The Serpent's Prophecy [Poem]


By A.D. Russell

The Dragon of Paria ruled the land, the Serpent she ruled the sea;
And all went well, till a quarrel befell, concerning Trinity:
The Dragon claimed it for his own, 'twas a link in his mountain chains;
Oh, he spake her fair; but the Serpent was ware, and mocked him for his pains.
The Dragon rose in his rage and his wrath, with his seven heads out-thrust;
She flung twelve leagues of gulf between, and bade him do his worst.

O Golfo triste!

Then he reared himself on the mountain's crest, and reached out over the sea ;
And the smoke of his mouth rolled north and south, and over to Trinity.
He stretched and he strained, his embers rained like a shower of falling stars;
Iëre shook, as his thunders broke on the face of her wave-washed scaurs.
E'en the Serpent shrank, 'neath his neck long and lank, with its seven fierce heads in a bunch;
Then she rose in the air, like a Diable-Mer, and bit it clean through with a crunch!

Isla liberada!

Then the Serpent she sang a wondrous song, a conqueror's song sang she:
"Oh, my waves are red with the Dragon's blood, and Iëre belongs to me;
To have and to hold, to make, to mould, with the wash of my coiling tides,
While the Moon is regent of the sky, and the Southern Cross abides.
Oh, she shall be free, as my waters be, and the winds that o'er them blow;
And she shall have peace, and her fame increase, and her name shall all men know.

Isla fortunada!

"Her seasons shall seem an endless spring, her flowers bloom all year round;
I will make her rich with oil and with pitch in her caverns underground.
And gold shall be found; and the fruits of the ground shall grow and cover her;
Her Triple Hills shall glad the gaze of the Great Discoverer;
And men shall come from many lands to scan her wonders o'er;
There shall be a place for every race, and a welcome aye for more.

Isla amistosa!

"They shall grow as the seed of the Serpent's breed, in wisdom and in worth;
For learing fair shall flourish there, and art have second birth.
Oh, loyalty and liberty shall there go hand in hand;
And equal laws, and the island's cause, shall hoop them as a band.
The island's name, the island's fame, the island's growth and grit,
Shall be their boast' from coast to coast, and the world shall echo it."

Isla milagrosa!


Scribbler was a nonentity on board. The concert at the
hotel was his debut. He recited this rhapsody about the island.
Being visitors, people thought it polite to applaud. The
Magnate, who is deaf, asked to see the words. That was
enough. Scribbler was launched. Thenceforward his pro-
ductions poured out remorselessly.

Yes, yes, it was his own doggerel. Nobody else ever came
forward to claim it. True, that might be because nobody
thought it worth while. In any case. Scribbler made it over
to me as a home product, when he ... .

But that is anticipating. The Magnate knew a lot about
oil. His literary taste, however, was undeveloped. Some noble
lines of mine left him absolutely cold. He could follow what
Scribbler was trying to get at, he said, but my efforts were
beyond him. Scribbler, pedestrian Scribbler, was his man.

Scribbler had helped the Child to get over her sea-sickness.
That, I think, influenced the old man. It certainly did Mrs.
Magnate. He was a thoroughly good-natured fellow, Scribbler,
to give him his due. Children took to him; and if, instead
of legends, he had written a book of nursery rhymes, I believe
it would have been a success.

One thing I didn't like about Scribbler. He was an
unscrupulous inventor. An example will show this.

Columbus, when he discovered the island which he thought
fit to christen "La Trinidad," instead of "Iëre," as the Caribs
(and Scribbler later on) called it, had a rough passage getting
into the Gulf of Paria by the south-east, and called the strait:
La Boca de la Sierpe, "The Serpent's Mouth." (Note.— Sierpe is feminine, in contradistinction to Serpiente, which is
either masculine or feminine; so Scribbler was right as far
as sex goes). The currents had coiled about his caravel, and
the name was a metaphor. Some openings to the north-west
he called: Las Bocas del Drago, "The Dragon's Mouth."
Another metaphor, but less appropriate.

Was Scribbler satisfied with these names? Not he! He
must need invent things which were perfectly untrue, and
work them up in such a way as to make Columbus seem god-
father to his absurdities.

p. 5

A Carib mythology. That is what it really came to be. Now,
is that fair on the poor Caribs? They had a bad name before.
Cannibal comes from Carib, carib-al, we are told. But, however
they may have devoured each other, I don't believe they would
have swallowed Scribbler's mythology. Unhappily, the race
is extinct, at least in this island. Scribbler, therefore, could do
as he liked. And it will be seen he has artfully mixed in a lot
of true stuff, about the island being rich in minerals and things,
just to bamboozle people.

What he says as to "gold being found" is a bloomer. Iron
pyrites there are, in plenty. Sir Walter Raleigh took them for
gold. Or "the Mother of Gold," whatever he meant by that.
Up to date there is no gold mining in the Island.

"Diable-Mer." Somebody lent Scribbler a book: "Sea
Fish of Trinidad" by Harry Vincent. If you want to know
everything about Diable-Mer (being patois for the giant-ray or devil-fish,
) you will find it there. But
Scribbler always exaggerates and although devil-fish may jump high,
the feat he makes this one do is preposterous.

However, it is Scribbler's poem, not mine. So imprimatur.

By-the-bye, I have a decided objection to the introduction
of foreign words into English literature; and Scribbler's tags
of Spanish, Isla fortunada, Isla amistosa, and all the rest of
it are ... .

Well, they are Scribbler all over.

Triple Hills: i.e. the Trinity Hills at Moruga supposed
to have been the "three peaks with one base" first sighted
by Columbus. On commencing the voyage, be had specially
invoked the assistance of the Blessed Trinity. Naturally,
therefore, it was a miracle.— Hence Scribbler's Isla Milagrosa,
" Miraculous Island " : {See Leqend XVII).

"Golfo triste." So Columbus called the Gulf of Paria.
Others have thought it rather a jolly place. We certainly found it so.

p. 6

SOURCE: Legends of the Bocas, Trinidad, By A.D. Russell, London: Cecil Palmer, 1922. pp. 3-4
"Patria est communis omnium parens" - Our native land is the common parent of us all. Keep it beautiful, make it even more so.

Blessed is all of creation
Blessed be my beautiful people
Blessed be the day of our awakening
Blessed is my country
Blessed are her patient hills.

Mweh ka allay!