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When I Speak of History by Leonard Dabydeen

When I speak of history I speak well;
I leave behind the past where broken bones
Lay scattered on blistering sands to tell
Of atrocities that are mostly groans.

While you may feel the pain lurking inside
With hurt failing any impunity;
And browse pages upon pages to ride
This feeling of guilt, remorse or pity,

It was Columbus sailing the great tides
Out discovering many a new world;
And Sir Francis Drake loved the battle cries –
Chicanery as a new age unfurled.

The mind finds revelations in the past,
So meaningful and useful to the last.

Of the three Daydeens, Cyril Dabydeen, David Dabydeen and Leonard Dabydeen, let us see what the last says it here with his assessment of history? What is history? How is it written? And who writes it? To read the poem is to read the history of Spain and England and their rivalry. However be the lame excuse, who can ever dress the hurts imparted to mankind? For what were the battles fought? Who waged wars on whom?

When he speaks of history, he speaks it well, as he knows it what he can learn from history, turning over the pages of it. Where can it take to and what can it relate to? How were the battles fought? How the moans and groans of humanity writhing in pain? We could not feel it. We as man fought wars for our vested interests or superiority or for racial prejudices and hypocrisies in the name of religion and God. The bones lying scattered can tell it like the skulls of Jayanta Mahapatra’s Dawn at Puri metaphysically and the mass killing of Ashoka by the River Daya telling of grief, sorrow, penitence and laying down of arms.

When I Speak of History is one of the best poems commemorating motifs, historical voyages and adventurous shipwrecks sighting the break of light upon some unexpected destination so far undiscovered, unsearched and they going for a big hit. It contains in the history of Guyana, the people settled and their wanderings, who’s who in reality? Who the rulers, who the ruled? What their identity, race, archetype, culture, faith? Who the colonialists, who the colonized? What about the indentured servitude?

The history of the tours and travels, voyages and journeys of mariners, ship men, seamen, navigators, captains and their crew, how to relate to and allude to their adventures? History is not of the kings and queens, but of discoverers. What is history? How to read into the palaces?

What to say about Guyana? The history of Guyana? How was it? Who came from where? Irrespective of all that, the author tells about the navigators, mariners and shipmen whose courage can be seen it here. How did the indentured labourers reach it here and who brought them thereto? He says about all that in a muffled and muted tone transmuting it all.

When I Speak of History as a poem reminds us of Derek Walcott’s The Saddhu of Couva and the Caribbean space. How long can the legacy of the U.P. work it? How long the mirage that was India? How long to stick to age-old traditions and the roots of nativity? Why not to change with time and to adjust with post-colonialism? Why not to deconstruct the myths? Racial pride and supremacy, hypocrisy and ego, aristocracy and superstition cannot take us far. How were the ships which took them to Guyana? Where their ancestors? Who the descendents? What the lost homes to do with?

Here in this small poem the poet tries to define it what it is history, how is it history written and the times fraught with battle-cry and warfare which humanity knew it not and how had we been flung apart.

Leonard Dabydeen is a Guyanese-Canadian writing poems in English, but so replete with post-colonial and diasporic stuffs coming down to us as the traces of thought and reflection.


More by :  Bijay Kant Dubey

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Views: 3460      Comments: 1

Comment Great tribute to my fellow poet Leonard Dabydeen, who I always addressed as 'brother.'
Well written assessment of the way to look for/at history through literary works.Hope it will stimulate further augmentation of info in appreciating a work of art. Socio-cultural implications and messages communicated acquire greater significance.

Sony Dalia
31-Aug-2022 20:10 PM

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