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Lays of West Africa and ditties of the coast online

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_i




LAYS OF WEST AFRICA






WORKS BY THE SAME AUTHOR:

(Ret'inus of -which will be found at end of Book).
TRAVEL

" Verb. Sap. on going to West Africa."
"Verb Sap. on going to E&st Africa."

FICTION

"The Exaggerators."



LAYS OF WEST AFRICA

AND

DITTIES OF THE COAST



BY

ALAN FIELD




FIRST EDITION



LONDON : George Philip & Son, Ltd., 32 Fleet Street
LIVERPOOL: Philip, Son & Nephew, Ltd., 45-51 South Castle Street



1908



Stack
Annex



do



THIS LITTLE BOOK is
2>e5tcate&

WITH VERY SINCERE RESPECT
TO

THE ANOPHELES MOSQUITO

"Cbe tRcal overnor=<3eneral of Xritieb TOcst Hfrica,
AND TO

His ENEMY

TTbe presioent of Ube liverpool Scbool of flDcMclne
SIR ALFRED JONES, K.C.M.G., ETC.

TO WHOM
WEST AFRICA OWES THE HOPE THAT MALARIA

THAT SCOURGE OF THE TROPICS

MAY SOME DAY BE REMOVED FROM THE NUMBER

OF THE WHITE MAN'S BURDENS.



5W -'.-



West Africa, thou jade of query !
Light o' love, faithless and burning true.
Whose men in thrall are wear}', weary,
Embraced they hate. Longing, are dreary
Afar through other lands their dearie.
They eat their hearts out learning vou
West Africa, thou jade oj query /
Light 0' love, false and yet burning true.





CONTENTS.

Yi




I.


w

"The Soul of the West Coast Trader"


PAGE

i


2.


"The Niger Company's Agent"


- 3


3-


" Palm-oil, Palm-oil " -


- 5


4-


"The Hausa"


- 6


5-


"The Rubaiyat of an Africoaster" -


- 9


6.


"Improving the Breed" ....


- ii


7-


"On Leave" -._-..


- 17


8.


"Devil Worship" .....


- 17


9-


"Perhaps 'twould be well" ...


- 20


10.


"West African Sport!" ....


- 22


n.


( "Red Rubber"
"Two Wrongs" 1
I "The Unemployed


- 25
- 26


12.


"The Africoast " .....


- 28


13-


"The Governor and the Climate"


- 30


14.


"Help! Help!"


- 35


'5-


"Lokoja" - - - -


- 39


1 6.


"Pause, my Brethren" - ...


- 40


7-


"Sweet Mouth Verse"


- 41


1 8.


"The Churn"


- 42


19.


"The Sub-Agent" (Ideal and real) -


- 43


20.


"Wind him, lass!" -


- 44


21.


"The Retired Man"


- - 46


22.


"Northern Nigeria" -


- 47


23-


"Sonnet"


- - 48


24.


"In a Hammock" -


- - 48


25-


"Home"


- 49


26.


"Teeth"


- 5


2 7-


"A. and B."


- 5i


28.


"Fooled by the Forest" -


- S3


29.


"One Reason Why" - - -


- - 64


30.


"Pink-eyed Bill"


- - 65


31.


"Sanu da gajia "


- 68


32.


"The Bailiff's Song"


: - 69


33-


" Sai Anjima" -.-.-.


- 70



Ube Soul of tbe West Coast tracer.



The Padre wanted five hundred clear

To build his tin-roof church.

Old Peter Smith did not think that dear.

For at sixty-seven

One thinks upon heaven,

And one fears to be left in the lurch.

How one dreads like a schoolboy the birch !

P. Smith, of the bad old, mad old, days,

Could raise your hair with tales

Of the Coaster adventurer's ways.

Re queer bills of lading,

Weird creek-trips, slave-raiding,

And most horrible contents of bales.

Most fraudulent juggling with scales.

He had won and lost three fortunes good.

His fourth safe banked at Home.

He would make his peace as Christians should.

So he bought the Mission

A Kirk and position.

Gave them their Church, a steam-launch to Rome,

And heavily "dashed*" the Ju-ju "Yome."

A West Coast Trader has not much mind

To give to the Creeds at all.

And Peter's life was not of that kind

To choose theologies,

Hence his apologies

Made, and gifts to such sects he'd recall

Had " big palaverf spiritual.



*Dashed Gave presents of cash or in kind.
\Big Palaver Much influence.



You never will heed, so poets sing,

Aught else but Burma's call

If East of Suez you've had your fling

Where the Minkoli dwells

'Neath the kyaung's htee bells.

The Coast has the same charm-spell for all,

West Africa known is West Africa's thrall.

So Peter, delaying from boat to boat,

Put off his voyage too late.

And, instead of finding himself afloat,

As happens so often

" Went home " to a coffin.

A different Home than he wished at that date.

It " cut up very fat " to his heir, his estate.

Now, you will say, his troubles were o'er.

But now his woe began.

He hoped he had settled his spiritual score,

But discovered all three

Of the Powers that he

Had endowed here on earth by his plan.

Laid a claim to the soul of the man.

It looked much like a case for the Court

Of ultimate Appeal.

But occurred ihen a thing which cut short

The claims of the Pope,

And the Ju-ju, to hope

For the spoil. While the Kirk could but feel

They were right to withdraw from the deal.

I think that I've said the career

Of our defunct deceased

Could hardly be held to be clear

From commission of acts

The Commandment enacts

Are stamped with the mark of the Beast.

Smith was charged with a hundred at least.



And the reason the Claimants withdrew

From the in re Smith affair

Was the rule " Give the Devil his due."

For the latter appeared

With a bill which he feared

Had a known prior claim to all there.

The Court rose, handing Smith to his care.

If a moral there lies, it is plain.

Let Trader men beware

That, although the desire for gain

In itself is no shame,

Yet you must " play the game "

" Conscience-money " don't pass " over there."

You can't hunt, and yet run with the hare.



Ube IKUoer Company's B0ent.



"Undoubtedly there is no loneliness so frightful as constant
companionship ivith an uncongenial person."



Only one moment of pleasure in the throbbing time

I knew.
Time of the dragging day-longs, and night watches

without end.
When, with a full-charged heart and pen, I scratched

the dates right through

And noted on my calendar the time I'd yet to
spend.

The weeks and months sped on, nor crawled, when

I was quite alone.
The morning work, the mid-day snooze, the busy

Store, routine
Of ledger work, of exercise, the mails to all I'd

known,
Some river trips, my camera : I fought and beat the

spleen.



Until they said I needed help and sent Vansittart

down
I would have barred the Thing at Home, out there.

I loathed his name.
Hated his voice, his laugh, his cough, his Ego, foot

to crown.

His very shadow strained my nerves. It was not
mine the blame.



Lord knows I tried/to like the beast, ten months

were yet to go.J
But not one kindred taste we had, no common

friend or talk.
He meddled with my servants, which, to those who

natives know,

Is anathema, and all my pets looked on him as a
hawk.



He broke the gun I lent him, upset all the clerks and

hurt
Little " Poo " my terrier whom I loved, and once I

caught him clean
Reading my dear girl's letters kept my hands off

him as dirt.

How I did it is my wonder. Called me "giddy
old sardine,"



It sounds funny now, the telling, but out there I used

to say
That I understood some murders. True, I used

to lie and plan

Ugly, ugly thoughts, until I flung my cartridges away.
And clenched my fists behind me when I had to
speak the man.



I learned the lesson once for all which lighthouse-
keepers know,
Who never send two men alone to tend the Light

and Bell,
That one or three can safely bear some time lone

sentry-go

But two who hate and yet must mate is madness,
death, or hell.



Palm-oil, Palm-oil, all the fat puncheons are
Jammed in the lighter, the Kroo boys pack tighter

than surf can spring staves on the bar.
Out in the swell, you can see quite well, how she

rolls as the steamer waits
The Liverpool line, and I wish they were mine,

with their gilt-edged monopoly freights.

Though I think that the Germans cut rates,
And pay calls on convenient dates.
But, like handicap ages for weights,
Palm-oil, Palm-oil, competition's the thing
for rebates.

Palm-oil, Palm-oil, how does a clerk get a billet ?
One is suspended and one recommended, the latter

proceeding to fill it.
The white man called Mist, er Smith on the List,

the kind of Colonial ' Burke '
Depends for the scheme, of his office routine, on his

capable " First-class clerk."

He's the man who arranges the work,
All his juniors know better than shirk,
Though they often must find it irk,
The Palm-oil, Palm-oil they pay to the fat
old Turk.



Palm-oil, Palm-oil, Officials they like what's rare.
They like to send home, just to show how they

roam, the king of Kaloozoo's chair.
So accept it as " dash "* (and at Home its worth

cash), from the Chief who's afraid to tell
What the Resident knows quite well,
That a little particular hell
Exists in the Chieftain's belle
Patrie. 'Tis a wonderful spell !
Is Palm-oil, Palm-oil. The chair is at
Christies to sell.

Palm-oil, Palm-oil, makes s a marvellous kind of

' chop ' f
You mix in the stew, any rubbish will do, and stir

it all up in a slop.
'Tis the West Coast curry, and, if you don't worry,

they say that the taste will grow.
But I cannot stand kippers boiled up with old
slippers, my Cook -boy he knows that's so.
And quick he would have to go
For master " he lookum " and know.
But, well-cooked, I own that, though
Palm-oil, Palm-oil is greasy, I never say ' No.'



TIbe Ibausa,



Now the Hausa, and the Parsi, and the Jew,

Are the few
Of the people of the earth with double creed

Word and deed.
To Muhammed, to Jehovah, and the Sun

Add yet one,
Deifying mighty Mammon with their God.

And 'tis odd
How they manage both on equal thrones to place.

Like the Ace



* Dash Complimentary Present.

t ' Chop'-food, eg. ' Palm-oil Chop' a kind of Olla podrida.



Of playing cards which shows the Spade designs,

Yet entwines
All the other suits, apart yet blent, are mixed

So is fixed
In a soul preserving, commerce-serving, style

All the guile
Of a Trader, and Financier, and Priest.

They're the yeast
Which leavens all the simpler Nations' dough.

Where you go
Throughout Europe, Asia, Africa, you see

That these three,
As the most elect of Heaven and the Banks,

Offer thanks.



Abubekri, Cursetji, and Abraham

" Skin the lamb,"
Both the coloured aboriginal and white.

But I write
In these lines about West Africa, and so,

I will show
More especially the Hausa and his ways.

How always
From Calabar to Tunis and to Mecca

He's the trekker *
Who buys and sells (his deals are sells). The Hausa,

From a Mauser
To potted " chop,"f from gas-pipe guns to gin,

(Cause of sin
In the Mussulman or Pagan,) has the trade.

He has made
His language known, of merchandise the tongue,

Tribes among
Where the white man never ventures, for he boasts

That the Coasts
Are the white man's limit. He himself has none

'Neath the Sun.



* Trekker Traveller,
t Chop Meat, any food.



His costume is a tobe (a flowing gown

Which comes down
To below his knees, has sleeves, is white or blue).

And they do
Geometrical designs in kind like lace

Which they place
In conventional positions o'er their robe

Called the tobe.
Their features more Egyptian than Arab,

As a scarab
You see carved. Their cotton breeks (riga) de rigueur

And their figure
Is dignified. They wear a puggri long,

And upon
It they place a quaint straw hat, rather yaller

While " Allah
II Allah, Mahmood russool il Allah" would seem a

Good Kalima. *
Yet his prophet and his profit are to him

Synonym.
He likes upon his chest the dirty stains

Which remain
As the mark of scent. He thinks that it looks smart

In the Mart.

We recruit them, and they make a soldier keen.

I have seen
Them, when on a war-palaver take a town.

All around
In the bush were the inhabitants who shot

(Rather hot)
Poisoned arrows, but each Hausa cared no pip

But from hip
Occasionally fired a random shoot

For the loot
Of innumerable chickens filled his arms.

To the charms
Of cloth and goats for nothing, first he paid

(Ere he stayed



1 Kalima Confession of the Faith. "God is God and
Mahommed is his Prophet."



To obey the whistled calls of discipline
To fall in)
Tribute kin
To that he pays when trading, when before

Koran law
Places gain. And yet, in corner tight, he can

Play the man.
And fight like any demon to the end,

If a friend

His officer has made of him. Its fair
To add that, to all best belief, the foresaid case

is rare
But poultry is his foible, next to mammies* Who

shall dare

To say that every Corps cannot to this tale find
a pair ?



Ube TRubai^at of an Hfricoaster.



Embark ! for Sailors in the Vessel's Hold

Have plunged your Kit marked 'Cabin' clear and bold:

And Lo ! your Berth Mates very much object
To find all your 'Chop '-Boxes in their Fold.

Dreaming on Deck of Her you left behind,

And how last Night six Cocktails made you Blind:

For Charity! the Paunchy Skipper craves
"The Usual Thing" a Sovereign is you find.

And when, with Dislocating Jar and Bumps,
You and your Fortunes in the Surf-Boat dumps

The Mammy-Chair. You cannot but reflect
Your Home-bound Cause Blackwater or the Jumps?



* Mammies Wives.

t On the Elder Dempster Liners the Captains collect inde-

fatigably for ''The Lancashire Sea Training Home for

Poor Boys t " an estimable Charity.



Some for Official Glories land, or run

From Hard-up Pasts, or Love, or 'just for Fun.'

Ah, take the Cash in whate'er Job you go
Nor heed the Summons of the distant Dun !

Here with the Craw Craw*, and my Monthly Screw,
A Whiskey-Peg, a Bush-Cat brown, while You

Are flirting at a Peckham tea-fight far
All Flesh is grass, though much less Green than Blue.

The Hope of Sport, or rapid Rise of Pay,
Lasts but one Tour, and then dies quite away.

But getting out of Touch with Things at Home
Perhaps for longer than you live you stay.

They say that smug young Counter-jumpers keep
Old Bungalows where revelled Buck Black Sheep

Half Europe's well-bred Wrong ' uns.' Each Wild Ass
Exiled, burned out his Heart and Somewhere lies asleep.

I sometimes think that never were such 'Toffs'
Militia 'Warts'f but 'Skippers' in the WaffsJ

Such Rustums! Warboys! Burning for a 'Show'
Each the same Toast, to "Gas and Gaiters" || quaffs.

The 'Boy' no Question makes of Truth or Lies
And if in Bush 'Death catch him. Master dies'

For Mammy-Palaver, his Trinkets loots
Brings in the Corpse, but ere Inventory flies.

Yellow Malaria strikes, and having struck
Remains : nor all thy Eu.-Quinine nor Luck

Shall purge thy Veins from the Mosquito's Gift
Though Governor thou, or merely in the Ruck.

But every Land has drawbacks. Europe holds
Bills, Stumer-Cheques, and Fogs, the Wife that scolds.

To compensate for Want of Books, and Ice,
More Suave Society, and Punkah's Zephyr Folds.



* Craw Craw A Skin disease, cf., ' Dhobies itch.'

t 'Warts' Lieutenants.

% Waffs West African Fowl-Filchers alias Frontier Force.

'Show' Expedition.

II "Gas and Gaiters" The S. African War Medal.



10



As it consoles the Grousing Soul to know
Of worse-off Others, to reflect on Woe

More poignant than his own. Let Coasters think
On what Sectarians say They're worse-off Down Below.

Now when Thyself the First Time hap to pass

The West Coast Route. Treat all this Verse as Gas

Or Dreary Doggrel. When you reach the Spot
Where I made one, lift up a Chin-Chin Glass.



3mpro\>tng tbe



There's an office where, in Upping Street, officials dwell

at ease

Sending C.M.Gs and lesser folk to billets over-seas. ,
For transitory Sec's-of State they've blandest toleration
But know themselves as permanent in salary and station.
Though Governors of distant lands seem kings, within

their borders,
When Home on leave they have to ask these gentlemen

for orders.
While the only things can wake their placid souls from

inanition
The ha'p'ny Press and next to that a Governor with

ambition.
The tale I'm going to tell you in the now succeeding

rhymes

Is typical of Red Tape when its "moving with the times."
Although we'll veil the country's name it is on the

Equator
While the route is via the N*g*r, which must suffice for

data.

The Colony is new that is so far as we're concerned
But quite half our native subjects, that they are so, have

not learned.
And all they who howl about the State in which the

Congo's been
Our " Punitive expeditions," one per mensem, have not

seen.



ii



All "medal-hunters" know it well, a short year's "Tour"

can show

On a manly breast one disc at least and p'r'aps a D. S. O.
There's a Company there which does not like its business

noised abroad

For although of course its history cannot contain a fraud
Yet this Company, once Chartered, when it traded on

its own

Had vast responsibilities, a police force, and a loan.
When the Trade of the Protectorate was well within its

hands
And all mineral concessions were upon the Comp'ny's

lands
Then there being nothing further that this Co: could

turn to pelf

It bethought it how it could absolve expenses from itself.
So by means of ways so devious. How are these smart

things done ?
But is not scrip tied in red-tape? I seem to have

heard it's done.
For SEVEN HUNDRED THOUSAND POUNDS

unto the Government
This Company sold its country, yet remained there at

no rent.
Now consider well the consequence, and note your share

list well
The Company's dividends are greater now than ere the

sell.
The Empire has to now maintain the whole -expensive

State,
A Political and Police Staff which they are a burden

great

The Company has a monopoly still of cash and trade
And only pays its Agents who don't boast they're over

paid

The Company is rich. The Country pays no revenue
'Tis enough to make you taxpayers laugh if there's

humour in you.
Now 'mong many quaint anomalies and muddles past

all ken
In this "comic-opera Colony" where we send our

"broken men"



It happens that His Majesty's most High Commissioner
Had really truly hopes his country's something rich in her.
As it cannot earn or pay a cent but lives on grants in aid
That, (his own axe being ground by now), he's cranky

I'm afraid.
He dreamt bright dreams of railways and of wealth from

goodness knows
While at Home within the "Morning Post" some friend

his trumpet blows.

There is certainly a ten-mile tram upon a narrow gauge ?
Which required some locomotives once and then Official's

sage
Although the toy line's three feet eight and that of course

they knew
And forgot the facts, as usual, sent out engines five feet

two.
Still, through blunders of Cr*wn Ag*nls, and officials

muddlement,

This Governor hopes on and will until his time is spent
Thus once, when travelling round 'on tour,' his thoughts

were harping on

The everlasting problem what to raise some cash upon.
Cotton growing is not quick-returns, our taxes bring on

war

Yet all contiguous Colonies have revenues galore.
Till nearing a walled native town he saw out in the bush
Some weedy sheep some ditto cows among the herbage

lush.

He near fell off his doki* with a splendid new idea
Here were stock potentialities which made a revenue

clear !

"Why of course the plan is simple, quite as plain as a ju-ju
"To import some fine prize-breeding strains is all there

is to do
"The Fulani too will jump at this, the chance of cattle

farms.
"While wool from sheep, and hides, and meat! To arms !"

he cried "To arms!"

At least he did not use those words, and meant "To/* !
To /<?!"



*Doki Pony.



(You see the pun?) "My scribing Staff, and all my

writing men!"

"Indite me now in telling words a very strong despatch
"To Coin I mean the C. O. Queer! I near said

Colney Hatch.
"Put my meaning clear in minutes and repeat as a

refrain
"All the estimates and reasons why I want a fine stud

strain."

So the letter went, and duly came reply on H. M. S.
"Despatch read, and noted, please repeat on Form

X P. Q. S.
Three years passed, the correspondence on the subject

grew in bulk

Till it filled two office bungalows and a whole Muraji hulk
But at last one mail announced a fact, our Governor

rubbed his eyes

"By S.S., as per margin, sheep, of, as per margin size >r
"They come! They come! No bulls, but still the half

a loaf is better
"Than none. Announce throughout the land about

this splendid letter!"



What Hausas thought, or Fulanis, what Pagans hoped

to find
Cannot be told for no one knows the black -man's

coloured mind
Still, led by hope of something good in some way

meaning gain,
They brought their scanty ovine flocks from bush and

desert plain
Whether by white man's ju-ju or Dame Nature's simple

fashion
Their herds they heard were to expand in great

multiplication.

The longed-for day arrived, the sheep all saw a steamer's

barge in

They counted them by head and tail, and found them
"as per margin"



And then the Chief, to render all in proper course and

sort

Told off the Transport Officer to send in a report.
All night the High Commissioner could get no rest nor

slept
Within the T.O.'s* neighbouring house it seemed they

revel kept

H.E.tfrom his verandah peeped. No there wasno mistake
And firm he vowed he'd break the crowd who kept

him so awake.
Such shrieks of mirth, such yells and howls, why, what

untimely squawking !

"When morning comes" he grimly thought "'tis I
will do the talking."



At early dawn the Governor, to wrathful measures

wrought,

Sent for the Transport Officer to render his report.
For "that will be the thing" he thought "to bring things

to a head"
"The youth cannot have done his work but played all

night instead."

An orderly relumed at once, and following on his heels,
With visage grin-contorted, came the man of mules

and wheels.

Mai-apropos his manner. At his half-hid merriment
In steely tones the Chief demanded "Come! The

document!"
"'Tis here, Sir, here!" with shaking hands, the T.O.said

"I've brought

"Your Excellency what you asked. I could but make
it short."



The Governor perused the screed, two sentences he read
Re-read, sat down and read, got up and stamped and

said
Oh, blank! blank! blank! but then his words mere

fireworks became



T. O. Transport Officer.
.E. His Excellency.



All through that day he did consign all, everything, to

flame.
The curious Staff who burned to know the reason of this

pain
Dared not approach. The T.O. weak from mirth

could not explain
Until at last a Harmattan gust eddied thro' the room

And blew the paper, the report, outside into the gloom.
The Justice Chief, three Secret'ries, the Police-lord, and

the Head
Of WAFFS* (for meaning see the note), grabbed,

caught the sheet, and read.

The usual formal opening one scanned then read aloud
And finishing fell shrieking as fell all the list'ning

crowd

These lines which gentle reader you and I must fain allow
Excuses are for Chiefs to rage and Staffs to make a row.
"Your Excellency's order I've the honour to obey
"And duly I've examined all the sheep which came to-day
"I hate to further say a word that could annoy and vex
"But they we hoped would raise the breed are NOT OF

ANY SEX.

"There is no single ewe nor ram in all the lot together
"I hold them in no stud regard, each wretched beast's

a WETHER."



Envoi.



Now you or I who are not trained to the Cr*wn Ag*nts

ways

If we had been that Governor might well have felt amaze
But he, who knew so well, how they \vith indents will

comply
Got calm at length, resigned himself, and SHARED

THE MUTTON PIE.



Waffs See page 10.

16



n Xeave.



Funchal after Sah Lon (Sierra Leone).



Like a moonscape in strong chiaroscuro,
Black and white, and as health is to ills

Like the contrasts of fire to zero

Is the hell of the Coast to these hills.

I have dwelt in the suburbs of Hades

Now I breathe in the precincts of bliss

When Fortune is frowns, then the jade is

Prepouting her lips for a kiss.

So I simmered in sulphurous summer

And cursed it, till Hope died insane

While my flesh seemed the garb of a mummer

Who acted a comedy " Pain."

Now I breathe, then the lungs gasped and

shrivelled.

Now I leap, then limbs leaden were strained.
Now a god, then a dish of bones devilled

Pleasure's friend, once Pain's slave pain-
enchained.



Stark and grim was the Ju-ju old.

Dark and dim its abode.

Caked ancient blood as a loathly mould

Its sacrificial woad.


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Online LibraryAlan FieldLays of West Africa and ditties of the coast → online text (page 1 of 4)