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SATIRICAL SONGS OF THE CREOLES
dances have been danced—such dances as the city never sees. Nevertheless, a cloud rests upon the gayety because La Ferette, a terrible and unfamiliar visitor to the island, has made her advent. The pestilence, brought from Colon on the steamer in the preceding September, has now begun to sweep St. Pierre, as it had already swept Fort de France, as by a wind of death. Hundreds are dying, but there must be the usual procession of maskers, mummers and merrymakers. Three o'clock. There is a sound of drums. The people tumble into the streets and crowd into the public square:
Simultaneously from north and south, from the Mouillage and the Fort, two immense bands enter the Grande Rue—the great dancing societies these—the Sans-Souci and the Intreptdes. They are rivals; they are the composers and singers of those carnival songs—cruel satires most often, of which the local meaning is unintelligible to those unacquainted with the incident inspiring the improvisation, of which the words are too often coarse or obscene—whose burden will be caught up and re-echoed through all the burghs of the island. Vile as may be the motive, the satire, the malice, these chants are preserved for generations by the singular beauty of the airs, and the victim of a carnival song need never hope that his failing or his wrong will be forgotten; it will be sung long after he is in his grave.
All at once a hush comes over the mob; the drums stop and the maskers scatter. A priest in his vestments passes by, carrying the viaticum to some victim of the dreadful scourge. "C'est Bon-Die ka passe"—"It is the Good-God who goes by." Then the merriment goes on. Night falls. The maskers crowd into the ballrooms, and through the black streets the Devil makes his last carnival round:
By the gleam of the old-fashioned oil lamps hung across the thoroughfares I can make out a few details of his costume. He is clad in red, wears a hideous blood-colored mask and a cap on which the four sides are formed by four looking-glasses, the whole headdress being surmounted by a red lantern. He has a white wig made of horsehair to make him look weird and old—since the Devil ir older than the world. Down the street he comes, leaping nearly his own height, chanting words without human significance and followed by some three hundred boys, who form the chorus to his chant, all clapping hands together and giving tongue with a simultaneity that testifies how strongly the sense of rhythm enters into the natural musical feeling of the African—a feeling powerful enough to impose itself upon all Spanish-America and there create the unmistakable characteristics of all that is called "creole music."
"Bimbolo/" "Zimabolo!" "Bimbolo!" "ZtmaboloP' "Et Zimbolo!" "Et bolo-po!"