. 'Say' is redundant: it is tacked closely to swear
  12. For those who are too quick with their mouths


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