Monday, 8 September 2014

Guyanese early poetry

This early Guyanese poem objectifies its subject but with some more respect than meted out perhaps to English inhabitants of Arcadia. Edward Thompson (1739 - 1786) was a career naval officer of English descent serving predominantly on the slave route between Africa and the Caribbean; his poems however reveal his anti-slavery feelings and empathy for slaves. He died at sea leaving at least fifteen books of published poems and prose.

Defensa de Cartagena de Indias por la escuadra de D. Blas de Lezo, año 1741.jpg

The Indian Maid 

The Indian maid who lightly trips,
 The Dryad of the Guava grove,
 The zone of Venus round her hips,
 And graced with youth, and blessed in love!
 Gold rings adorn her nose and arms,

And leaves of beads veil naked charms.
 Or if she quits the golden wood,
 Pierced by the scorching solar beam,
 She plunges in the cooler flood,
 And swims the Naiad of the stream:
 Adores the god in ev'ry air
 And smiles the maid without a care.

Or if more distant creeks invite
 To fish, to fowl, or seek her love,
 She paddles the canoe upright,
 Where Christian maids would fear to move;
 On some fair tree her hammock swings,
 Nor envies she the beds of kings.

Like other belles of other shores,
 She daubs her limbs, her face, her hair.
 Rauccoo and launa stop the pores
 Against mosquitoes and the air.
 But these, I trust, nor spoil her skin,
 They're to defend - not lure to sin.

A beauteous bronze she stands confessed,
 Venus nor Hebe more complete;
 With various feathers tricked and dressed,
 Perfumed with Tonkay flow'rs most sweet!
 And when she moves, her mien and grace
 Prove her the goddess of the place!

Edward Thompson Demararie, October 27, 1781

 Rauccoo and launa: Indigenous dye plants - red, the latter black while Tonkay is a tree.

This poem came to p&g's attention on Ian MacDonald's page on Old Guyanese poetry. You can read the full article here

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