Monday, October 20, 2008

A Tribute to our National Heroes

In recognition of Jamaica's National Heroes' Day, I share with you this poem:

The Ballad of Sixty-Five
by Alma Norma

The roads are rocky and the hills are steep,
The macca stretches and the gully’s deep.
The town is far, news travels slow.
And the mountain men have far to go.

Bogle took his cutlass at Stony Gut
And looked at the small heap of food he’d got
And he shook his head, and his thoughts were sad,
‘You can wuk like a mule but de crop still bad.’

Bogle got his men and he led them down
Over the hills to Spanish Town,
They chopped their way and they made a track
To the Governor’s house. But he sent them back.

As they trudged back home to Stony Gut
Paul’s spirit sank with each bush he cut,
For the thought of the hungry St Thomas men
Who were waiting for the message he’d bring to them.

They couldn’t believe that he would fail
And their anger rose when they heard his tale.
Then they told Paul Bogle of Morant Bay
And the poor man fined there yesterday.

Then Bogle thundered, ‘This thing is wrong.
They think we weak, but we hill en strong.
Rouse up yourself. We’ll march all night
To the Vestry house, and we’ll claim our right.’

The Monday morning was tropic clear
As the men from Stony Gut drew near,
Clenching their sticks in their farmer’s hand
To claim their rights in their native land.

Oh many mourned and many were dead
That day when the vestry flames rose red.
There was chopping and shooting and when it done
Paul Bogle and the men knew they had to run.

They ran for the bush were they hoped to hide
But the soldiers poured in from Kingston side.
They took their prisoners to Morant Bay
Where they hanged them high in the early day.

Paul Bogle died but his spirit talks
Anywhere in Jamaica that freedom walks,
Where brave men gather and courage thrills
As it did in those days in St Thomas hills.


Stunner said...

A nice poem and a fitting tribute to one of our heroes!


Thanks very much for this poem!ESTEBAN AGOSTO REID

Jacqueline Smith said...

Welcome, Esteban Agosto Reid, hey Stunner. It's a brilliantly written poem, too bad I hurt it with a couple of typos like in verse six it should read "we hill men strong", not "hill en".

One of the things that makes it brilliant is the way it lives up to the expectations of a ballad. The structure, the rhyme, the rhythm, the lyrical quality all make it songlike and easy to commit to memory.

Ballads needed to be like this because they were popular at a time when not many people could read or had access ro written material, so important historical events were made into ballads for the common people to be able to cherish them and pass them on to later generations.

Alma Norma wrote this poem when ballads had become loosely defined as narrative songs, so it's wonderful that she bothered to use the old form.

And what an important historical event was the Morant Bay Rebellion-and so many like it- those led by Tacky, Daddy Sharpe, Nanny of the Maroons, Tousaaint L'Ouverture (for which Haiti continues to pay today) to this day.

I am glad I live in a time of relative ease, so I join Alma Norma in paying respect to the men and women who helped to make it happen.

Daisy Soap Girl said...

I think it's a nice poem also. I was just going to type "ballad" because it has that rhythm and makes it easy to remember.

Anonymous said...

Very good poem, I search for this Ballad a long time and my 12 year old daughter found it for me. I grew up in Jamaica nad use to say this Ballad all the time.

Jacqueline Smith said...

Glad you found it here, hope your twelve year old enjoyed it and feels connected to these heroes through it.

Anonymous said...

This was taken Alma Norman's book, Ballads of Jamaica, published by Twin Guinep Publishers in Jamaica. The book was out of print for awhile but is now available

Fiona Robinson said...

I learnt this poem in grade eight, Horizon Park All Age School. I have never forgotten the words, and ever so often, I recite it to myself. I plan to teach it to my children, at least my son for now. I think its a beautifully written tribute to a brave soul, and by extension everyone who stood up against the injustices that went on during that era.

Anonymous said...

realy helped out with home work very kool and deep ps im just 11

Anonymous said...

i had to study it for a poetry reading contest and its great cause im 11 too

Anonymous said...

Yes I remember reading this peom and also having to memorize it back in school in the 4th grade, back on the island..always loved it but I couldn't find it so thank you for posting it....

Darcy said...

October 11rh mark the 150th year of the Morant Bay rebellion