A Letter from the West to the East
GREETINGS FROM St Vincent and the Grenadines.
The events of April 9, 2021 have propelled me to pull out my much treasured history book “The Cradle of the Deep,” an account of a voyage to the West Indies by Sir Frederick Treves, Bart.
I have just finished reading chapter eight to my daughter which is entitled, “The Day When the Sun Stood Still’’ and thought it both a splendid and timely idea to share its pronouncements.
The Chapter opens like this: “The most terrible day in the annals of Barbados was a certain Sunday of May in the year 1812.”
The narrative then becomes quite descriptive: “The night had been immensely dark, no star had been visible, while those who were unable to sleep heard mysterious sounds as of distant thunder or of the firing of cannon. The many who were restless or apprehensive that night were consoled by the thought that at six the sun would rise and that with the daylight all uneasiness would vanish.”
The second paragraph reads: “The clocks at last struck six but there was not a sign of dawn. The sky was still as black as a pall. The darkness was impenetrable. The white man crept out of his house and the negro out of his hut, full of fear and anxiously curious, yet hugging the thought that the clocks must be wrong, that it was really about midnight and that they would go back to bed again and laugh over the escapade in the morning.”
The events of today, here in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, do identify with this period under review. La Soufrière, in all her majesty put on a display never before seen by those born after Friday 13th April 1979, or by those not resident in the island at that time. Having had the experience before, my reaction was one of deep wonderment rather than disquieting alarm as I watched and photographed the volcanic plumes drifting down from the North. Even now as I write, I carry gritty evidence on the soles of my feet as my courtyard and passageways here at home, on the South Eastern tip of the Island, are generously carpeted with ash.
The fourth paragraph reads as follows: “Seven O’clock came but there was no sign of the sun. A sickening panic fell upon the distracted folk in the road. They had become aware that two other hideous things were added to the mysterious darkness. The trade wind-which never failed-had ceased to blow.
There was a blank calm, a breathless stillness. The sound, too, of the surf on the reef had ceased as if awed into silence. More than that, something dreadful was falling out of the air. It fell without sound, a fine soft dust, that was already so thick upon the ground as to make the road unfamiliar to the bare foot, while the patter of men’s steps sounded as if far away. It fell invisibly upon the outstretched hand, upon the wholly head; it clung to the brow; it dried the clammy lips; it clogged the staring eyes.”
“Here were the very clouds crushing down upon them. The sky touched the earth. They could feel the weight of it.”
“Men and women rushed to and fro without purpose or control. The highway was filled with shrieking, crazy folk. They wrung their hands. They clung to one another aimlessly. They threw themselves down upon their knees and prayed. Women broke into fragments of hymns. ”
The penultimate paragraph reads: “In the course of time a schooner cast anchor in Carlisle Bay bringing the news that on the day the sun stood still over Barbados there had been an unparalleled eruption of Mount Soufrière on the island of St. Vincent. Now, Barbados is ninety- five miles to the windward of St. Vincent, yet thousands of tons of dust had been carried noiselessly all that distance and had been dropped upon the palpitating colony.”
By way of this letter, I humbly beg to emit heart felt words of thanks on behalf of the Government and people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines to the Government and people of Barbados for lending much needed support at this time when history appears to be repeating itself.
The Chapter reaches its summit with these words: “The dust produced two effects—a temporary religious revival, and a permanent improvement in the soil of the fields, because it is said to have had good fertilizing qualities.”
May your kindness continue to be repaid with bountiful harvests in keeping with the sentiments of the last paragraph!
Sincerely, Gerelyn D. John