by Louise Bennett-Coverley
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-
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.
. . . . .