Louise Bennett-Coverley and Jamaican Patois: A Unique Truth

ZP_Louise Bennett's 1966 collection of Jamaican dialect poems_she is photographed as Miss Lou on the coverJamaican Patois Poems

by Louise Bennett-Coverley


“Dutty Tough”


Sun a shine but tings no bright;

Doah pot a bwile, bickle no nuff;

River flood but water scarce, yawl

Rain a fall but dutty tough.

Tings so bad dat nowadays when

Yuh ask smaddy how dem do

Dem fraid yuh tek it tell dem back,

So dem no answer yuh.

No care omuch we dah work fa

Hard-time still een we shut;

We dah fight, Hard-time a beat we,

Dem might raise we wages, but

One poun gawn awn pon we pay, an

We no feel no merriment

For ten poun gawn pon we food

An ten pound pon we rent!

Saltfish gawn up, mackerel gawn up.

Pork en beef gawn up,

An when rice and butter ready

Dem just go pon holiday!

Claht, boot, pin an needle gawn up’

Ice, bread, taxes, water-rate

Kersene ile, gasolene, gawn up;

An de poun devaluate.

De price of bread gawn up so high

Dat we haffi agree

Fi cut we yeye pon bred an all

Tun dumplin refugee

An all dem marga smaddy weh

Dah gwan like fat is sin

All dem-deh weh dah fas wid me

Ah lef dem to dumpling!

Sun a shine an pot a bwile, but

Things no bright, bickle no nuff

Rain a fall, river dah flood, but,

Water scarce and dutty tough.

.     .     .

“Colonization in Reverse” (1966)


Wat a joyful news, Miss Mattie,

I feel like me heart gwine burs

Jamaica people colonizin

Englan in Reverse

By de hundred, by de tousan

From country and from town,

By de ship-load, by de plane load

Jamaica is Englan boun.

Dem a pour out a Jamaica,

Everybody future plan

Is fe get a big-time job

An settle in de mother lan.

What an islan! What a people!

Man an woman, old an young

Jus a pack dem bag an baggage

An turn history upside dung!

Some people doan like travel,

But fe show dem loyalty

Dem all a open up cheap-fare-

To-England agency.

An week by week dem shippin off

Dem countryman like fire,

Fe immigrate an populate

De seat a de Empire.

Oonoo see how life is funny,

Oonoo see da turnabout?

Jamaica live fe box bread

Out a English people mout’.

For wen dem ketch a Englan,

An start play dem different role,

Some will settle down to work

An some will settle fe de dole.

Jane says de dole is not too bad

Because dey payin she

Two pounds a week fe seek a job

dat suit her dignity.

me say Jane will never fine work

At de rate how she dah look,

For all day she stay pon Aunt Fan couch

An read love-story book.

Wat a devilment a Englan!

Dem face war an brave de worse,

But me wonderin how dem gwine stan

Colonizin in reverse.


Louise Bennett-Coverley (1919-2006) was

Jamaica’s much-loved poet of Patois – and she

used her people’s language with warmth, humour

and trenchant wit.

As a performer on stage, and through radio

and television, Louise Bennett-Coverley “carried on”

and “held forth” in Patois –  often in character as “Miss Lou” –

bringing the language’s uniqueness and truth

to the forefront.


Louise Bennett-Coverley’s poems “Dutty Tough”

and “Colonization in Reverse” are

© Louise Bennett-Coverley Estate and are

here reprinted by permission of her Executors.

These poems may not be duplicated

or reproduced without prior consent of the

Executors of her Estate.

.     .     .     .     .