"My Native Land, My Home"

From Songs of Jamaica


Jamaican Girl by Aileen McLeod



Dere is no land dat can compare
Wid you where’er I roam;
In all de wul’ none like you fair,
My native land, my home.

Jamaica is de nigger’s place,
No mind whe’ some declare;
Although dem call we “no-land race,”
I know we home is here.

You give me life an’ nourishment,
No udder land I know;
My lub I neber can repent,
For all to you I owe.

E’en ef you mek me beggar die,
I’ll trust you all de same,
An’ none de less on you rely,
Nor saddle you wid blame.

Though you may cas’ me from your breas’
An’ trample me to deat’,
My heart will trus’ you none de less,
My land I won’t feget.

An’ I hope none o’ your sons would
Refuse deir strengt’ to lend,
An’ drain de last drop o’ deir blood
Their country to defend.

You draw de t’ousan’ from deir shore,
An’ all ‘long keep dem please’;
De invalid come here fe cure,
You heal all deir disease.

Your fertile soil grow all o’ t’ings
To full de naygur’s wants,
‘Tis seamed wid never-failing springs
To give dew to de plants.

You hab all t’ings fe mek life bles’,
But buccra ‘poil de whole
Wid gove’mint an all de res’,
Fe worry naygur soul.

Still all dem little chipidness
Caan’ tek away me lub;
De time when I’ll tu’n ‘gains’ you is
When you can’t give me grub.



Truly, MacKay, in “My Native Land, My Home,” “was one of Jamaica’s first nationalists declaring his love for the “Mother Country”” (James, 58). He lauds,

Dere is no land dat can compare
Wid you where’er I roam;
In all de wul’ none like you fair,
My native land, my home.

McKay’s fervent nationalism is clear. “E’en ef you mek me beggar die” or “Though you may cas’ me from your breas’/ An’ trample me to deat’, he will remain yet loyal. Jamaica is his true home, and the home of his people; Wayne Cooper remarks, “While Africa my have been only an uncomfortable place from which one long ago escaped, there could be no question about Jamaica. It was home, a place known, accepted, and loved” (Cooper, 38). Jamaica is the place of “life an’ nourishment,” of “fertile soil” and “never-failing springs.” McKay’s speaker continues,

Jamaica is de nigger’s place,
No mind whe’ some declare;
Although dem call we “no-land race,”
I know we home is here.

McKay has claimed Jamaica for the black race; in this poem, he swiftly supplants the British stake and replaces it with one of his own making. Lee Jenkins remarks, “The speaker…insists as a matter of pride that “Jamaica is de nigger’s place”…”My Native Land, My Home” [carries] nascent suggestions of the anticolonialism and black nationalism that inform his later work” (Jenkins, 17). McKay’s appropriation of Jamaica was radical and innovative for the time. Winston James notes, “McKay’s enthusiastic embrace of Jamaica…a veritable claiming of the island for the black “race,” was a very rare posture in Jamaica at the time. It was hardly typical of the peasantry or the emergent black working class” (James, 93). Thus, in “My Native Land, My Home,” McKay emerges as progressive, passionately nationalistic, and fundamentally Jamaican. Addison Gayle’s asserts that, “in Jamaica was the beginning, and in Jamaica were those unforgettable moments which would remain forever a part of McKay’s poetical consciousness…In poetry, at least, McKay was never to be…far from Jamaica” (Gayle, 23), Never is this more evident than in “My Native Land, My Home.”


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