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Lays of West Africa and ditties of the coast online

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Its symbol carved was a grim male ghoul,

Its ornaments bones of snake.

Its dwelling a conical, thatched-hut foul

In a pestilent mangrove brake.



Tears and fears the villages owed.

Cowed and bowed they paid

To the priests (that is ever the priestly code).

And, once a month, a maid.

For then, said the priests, they could not bind

And the devil-god raged abroad.

Each full-moon night, shut the huts and blind.

Every priest was the Ju-ju's bawd.

Hid in their huts the villagers heard
The rout and the din awhirl.
Dreading its halt, then none demurred
But thrust out a wretched girl.
Never again was the victim seen,
Dared none to follow or ask.
The fairest were toll to the Ju-ju's spleen
To submit was the parents' task.

A Hausa trader, Dan Kano came
To the Pagan country to trade.
In Sules compound hired a room,
And the time of his sojourn stayed.
Sule's daughter was plump, and found
Love in the merchant's eyes.
Half her price he paid, and was bound
The rest to pay for the prize.

To trade Dan Kano hied away
Till the full sum he should earn.
Meanwhile the priests had marked a prey
And white did the full moon burn.
Trembling close in their huts all lay
On the night of dread and fear,
While the fiendish drums, and the yelling fray,
Came nearer and yet more near.

Where will it check for the halt of doom ?

Ah ! whose is the price to pay ?

Outside that dwelling the death -drums boom

Where the Sule household lay.

'Tis the fateful hour, the voice of power

Which none dare thwart or bide !

Sule's daughter, no price, no dower,

Must forth as the Ju-ju's bride !



18



Returned the Hausa, to clinch the deal,

To learn of the deed of fate.

Little he cared whose the hand did steal

Priest, Ju-ju, or reprobate.

With him were four of his kin, well-armed,

To counsel him in his grief.

Robbed of desire and cash. Well charmed

He had need to be, the thief !

Bright shone the light of the tropic moon.
Bright on his sight, was the Hausa's eye.
Cowering in fear all the Pagans croon
Charms to avert their destiny.
Clear up the village's mainway came
The Ju-ju, the discord, and din.
Dan Kano muttered the sacred name,
' Allah ! ' and rammed another slug in.

All dressed like devils in masks of hair.

The evil procession progressed.

Drumming, and jangling, and leaping in air,

Around one main figure possessed.

A full good charge had the Hausa's gun

His aim on the Arch-Fiend true

The Snider roared. See ! they run, they run

But jerking his last lies the great Ju Ju.

From every hut arose Terror's wild cries.

But, swift the Hausa's are out!

Stripping and ripping the weird disguise

From the figure which dead in the moonlight lies.

Exposing it there to all startled eyes,

The Ju-ju's chief priest without doubt.

Wild work that night the full moon saw,

Sule the leader of pillage.

They caught the priests, paid off full score.

The long years past of fear and gore.

Dan Kano redeemed all his loss and more.

For a red revenge took the village.



But the 'kings' and the elders soon found with

regret

When the fear of the Devil was vanished
That the villages lawless became, and upset.
So by now they have probably got a new pet.
Some fresh Ju-ju awful, a priesthood worse yet
Than the craft of the Ju-ju they banished.



perbaps.



Perhaps 'twould be well if " the Ladies "

Should make a descent on the Coast.

Though the heat 95 in the shade is

(A damp heat). We know that they boast

That their influence, charm and demeanour,

Responsible is that " the men "

Shave daily, and wear costumes cleaner

Than those you observe now and then.

What a change there would be in their habits

To the bachelors it would seem strange

But it might come to pass

The thermometer glass

Would go higher than ever the change.

Perhaps 'twould be well for the negro
Whose habit for ages is known.
To labourless lounge, and to see grow
All crops where he never has sown.
If, without going back to the slaving,
There could yet some discipline be.
Can't you fancy the letters and raving
At Home in the Press you would see ?

It would change them to men from child-monkeys.

But the white Stay-at-homes who don't know

A Malay from black Je\v,

Or Fulani from Kroo,

Would infallibly ignorant say ' No ! '



Perhaps 'twould be well for that Journal

Whose name's the " West African Wail,"

If its editor cut this eternal

Reform of the Congo, to sail

To our Coasts, and, with brave self-effacement,

Ask Alfred the Great for a berth,*

And cease to review from his Casementf

The methods of ruling the earth.
The beam in the Congolese optic
Would be much fairer cleared if our own
Were quite cleansed of all motes
He'd find " copy " for notes
Down all of our Coasts from Sah L5n,

Perhaps 'twould be well for the public

If the lately made rule which "regrets"

" No adverts " (from Pears' Soap to Kubelik)

" May appear in Official Gazettes "

Was consistently ordered, and in force.

For unfair other firms now impeach

The fact that " a pull " now has the Stores

As the " only pebble on the beach."

To civilians the membership tickets

Would seem to say " keep off the grass."

But so generous they

That (so long as you pay

For your purchase) the ticket's a farce.

Perhaps 'twould be well for all new men
Ere purchasing uniform kit
To note that some firms are but Jew men
Though John Smith & Co. sounds quite Brit-
ish enough to delude young officials
Who would warier be if they knew
That of John Smith the proper initials
Are Ikey Mo Shylock, a Jew.

Though the chosen race are no better

Or worse than us folk less elect

Still a Jew Tailor's bent

Is for fifty per shent

And there are British firms to select.



* Sir Alfred Joues, K.C.M.G., of Messrs. Elder, Dempster.
t Mr. Casement, British Consul of Congo fame.



West Btrican Sport.



Me no fit to savee proper all them white men's curious

ways,

Them bom baturi* ways,
Me think them sometimes craze.
Two year now gone me go for bush with Master and

he says,

" Me kill um beef f these days,"
" Me keep um ' head ' always."
"You lookum beef, I dashj you plenty, bush palaver

pays."

Monday start and Thursday catch them country where

beef libs

Where big and small beef libs.
One king small town me fibs
Him giving Master house, and Master one-time dash

him dibs. ||

Me telling king, to Master me be all same like his ribs.
Me be friend to white man big
What Master dash him better gib,
To me, or polis coming, break that king with guns

and squibs.

Them king he fear too much and send him mammies

for to hide

While all him pickins cried.
Me talk um, plenty lied,
Me say them white man mad for beef and fit to there

abide
Until he get what wanting, then he leave that country-

side.

Him people quickly tried
For bush they one-time hied
And kill two nice doe hartebeast. Such goddam

Master cried.
He say " You fool no savee " and he flog me hard

back-side.

* Bom. baturi Great white man. || Dibs Money.

t Beef Any four-footed game. One time Immediately.

Dash Presents = bak shish.



I found the doggrel here-above my scoundrel horse-
boy wrote

And in my diary note

The following facts I quote

About the first shoot that I had since landing off the
boat.

I said I wished to kill some buck and taught my "boy"
by rote

I told the silly goat

That carriers would " tote

All them baggage " what he had to do was learn my
wish and know't

Interpret, and find out where game was plentiful and
show't.



We reached a little mud-walled town and camped.

' Boy ' said that here
" Plenty beef" is living near.
I thought it rather queer
That only men were in the place but never guessed

the fear
Which my rascal had instilled, how he had made the

case appear

That my simple wants were deer
But that he (in lying sheer
Ananias was surpassed) must for peace be bribed.

'Twas clear
That our early-made departure would not cost a soul

a tear.



The bush-folk mind cannot, it seems, grasp as a

serious fact

A great white man should act
So palpably be cracked
As to toil, to shoot by his own self, what he could

quite enact
Should be done by his inferiors as a usual business

pact

So to show their anxious tact
They, with gas-pipe guns, the tract



Of country in the neighbourhood went through, and

slew and stacked
By my hut two fat doe hartebeast and thought I

nothing lacked
Then expected 'dash.' To clear his addled head

my man I whacked.

Next morn, as, after questioning, he said he understood

And vowed his word was good

Swore by all his gods he could

With the " king's " assistance show me game. "We

wandered thro' a wood
By millet patch to clearing small, and here he said I

would

Find some buck in grazing mood.
So I promised, by the rood,
To dash him if he told the truth and shot a buck I

should.
We entered on the clearing, out he sprang and proudly

stood.
Right between me and a noble buck not fifty yards

away

Yelling " Beef lib ! True I say ! "
I kicked him in the clay
Too late for me to fire. The buck was not the fool

to stay.

Thereafter I went on in front, a hot and toilsome way,
Till I saw some waterbuck and felt again of hope a

ray

Flat on my chest I lay
And squirmed towards my prey
But saw it most suspicious gaze behind me. To obey
And repeat my slightest movement I had told my

' boy ' all day.

He was on all fours, and may
I be punished if I say
A word untrue. The " king " and he like ostriches

alway
Hid their heads. Their lofty sterns the grasses short

did clear display
From those mystic moving mounds my game fled swift

without delay.



f IReD TRubber.
Itlrongs:-!

ZEbe tlnemploEefc.



RED RUBBER.

Shame on us! Shame! The bitter coward shame!
Who hear His tortured children scream to God.
Because afar they cry on Him by name
Other than ours, we stretch not out the rod.
"It is not our's this business." "Is't not ours?
Then let no stranger save our loved ones lost!
Let God not help us in our anguished hours !
"We cannot move for we must count the cost."
The cost! Not ours! Too fa r ! It is not so
Our standards take the winds of war when gold,
When commerce, is the guerdon. Far then go
Our Troop -ships o'er the sea-leagues to uphold
The credit of our Markets. He may set
Not overmuch against us though we spill
The blood of man, (His image), to earn yet
More land, more prestige, make us mightier still.
If, when to us the poor torn helpless cry,
By reason of that might, for rescue's hand,
We arm if needs may be, and, far or nigh.
Speed in God's name to save the wretched land.
But, if by tacit nothing-do we stain
Our White-man honour, let the wide world say
"These stir not, but abide, except for gain"
He, when in stress we call, will turn away.

Our safe-happed children chase in laughing play
Their colored leaping spheres, for every phase
Of life and living, every year and day
Has intimate connection with this case.
A red smear clings about our spinning tires,
A blood-mist wavers round the children's toys.
To gain resilience of our carriage-ease, the fires
Of Hell ablaze. Shrieks earn our silent joys.
Death to the warrior comes with loosened rein



One thrust and done, but in the Congo land

Quick death a boon. There maimed and bleeding pain,

Of maggot-rotting stumps, the torn out tongue, the hand

With nails blown off by powder. Do not feign

You know not of this devilry. 'Tis true!

All know it true. A witness cloud records

These, and far worse than pen and ink dare view

Of babes and women's fate. The sick'ning print abhors.

Where is the chosen weapon? Whose the hand

Shall loose the rack and set the tortured free?

Is it a Sign we wait? Shall not this land

Make Pity's self our mouthpiece? And our Sea

The road to haste our mandate? To obey,

Here is no king shall dare but set intent

To loose his crippled slaves. No Pharoah of this day

Cry "hold ! " Oh, Lord, make us Thy instrument!



UNEMPLOYED.

You may call me a "problem,'' or a ruddy "sign of the

times"
All I care is what I am, hungry, heart-hurt, and clemmed,

and cold.
There's my woman an' the kids, they're long-gone out a

singin' rhymes
In the wet, blank-faced, streets I hate to hear 'em

whining so bold
Sold up the place, sort o' home, where we had a few

sticks to own,
Where she and me got on to rights till them dam works

shut down.

And now, my Gawd, I wish I was doing this bit alone;
That burnin' throat-lump, I bet it hurts 'er most, as she

goes roun'
Just roun' and roun', I dunno where, until the chill night

come,
When we drift back to a room, at least it's got walls and

a roof,
An' a floor that's hard for kids. It's precious easy for

some,



26



Them as has jobs, an' pay, an' food, and not got to pad

the hoof
All days about asking for work. Work! Y'know that

sounds funny
To want just work an' not get it! Why every horse gets

feed an' work !
Yes, easy for them to care for kids an' the wife, with

money
To buy 'em all what's wanted. I tell you I gets fair to

shirk
Seeing them tired sunk eyes in the worn yellow face

of her

Looking up once as I come in to see if there's any hope
Then, hopeless, dropping them always, Gawd, always.

You'd get to hate not to love 'er

In a mad kind o' way, if you couldn't feed_>v?r missus,
I tell you, you would. What d'l care for this talk, an'

the shames
O' newspapers? They call me a "type" an' the belly an'

heart-ache "abysses"
I've read it when I had work. "Submerged in th'

abysses." Just names!
No kind o' talk helps. I dessay 'taint anyone in

particlar's fault.
You can't be angry on an empty belly. / couldn't riot

or assault
All I want is work, an' the decent looks o' my mates,

an' the street faces
Not to slink an' think like a lost cur, among th' unfriendly

throngs
Like a black man among white owners, like I do, like

me as the case is.
It "oughtn't to be allowed," you've heard that about

scores o' wrongs
But I tell you this is the worst "oughtn't to be," that a

man, English, and white,
With his wife, poor ol' lass, an' the little silly kids, should

sink
To go crawling an' begging for work, which is a man's

world-birthright.
Work ! Just work an' the pay. Not "A Shilling an' don't

spend it on drink!"



Before anything else is done, you, with homes and your

little well-fed kids
Ought to, dear Gawd, you ought to, put your heads

together an' think
How to get, find, or make, work for us. The likes o' me

never in clink,
Me, a foreman once among workers. You can't drive

me to the stink
O' charity's contract clothes, an' the workhouse

unmanliness. Think.
Think for the sake of your own little lots, for any, for

God's sake think.



Hfricoast.



Oh, a merry land o' exiled men is Africa the Western!

Slain the ! Sant<$ ! Prosi t !

A land o' work for paid men all. No Master here does
his turn.

Here's Chin-chin! How goes it?
Gambia cares not for Salleone. None o' them care for

the other
Children of England, Colonies all. None cares a jot for

his brother.

Cape Coast to Bonny, who cares but for money, just to
get back to his Mother.

Here's how! Here's ourselves!

(Our paid and precious selves)

And here's soon back to our Mother!



28



Oh, a joyous land o' bachelors and widowers grass forlorn

Here's one more ! And Sante !

Is Africoasts flat, palm-frayed, shore. Let's keep it up
till morn !

With "Homeward bound" for chantey.
We're all so healthy now they say, when black-sheep come

no more to stay

But poor good characters, the kind you cut the pay,
And lengthen out their Tours. 'They can't afford to run
away.'

Say the half-caste girls

(Here's fun to ourselves!)

And the half-past, half-mast, half-caste girls.



South Africa is civilised. East Afric's got a puff-puff.

Here's to lang syne in a 'smoker' \
The Africoast, that's us, our land, a different kind o'
tough stuff,

Here's to black clerks, and Mr. Coker.
A christening toast to the Africoast ! Our cocktails have

only the swizzle
Their glasses chink ice, We should like to drink nice.

Who said they had heard us grizzle?
He's a liar. Here's him ! They've meat, we've grim, old,
buck-billy-goat. Wet your whistle!

Here's to the mincing machine!
(And our toothache! Ourselves!)
With the weekly mail Home-sick epistle!
And the lies that it tells. Wet your whistle!
Its tepid but Prosit! Don't grouse, but

just nose it
Slainthe! Sante! Chin Chin! Prosit!



29



tlbe Governor anb tbe ffliinatc.



Now of course you all know

That the tale I relate

Is of quite long ago

And, indeed, out-of-date.

Such things can't exist

In these times delectable

When we all on the List

Are so quite respectable.

Having granted that fact

(Which may save us from libel.)

With that exquisite tact

Which he used in all tribal

Affairs on the Coast,

When a word wrongly said

May lose you your post

Or cost you your head.

The "he" I refer to, of course you'll have guessed,

Is my hero, the Governor, "one of the best."

And the tact I will use in recounting his foibles

Is not to give names of his own, or his coy belle's.

Well, that Governor Blyter

(" There ! " I know you will say

"That's the name, and the writer

Has giv'n it away ! "

But you're wrong, gentle critic,

In exclaiming that " There ! "

I am far too politic.

It's a mere nom de guerre ! )

That General Blyter

Would commonly boast

That the keenest back-biter,

There were some on the Coast

That detractors, the worse one,

Could never but own

Him the healthiest person

In the tropical zone.

And by ' health ' he desired all people to plain know

He inferred a mens sana in corpore sano

All allowed he had tact, and as Chief could enact

Measures stirring, or those which you just with a pen act.



In the hot rainy season

When folk get their livers,

And cannot see reason

Because of the shivers.

Even then H.E.* Blyter

Was not a believer

In making work lighter

Because of the fever.

Have I mentioned before

A fact which was known

That (what we must deplore

But as much have to own)

That, although when abroad

He would laugh at the heat,

Yet, in letters to Maud,

He took care to repeat

That the climate so deadly was tot'lly unfit

For white men, while white ladies could not live in it?

Who is Maud? No handle for scandal's sharp knife

A middle-aged matron the Governor's wife.

And if you but knew

Mrs. Blyter as well

As her husband, p'raps you

The same tarra-did-del

Would have told. In his way

As is mine and is your hope

Than abide in Cathay

We all much prefer Europe.

So, if Governor Blyter

A bachelor had been,

P'raps a Colony whiter

His sway would have seen.

However, cui bono

Reflections like these ?

Things were, and I know no

Change mfaits accomplis

So the Governor sturdy did his ' tours,' took his ' leaves '

Took the latter in Paris. Friends laughed in their sleeves

For, of all the achievements Mrs. Blyter " no fit,"|

Was to speak any tongue save her own not a bit.

*H.E. His Excellency.

^Xo fit Unable, incapable of.



Some years before my scene is " set "

A rare event transpired

(The Coast Staff seldom live to get

Their pensions when retired)

But then, one, Smith, lived on to see

His pension due and went

Straight Home. They made him C.M.G.

(Colonial-Made-Gent.)

No sooner had he taken ship,

To pen these words I falter,

He died incontinent of some ' pip '

They buried him off Gibraltar.

His daughter fair discovering

Her circumstances worse

Relinquished ease and levering

And trained her for a nurse.

(Forgive this awful verse.)

A grateful country to absolve

Itself from claims upon we all

Which it appeared there might devolve

Upon the branch Colonial

Appointed Mabel Smith to be

A Nursing Sister on the Coast

And sent her to that Colony

Where Gov'nor Blyter ruled the roast.

All this was fate, but I must state it was not fair of For-
tune

To send so fair an English maid a lot so inopportune.

The Devil too must have his due, for sure it was his plan
did

Bring there H.E. Miss Smith to see, the moment that she
landed.



Now arrows of poison we know are in use

By the tribes in the hostile interior

P'raps Dan Cupid dips his in the same stropanthus

For his darts are in no way inferior.

As Miss Smith set her dainty shoe on to the shore

Blyter's heart felt a pang which would rankle,

His tender aorta was pierced to the core,

As he murmured, " Great Scott ! What an ankle ! "

It is said that a lady can very soon see,

Though its hard to tell how they discover

The effect that their charms have on you or on me,

Or how they so quick " spot " a lover.

Anyway, there's no doubt Miss Smith quickly found out

At her hook she'd attracted a biter.

For, so I have heard, it was really absurd

The infatuate fall of poor Blyter.

For the once healthy man (was it part of a plan?) now

was constantly seedy and ailing.
He could only endure but one curious cure, leaning over

the hospital paling.
Let me now "cut the cackle," for we have to tackle the

rest of this story veracious.
But just mention that soon things got further than 'spoon,'

to the point where we say " Goodness gracious ! "

It was soon said in short

If you wished to get on

That you had to pay court

To Miss Smith, and " let on "

You saw nothing amiss.

But it needed some nous,

For the favour of kiss

Ruled at Government House.

And, although she was clever,

; Twas a scandal too risque

And despite all endeavour,

(Each problem has his key,)

So a key to this puzzle

Was found by a lady,

Who determined to muzzle

An affaire so " shady."

The key lived at Southsea at Second 1 / Lodge,

And a little bird talkative flew there. The dodge

Was the lady's o'erseas who set forth, letter-writer,

The whole of the tale, to the key Mrs. Blyter.)



'Twas ere the time of Harmattan

H.E. and Staff and porters

(The sun had burnt his charmer tan)

Returned to their Head-Quarters.

For she, and the feat meant

All the bush life of tours,*

Still continued her ' treatment '

Of the hardest of cures.

While the Governor headstrong

Brooked no humbug or sham mock

But used on the trip long

A fine double hammock.

As the cortege " set down "

At the pillared house gate,

'Neath the big Royal Crown

There was waiting their Fate.

Ere the great hammock's curtains, which shade from the sun

The inmates or inmate, in this case not one

Were withdrawn, waiting Fate gave a gasp and a hiss.

For she, and the carriers, heard all clearly a kiss.

Now I frankly declare

That I dare not relate

What happened just there

When the travellers saw Fate.

For the Governor owned,

That, although a born fighter,

Yet he felt as though "boned "

When he saw Mrs. Blyter.

And we all must agree

To that pair in the ' palky ' f

That the case was what he

Described ' far beyond talkee : '

There was talk of divorce

While the fair one, his " slip,"

As a matter of course

Was packed off by next ship.

The Governor stayed, 'twas a question of duty.

But his lady stopped too with him she styled " a Beauty."

No more Paris, and as 'twas the heat she opined

Was the cause of the faux fas, poor Blyter resigned.

*Tours i.e., Travelling on tour of inspection.
\Palky Palanquin.



How lucky that we live in strict moral times

When there could not occur such a tale as these rhymes

Have recounted. Our chiefs would as soon meet a

panther
Unarmed as act so, fpr tempora mutantur.

MORAL.

Don't be a Governor. Don't go to the Coast
Don't keep double hammocks and lastly don't boast.



"1belp! 1belp!"

A Social Problem of Sekondi.



Doctor Minns was an excellent soul

With a sweet ingenuous mind.
Considering all, he, on the whole,

For a surgical man, was kind.

And kind he must have been on leave

To a lady fair he'd met
For he came out fiance to receive

The greetings of all our set.

Judged by her portrait the Doctor's girl
Was sweet. " It does not do her, Sir

Justice " the Doctor vowed " My pearl ! "
And the photos recalled a Greuze.

Just the self-same innocent face

Of the Master's chef (Foeuvres darlings.

The Doctor showed them all over the place
With her every mail from "The Starlings."

" The Starlings," Putney. We learnt by heart
\Vas the shrine that enclosed his goddess.

We heard of her character, music, and art,
How she dressed, boots, skirt, hat and bodice.



Till we felt that we knew her enough to bow
And to speak, as a fair acquaintance.

The Doctor was booked for a year, while now
Fell due all our leaves of absence.

Jones went first, and the Doctor begged


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Online LibraryAlan FieldLays of West Africa and ditties of the coast → online text (page 2 of 4)