On September 7, Dr the Honourable Louise Bennett-Coverley would have celebrated her 93rd birthday. Here are excerpts from four of her poems and their English translations. What better way to remember her than by examining the legacy which she has left behind, especially in light of current discussions about Standard English vs the Jamaican language?
Do you think the message would be just as effective and the quality uncompromised if Ms Lou had written her verses in the Queen's English? Share your views with us on our Facebook or Twitter page.
Colonialism in Reverse (Original)
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
Jamica 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!
What joyful news, Miss Mattie.
I feel like my heart will burst.
Jamaicans are colonising
England in reverse.
By the hundreds and the thousands,
from rural and Kingston ground,
by the ship loads and the plane loads
Jamaica is England bound.
They are pouring from Jamaica.
Everybody's future plan
Is to get a high-class job
and settle in the motherland.
What an island! What a people!
Men and women, old and young
are packing their bags and barrels
and turning history upside down.
Cuss Cuss (Original)
Gwan gal yuh fava teggereg,
Ah wey yuh gwine goh do?
Yuh an yuh boogooyagga fren
Dem tink me fraid o' yuh?
Goh wey, yuh fava heng-pon-nail,
Is me yuh want fe trace?
Me is jus de one fi teck me han
An leggo pon yuh face.
Get away from here! you look like a vagabond!
What do you think you're going to do?
You and your ragamuffin friends
assume I'm afraid of you?
Get out of here! You resemble clothes on a stick.
'Tis me you really trying to disgrace?
I'm just the one to use my hand
and let it fly into your face.
Back To Africa (Original)
Back to Africa Miss Mattie?
Yuh no know wa yuh dah seh?
Yuh haffi come from somewhe fus
Before yuh go back deh!
Me know seh dat yuh great great great
Granma was African,
But Mattie, doan yuh great great great
Granpa was Englishman?
Back to Africa Ms Mattie?
you know not what you speak!
you'd have to have been there first
before returning from whence you seek.
I know your great-great-great-grandmother
but Mattie, wasn't your great-great-great
grandfather an Englishman?
Not Even Lickle Twang (Original)
Me glad fi see yuh come back, bwoy,
But lawd, yuh let me dung
Me shame a yuh so till all a
Me proudness drop a grung.
Yuh mean yuh go dah Merica
An spen six whole mont deh,
An come back not a piece better
Dan how yuh did go weh?
Bwoy, yuh no shame? Is so yuh come?
After yuh tan so lang!
Not even lickle language, bwoy?
Not even lickle twang?
I'm glad to see you're back, son
but I feel you've let me down.
I am highly disappointed,
my pride has hit the ground.
You went all the way to America
and spent all of six months there
and did not return any better
than how you left us here?
Have you no shame? Is this how you are?
After being there so long
you have no hint of an accent,
not even a slight change in tongue?