Songs of Jamaica (1912)

Whe’ Fe Do?

LIFE will continue so for aye,
Some people sad, some people gay,
Some mockin’[1] life while udders pray;
But we mus’ fashion-out we way
An’ sabe a mite fe rainy day–
All we can do.

We needn’ fold we han’ an’ cry,
Nor vex we heart wid groan and sigh;
De best we can do is fe try
To fight de despair drawin’ nigh:
Den we might conquer by an’ by–
Dat we might do.

We hab to batter[2] in de sun,
An’ dat isn’t a little fun,
For Lard! ’tis hellish how it bu’n:
Still dere’s de big wul’ to live do’n–
So whe’ fe do ?

We nigger hab a tas’[3] fe do,
To conquer prejudice dat[4] due
To obeah,[5] an’ t’ings not a few
Dat keep we progress back fe true,—[6]
But whe’ fe do?

We’ve got to wuk wid might an’ main,
To use we han’ an’ use we brain,
To toil an’ worry, ‘cheme an’ ‘train[7]
Fe t’ings that bring” more loss dan gain;
To stan’ de sun an bear de rain,
An’ suck we bellyful o’ pain
Widouten cry[8] nor yet complain–
For dat caan’ do.

And though de wul’ is full o’ wrong,
Dat caan’ prevent we sing we song
All de day as we wuk along–
Whe’ else fe do?

We happy in de hospital;[9]
We happy when de rain deh fall;[10]
We happy though de baby bawl
Fe food dat we no hab at all;[11]
We happy when Deat’ angel call[12]
Fe full[13] we cup of joy wid gall:
Our fait’ in this life is not small–
De best to do.

An’ da’s de way we ought to live,
For pain an’ such[14] we shouldn’ grieve,
But tek de best dat Nature give–
Da’s whe’ fe do.

God mek de wul’ fe black an’ white;
We’ll wuk on in de glad sunlight,
Keep toilin’ on wid all our might,
An’ sleep in peace when it is night:
We must strive on to gain de height,
Aldough it may not be in sight;
An’ yet perhaps de blessed right
Will never conquer in de fight–
Still, whe’ fe do?

We’ll try an’ live as any man,[15]
An’ fight de wul’ de best we can,
E’en though it hard fe understan’–
Whe’ we mus’ do.

For da’s de way o’ dis ya wul’;[16]
It’s snap an’ bite, an’ haul an’ pull,
An’ we all get we bellyful–
But whe’ fe do?

  1. Making mock at
  2. Labour and sweat; swink
  3. Task
  4. That's
  5. Sorcery and magic
  6. Very much
  7. Scheme and strain
  8. Without crying
  9. All the lines of this stanza end with the sound ahl
  10. Is falling
  11. Don't have at all = haven't got
  12. Death's angel calls
  13. Fill
  14. The like
  15. As others do, who make a good fight
  16. Of this (here) world


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