Alan Field.

Lays of West Africa and ditties of the coast online

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Him to " Do just run down to Putney,

With my message warm " (He needn't have egged
Jones so hard) 'T\vas as warm as a chutney.

Next Home mail took Smith and Brown.

As messengers each had vowed him
That, if ever he happed to be ' in Town,'

With no business on hand to crowd him.

That each would hie, with the Doctor's love
To the "Duckey-birds " (that's what we called it)

A message give, and "cheer up " his " dove."
That message ! Each of them mauled it.

Now Robinson, equally charged, had gone
And next came my turn on the roster

When, equally charged, I stepped upon
My boat as no longer a ' Coaster.' 1

I kept my promise, and went to call,

But aver that I felt confusion
To find in the drawing-room Jones as well

Yet I greeted him with effusion.

I found her sweet yet I must confess,
When she owned, the innocent sinner,

Surprise, as she said she " must go and dress "
Smith was "taking her out to dinner."

While expected Robinson was next day

To take her till eve on the river
And Brown was What was she going to say ?

(Brown, on leave, was a known hard-liver).

I found her fair but I had to share

With the other four in her favours.
While of poor old Minns, whom we'd left "out there "

We never heard hint nor havers.

I found her a pearl, and behaved like a churl
For I wooed and proposed and won her

/ gave her a ring, she a photo and curl
(While I wondered if harm I'd done her).

Of her did I think, of old Minns not a jot,
Though my leave was so near its conclusion.

Our engagement she wished kept a secret and not
Any hint to leak out, or allusion.

The arrangement was this, that our joy and bliss

Deferred must be for a season,
She'd "to break with the Doctor," she gave me a kiss

And " we'd not enough cash " was her reason.

So I was to go

" But it pained her so "
To think of me, " far away, earning

Enough to mate

Ah ! horrible fate !
To part two hearts so burning."

On board we five met, but in my regret
I couldn't mix much with the others.

While I felt disgrace that I'd got to face
Minns, who treated us all like brothers

But on landing we heard,

(Such luck was absurd)
That he'd had to go Home in a hurry.

Our steamers had crossed.
"Now, what he has lost"

"She has told him," I thought, "Hence the flurry."

We were sitting one day, in the morning,

All scanning the English mails,
When Brown leapt up. I'd be scorning

To repeat what he said. Language fails.

" What's up ? " we cried in a chorus " Read ! "
" What's wrong in the ' Morning Post'?"

But " False ! " he cried " She has done the deed ! "
" And, fa's bringing her out to the Coast ! "

A horrible fear oppressed me,

For each of us seized the paper,
To glare at the para. What messed me

Was, each of us cut the same caper.

It all came out. No repression

Could hide the terrible fact.
She had played with us, each in succession

While the worst was still to act.

Now she's the Doctor's bride, and will
Be the one White girl in the Station.

We shall have to call, or explain to the Pill
Why we cut her. He'll want an ovation.

If, gentle reader you can assist

For all our sakes use the cable.
They're down in the next boat's passenger list.

Send any solution you're able.

" Never introduce your Donah to a pal."


" Never be the pal."


Sired by Trade, and dam the Administration
(Awkward that phrase expressive of maternity).
Lokoja lies, as doth its population,
An infant mongrel, tin-roofed with modernity.

No unsophisticated hybrid is this child
Of Trade and State, the country's door and port.
For here, the subtle Coast clerk hath denied
The simple savage, Watts* a moral sort.

He, the mild black, from Laxos or Axim
With sinuous wiles to eke his monthly screw
" Sells office " to a dusky pal, and sacks him
While some fine day, at audit, he sells you.

Green o'er cantonment bulks the Patesf height

At Niger level live we on quinine

A site of health above, below a sight

Of Hammocks, hospital-wards bound, is seen.

Here, where mosquitos shrill their hymns of praise
To him who fathered th' eighteen months' notion,
Answer we Minutes thro' the ink-slung days
And envious watch the T. X.J trek for ocean.

The breezes waft towards the lines Civilian
The tom-tom band strains of the civil Waffs
From beehive town to th' barracks Mess pavilion
The bouquet <T Afrique stirs the white man's coughs.

Lokoja and this ballad. have some points akin
Neither is what it aims at, weak and whimmy
The faults of both go blandly ad infin
My leave's not due, Hinc illae lacrimae !

* Watts Niger Company's Chief.

t Pati Hill. .

t T.X. Time-expired, i.e. going- home.

Waffs W. A. F. F. W. African Frontier Force.


pause, /IDg JBretbren!

Exeter Hall. Exeter Hall.

With paragraph brains, and a most strident bawl.
Synonymous with the know-nothing-at-all ;
With the " Bother-the-facts ! Write-the-Governor's
recall ! "

Exeter Hall. Known thro' the land
By millions of Britons who know not the Strand ;
But they know it, the home of the Auntie Fuss band,
Who can't rule themselves, but could manage the Rand.

Exeter Hall. It is clearer than day,
That the methods of Europe won't do in Cathay,
That the good souls of Slopton-in-Slush cannot say
All the rules that a hinterland ought to obey.

Exeter Hall. Whiskey's a curse,

And the same quite agree, while are sure t'would be


If there were none at all. Every crank would reverse
Every other crank's fad, quoting scriptural verse.

Exeter Hall. Collecting the pence

For a campaign of and, a has common-sense.

Tracts of " How to train Tommy " are sent to parents

Who practice infanticide. Anserine "gents" !

Exeter Hall. Let us suppress

The idiots who in each national stress

Believe every cable, and shriek in the Press

That the Lord God of Hosts may our enemies bless.


44 SweeWIDoutb " IDerse.


Love and my love a tourney held,

And made my heart the field.
The God his bow and arrows took,

My love her Beauty's shield.

When Greek meets Greek no certain law

The destinies can wield,
But Beauty here met Love in war,

The God was forced to yield.

He armed, tho' she no weapon flashed,

Save but a single glance.
'* Enough ! " he cried, and owned abashed,

Him captive of her lance.

Then begged a ransom, being bound

In chains of loving art.
Now could no other price be found

Than that poor boon, my heart ?


Love, as a pirate, sails the Seas,
Ocean of tears by lovers shed,

Heart and crossed darts his panoplies,
" Love, or no quarter ! " motto dread.

Love, as a bandit, roams the hills,
Mountains of vows by lovers sworn.

Taking no ransom, never wills

To loose from bondage hearts forlorn.

Love, as a prince, in palace dwells.

Castles fair that lovers build.
Where, by his fairy warlock spells,

Hearts live again that Love has killed.

Hbe Cbuvn.

"The Bush Fire remarked to the Suffocating Antelope,

' Come, buck up ! ' " Kuku, Ruku proverb.
"You never know your luck." The Shop Girl.
" Be a Man ! "Kipling.
" Kick ! "Shakespeare.

'Twas two Bonny frogs of the self same ilk
That sheltered from the Sun within a hut.

And fell (Kismet !) right in a calabash.

"Mah'med!" cried one "This is an Allah bash!' 5
As puzzle to crack's a very hard nut
For the gourd's deep bowl was full of milk.

One of the frogs was a cheerful ' sport '

His friend of the give-up kind

They swam all day, then the latter's excuse

For ceasing more to strive was "What's the use?"

" Better drown than swim till giddily blind ! "

Said the first " I never 'no fit ' was taught."

Around and about with kick all-a-plash

The survivor ophidian swam on

Till at last, in fatigue quite utterly utter
He found himself seated on a pat oj butler !

At the bottom lay dead his poor Damon

Pythias refreshed left the calabash.


You may be in trouble of the very worst

Of the sort the Good Book poet wrote

' The waters deep have gone o'er my head '
Think of the frog ! what he did ! what he said !

For, just ere you sink there may come a boat

Or you may churn your troubles into terra-firma first.



On a cloud-billow white I am floating adream
And the air-hills around me are sunlit agleam
Though the blue seems no nearer than earth seems

more far
I can hear world-men speaking and songs from a star.

Where the snow-whitest surf round a bluest lagoon
Is the nearest to heaven this side of the moon
There I swing 'neath the palms while the smoke

gently curls
From my cigarette rolled by bronze houris of girls.


There's a tin roof 'twixt me and a tropical sun
In the Surf-Boat Co.'s depfjt I'm kept on the run
In no more than my pants and a shirt I've to seek
For the bales of my firm if it takes me all week.

Where the mangroves' claw roots rising out of the slime
Look much like the jim-jams I've seen in my time
There I hunt in a dug-out through creeks for the Trade
With a black clerk whose face would put Sin in the


"TOUn& 'im, Xass! mint) 'im!"

Three acres and a cow
For the simple life enow.
One mate, with a vow,
Should suffice a maid, I trow.

Let mothers of England attend to this ditty,

And gaze on their unmarried daughters with joy !
Let them cease to regard the fair creatures with pity !

For my theme is a scheme to give each lass her ' boy.'
Coy damsels of Britain unwedded, unloved,

No longer your left -hand's third finger need hide !
Come, list to this lay ! you shall soon live ungloved,

To display the gold circlet in matronly pride !

It's Gilgit knows the bachelor, lonely, snows.

While the Minkolis of Mandalay can pall.
Coomassie's not superior to Beautyless Nigeria,

For the West Coast has no maidens there at all.

'Tis accepted as fact, without carping or cavil,
That Britain sends yearly her pick East and West

If all bachelors abroad were but Masons, the gavel
Would bring to the Lodge all the Empire's best.

Now Mommas reflect on the life and the duties
Of all of these partis so eligibly planned.

Consider these youths as your quarry, ye Beauties,

Whose barks on Life's sea are so soon to be manned \

It is Lagos' moan man hates to live alone.

Nairobi's wifeless ranches need the sound
Each bungalow of women in, the sweetly English


Will find abroad her bosom's lord, and husbands
to go round.

When the brute (that is Man) is on furlo' at home

Among hundreds and thousands of widows and maids,
He develops ideals, and fancies, to roam

In search of the ' Golden Girl ' through all her grades.
But, in tropical life, for long weeks, months, and years,

Not a single white petticoat dawns on his eyes.
For the first few he meets he would cut off his ears,

And, madly adoring, would grab at the prize.


So, fifteen to fifty, maids with futures shifty,

Hearken with a dimple to this very simple plan !
You will only have short time to wait, in gushing,

blushing, maiden state,
It's what Yanks call " a perfect cinch," that you

will ' nail,' or ' catch,' or 'pinch '
That very useful article about a girl a MAN.

Unless you are lovely, and witty, and sweet,

Neglect the gay stations of fashion and size.
For in them dwell grass-widows with whom to compete,

(And Flappers) were waste of good time and your eyes.
But in little up-country Cantonments you'll meet

Lovely men coming in from Bush, Jungle, and Wattle,
And, so long as you seem to the eye quite complete,

From ' Fark forward!' to ' Worry ' 'twill go with a

While the surest of covert for bolting a lover
Is to catch them straight off the West Coast.

When a black evening blouse, with a sigh, and some

And you have the thing quivering ' on toast'


Oh, remember, brave men, that a chick and a hen
Are as different as cat and a kitten !
That earnest lady missionaries,
And tripper girls from the Canaries,
Will certainly not give your offer ' the mitten.'
Remember that cable ! " Shall meet you," from Mabel,
" Ware riot ! " don't nibble at baits until then.


1Retire6 /IDan.
^ *

" How full of briers is this working-day world."

Regret around old " have-beens " clings
And "once upon a time " sighs oft

Old customs die hard, and old things
Are dear to us who've worn them oft.

Old hardships humours gain with years
Old wrongs time soothes their sting

Now's happy sun glints thro' old tears
Old songs are best for all to sing.

Past loves were fair, old sins were sweet

And it is hard for us to know
That in Time's future paths our feet

Will long in present lines to go.

Where men have toiled their youth and days
And thought the pulsing time was pain

They learn to hate the hard-earned bays
And long to breast the trails again.

The day we shut our office door

Ungird for good the worn-hilt sword

Scan from the Home-bound deck that share
Where all our praise and shames are stored.

That day long prayed-for holds no joy
Our pensions each would fain exchange

To be once more the taut-strung boy
To whom all gamuts sounded strange.


When young we long for future times
When old we think of youth

These platitudes here put in rhymes
Only " rub in " the Truth.

IHoctbern Tligerfa.

Here, for a score of reasons, are we met on the edge of

Most of us slaves of circumstance, but all, in our coming,

None of us cut from one pattern, none of the Home-tied

The ruler's caste on our foreheads, where all who run

may read.

From far, the World over to Nigeria

From all of the Britains to Burutu

Ice, palms, deodars, wisteria

From back-blocks or heather we salute you.

The nations of white men, whom, smiling, we almost

own for our equals
Look on the far fair ramparts of Empire built to horizon

Think, when their envy lets them, that this is but money

and sequels,
So little they know us. Our kind, with no straw for our


Sent empty out from Downing Street to Sokoto,
A monthly dole and nothing else to Zaria.
Out of cannibals, some cotton, and a cockatoo,
You must mould a British State with Customs

H Sonnet to Jficftlcness.

Jewel with wings, sweet-loving ruby bird
On lights own speed aflit in tropic air
With drouth of honey seeks it flow'ring there,
Which having found, and sipped, flits on unstirred
By memory of the flow'r just preferred.

What use the drained chalice, honey bare?
Fickle may be, but wise if free as air
In new flower-hearts to seek sweet joys deferred,
To roam unbound, to love without a thought
Of morrow's morn, so as the eve be kind.
Freedom is life though oftimes dearly bought
Bondage finds limits to the honey mind
Leave flow'r for flow'r leave sweet for sweets unsought
Humming bird heart leaves empty loves behind.

a Ibammocfc.

Tis sweet to lie half-sleeping

Half-thinking, silence keeping

Brain in dreamland, heart in present

Thought and fancy in a maze.
Veiled sorrows softly weeping
Pass, with rosy mem'ries peeping

Thro' a slowly thick'ning darkness indeterminate
in haze.




"Oh, to be in England now that April's here."

The bare bud-bursting branches, brown-laced against the

Are clothed with cool sweet melody, the thrushes

thrilling high.
About the dear Spring-moving earth, delicate as fairy

Red robins piping happiness musics the year's


To the clean wind their clear notes flinging
Throbbing with life too wild for winging
Too glad for singing, yet winging and singing
Song-twig for choice where sap is springing.
Wakers o' the woods the birds are ringing
The Always bell of the old new old beginning.
Wake leaves ! Wake flowers !
Blossom to seed from mating hours
Spring greenth born of fertile showers
From sleep to the all of it
Hark, list to the call of it !
Love, life, and the sun,
Twain kiss and are one
Again yet again
One and the twain
Life is ended, and life begun.

Trees beyond, the cuckoo's calling

Cuckoo !
Wind-flowers fleck where shadows falling

Cuckoo !

Green o' Spring adeep in hedge-row
Speedwell's stars along the edge grow
Cowslip'd green are copse and sedge-row
Note enthralling
Cuckoo ! calling

Cuckoo ! Cuckoo ! Cuckoo ! calling
Cuckoo !


" Under no circumstances omit to have the teeth thoroughly
seen to by an efficient dentist before sailing."

"Verb. Sap. on Going to West Africa."

There were plagues of old in Egypt's
Borders. Darkness, death, and dearth.

All their pains must suffer eclipse
At Fate's modern curse of earth.

Man's cruelty to man has made,

Ingenious mediaeval fiends,
Tortures which chill the blood and aid

Thanks that we live in tol'rant scenes.

By fired homes, bush-lost, and seas
Have suffrings been and anguish.

By crush of wheels, mine-falls, all these
Can Pity's full meed vanquish.

In biting need, scorn of proffered love,

By justice's miscarriages.
Of all the hurts 'neath Sun above

Men surfer throughout our ages.

Now is a worse. Cries this to warn

All kin, our tropic British
That ere they speed to distant bourne

They must their mouths make Fetish.

Mouth nerves exposed, with Fever,
Racking body, brain, together

Are the hottest iron of Shiva *
Sanity's end of the tether.

Knowing not what they did in pain,
Many a good man has ended

Torture and life at once. Past gain
All that on teeth is expended.

Shiva* Goddess of Destruction and Torture.

No help dwells there. No opiates
Effect release. Work fails, sleep flies.

Ever the heat and anguish. Hate's
Own self could nothing worse devise.


He who runs may read it plain

Nor learn in hard experience school

And he who goes Coast-wise, to pain,
Having not Dentisted, is a Fool.

H. ant)

This drama, if ever at all it occurred,

Took place on the West Coast, or so I have heard.

A. had married for money.

For no reason at all had B.
They met, and their spouses thought funny

To see what in each, each could see.

A. was a " bit of a poet "

B.'s mate talked dullest prose.
" Misunderstood " B. let A. know it

Mrs. A. twice A.'s age, with a nose.

I append here a verse which one morning,
Their friends read the case in "The Times."

The Judge said their fate was a warning
To all with a penchant for rhymes.

As a sandwich-man A. is declasse.

Frail B. takes in mangling, and chars.
A. no longer writes verse to B. passe

For their neighbours report they have 'jars.'

It was singular how they affected the jury
These lines A. had written to B. in love's fury.

" So warm and white your arms that clinging fold

And sweet the soft enwavement of your hair,
Dear heart that beats to mine with love untold

Save unto me, sweet secret that we share.
Ah, then, when kissing close, and lost to all

But thought of thee, the serpent which lies hid
I'th' heart of all Life's flowers cankered care

Ensides a thought which happier lovers bid
Avaunt from the charmed circle round the pair.

That heart-enshrouding thought of partings near
Which should not come to those whom Love has found,

But which aye stands 'tween all I hold most dear
As penance of dead sorrows underground.

For social laws are iron, and they kill
Those passion-rid who dare to brave their rule.

And how can I, who with a lonely will
Would scholar for your sake in Fate's hard school,

How can I ask you to cut drift with me
From all that men esteem most worth to own,

To bear on your white body all the blows
By which poor tender sinning souls atone

For wandering to the paths of brier-rose ?
Oh, men of codes and rigid moral laws

Who frame with chill thin lips the fiat dread
Of ostracism's curse ! What can you know of wars

Who live in peace and die in shriven bed ?
How can you guage, when you, with lifted brows

Draw back your robes from touching " stained " souls
The carelessness of trammels Passion knows

The bird flight after birth-right as a mole ?"

A curious end must be told,

That bereft Mr. B. met A.'s wife.

The wronged spouses together condoled,
And are happily married for life.

jfoolefc bs tbe forest.

* *


We are wearied of the humour

Which friends still discover

While wishing much that they knew more

Than what till now has been rumour

All that now is over.

For, as a way to lay the ghost
Jeers, quips, and wreathed smiles,
Of that, of all trips on the Coast
By far, of sport, the famous most,
Whose mere remembrance riles.

We, Jones, with Robinson and me
(Those two agree yet curse
The whole adventure,) while we see
Than guessed at, the whole tale will be
Best public made in verse.

Men laugh and chaff at mystery,
Known fact scant notice finds.
So that, to print this history
Will cut, as by a bistoury,
The story fi'om all minds.

I was a well-known Bisley shot.

Robinson wrote a book

On big game. " How to shoot and spot

It's lair." And had Jones not

For game all games forsook ?

So, when we three agreed to spend
(Full licenses to buy)
Much cash, and in the bush expend
A month with but the single end,
For record trophies try.

All jealous tongues expectant wagged,
Half sneers and half advice,
On not to fight o'er what we bagged.
We smiled superior when they ragged
Finding in envy, spice.

By river first we made our way

To bush all undefiled

By man. Camped there to spend a day

Of rest, ere we set forth to slay

Far in the forest wild.

But first, to shoot some guinea-hen,
My scatter-gun I took.
Jones also came, with two black men
To carry all the fowl and then
Bear back the spoil to cook.


Now that the tale of adventure draws on to the point of

The metre must change to rhythm more worthy the

theme and the story.
Though I abhore the results the events have for me no

Weird though the happenings were it may yet be they

earn for us glory.
Empty the jests as the wits of the public out here, the

(Regiment rank of a 'wart,'" with "West African status

of skipper)
The Civil officials, his kidney, are like as the atoms of

That is, in their minds. In bulk, and moustaches, they

vary, these "rippers."
("Ripper" or "ripping good chap" is the highest of

meed that they value)
But, outside, to the larger world, the Coasts with their

interests narrow
All of leave, promotions and pay are very remote. (May

I call you
Reader 1 gentlest reader ? Behold me, " a toad 'neath

the harrow."
A peg that is round in a square receptacle writing these

We appeal to you and your friends, with highly intelligent

Unlike the critics we know, such a contrast the swine

were to Circes.

* Wart 2nd Lieutenant.


If there be naught of pathos, of delicate violet pensees
Twined in the thread of our tale, beyond blatant laughter

or curses ?
Scanning the lines I have writ, they appear to be chiefly

So, if you've paid sterling cash, for this, and the rest of

the volume,
I beg your forgiveness, and will no more hold my pen

in repression.
If .you've not paid, but cheaply, have read in a newspaper

A kindly reviewer's remarks, and have gone with your

measly two pennies
To library hid in the suburbs. Or if you have stolen or

This book (including my work). You're a 'rotter!'

They say that here when is
A man, a mean kind of thing, criticising where others

have sorrowed,
Working ill paid to amuse you. In the battle of life

you're the fighter
"Who sees, from the rear, others bleed. But you turn up

in time for the looting
You make enough fuss for your pay, but never give

thought to a writer
Whose books fill your leisure. A dead-head, like you,

never pays for his footing.
Parenthesis now being ended, I take up Smith's candid

At that point where began the events anent which we

now seek reparation.
Smith had shot, for the pot, two fat hens of the species

well-known as the guinea.
When we entered a rather sparse copse as called, in the

Shires, 'a spinney'
All about we could hear the quaint cry of the birds we

desired for dinner
When as sure as He made little apples, and as certain as

I am a sinner.
At that self-same identical instant when Smith raised

his gun to 'the present'


To slay on his right a fine cock. It got up with a whirr

like a pheasant
On his left, with a horrified gaze, couched low in a

business-like manner
A leopard, I spotted his spots, lay half-hid by a jungle

Simultaneous quite were my shriek and the bang of

Smith's choke-bore left barrel.
" Now he's done ! " was my thought. (I remember I felt

as I had when a carol
Of Noel a street-singing wait had prolonged for two

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Online LibraryAlan FieldLays of West Africa and ditties of the coast → online text (page 3 of 4)