La Divina Pastora [Play]


(A Miracle Play.

Padre Jacinto

Village Children (Cabresses)
Yqui (a Carib Child).
Pohontas (Daughter of the Cacique, Carib)
Guayagrú (Caaque of Siparia).

Carib Hunters and Fishermen, Village Women, some of
pure Carib, others of Cabresse type.

Scene. - Tropical bush, palms, flowering trees, etc.,
in the background a rude grotto, rather dark, with
an altar, but no statues, pictures or lights on it.

Padre Jacinto (at the Altar):
Virgin Mother, virgin-born,
Thou art fresher than the morn,
Thou art hirer than the day
In thy chosen month of May;
When the clouds, all fleecy white.
Wait thy coming with delight.
Knowing thou wilt not forsake
Haunts beloved for Jesus' sake.
And the tender memories
Of a childhood wholly wise,
Wholly human, but so spent
Heaven were not more innocent.

There the little cottage stood.
Where thy mother, mild and good.
Lived, her every thought intent
To keep for heaven what heaven had sent.

p. 108

There the vineyard, where the grapes
In mystic numbers hung, and shapes
Of things to come were dimly seen
In crossing shadows 'mid the green.
The pool with snowy lilies crowned;
Its spring, out of the rocky ground,
Inaudible 'mid whisperings
Of angel voices, angel wings.

The scanty flock - but ah, how fair
Those sheep enjoyed thy earthly care.
Blest Shepherdess! E'en at that age
So wondrous loving, wondrous sage:
There was no weakling in the fold,
But it was treasured beyond gold;
No wayward stray that turned aside,
But thou wouldst seek it far and wide.
The wolf, the lion and the bear
At thy approach disarmed were,
Crouched before virgin purity.
And let the silly lamb go free.

Now by the crook thy hand once bore,
The lowly roof, and cottage door
That opened on the wild,
Accept, and bear our prayers before
Thy Son, our Saviour mild.
Entreat His grace that we may be
In body sound, in spirit free.
In all things sanctified:
So shall we sing glad hymns to thee
Morning and eventide...

Children (Singing in Unison):
To-morrow is the month of May,
The month of Mary Queen;
To her high honours let us pay,
Although our cave be mean.
Once on a night in such a grot,
She bore her Son divine.
Oh, Virgin Mother, bless this spot,
To be thy holy shrine.

p. 109

Priest and Children come out of the Grotto and
Camilla is about to speak to the Priests. Enter
Guayagrú with Carib Hunters and Fishermen,
carrying several deer, a turtle and small game.

Camilla (to Priest):
Father, you have no statues in your shrine.
Such as on every village altar shine;
No candles bright to cast the quivering beam.
Nor pictures limned like angels in a dream.
Say, without these will heaven hear your prayer,
Or angels haste to tell a shrine is there?

Well questioned, child, you have a readier brain
Than this dull priest; let him go back to Spain,
Or to San José, where the folk are fools,
For all their churches and their learned schools.
Hunters are we, as were our Carib sires,
And hate their crosses and their arrowy spires,
That serve to bring to mind the long disgrace
And servile posture of our ancient race.
It had its gods, its rites, its temples dim,
With skulls set round, and mouldering tokens grim.
Where deeds were done, at midnight dark and chill,
Had made their pale-faced god look paler still.
Cacique am I, and despot of this spot;
Heed, then, my rede - heed well, toilet it not!
There shall no creature dare so much as give
An ear of com to help Sir Sloth to live ;
A timite leaf to thatch his shelter o'er.
Or bamboo screen to guard his chapel door.
So, without let, may quenk and howler throng,
And foul the precincts with their loathly dung.

Foul-mouth, refrain! Naught at thy niggard hands,
Naught at thy people's have I sought: thy lands,
Thy woods, thy crops, the toil of hind or serf,
I covet not. Nay, not the very turf.

p. 110

That meanly clothes the common earth elsewhere,
Here, see, have I disturbed; but on the bare,
Black, crumbling rock, whereof this ledge is made,
My crucifix as on an altar laid;
Nature to God a joyful welcome gave,
And hailed a temple where had been a cave.
Wild flowers alone these little ones have brought,
Of their own will, untutored, unbesought;
But heaven, which fore-wills the good we do,
And done assigns it to our virtue too,
Timed these poor gifts with added praise to shine,
As offerings at the Blessed Virgin's shrine,
Whose joyful month this night shall usher in,
The sunset skies to celebrate begin,
With crimson fires to bum earth's dross away,
And bring the promise of a perfect day.

Enough, enough; his patter once begun.
This gabbling priest, methinks, will ne'er be done.
Children, hence, fly ! And you, Pohontas, say.
What useful task has claimed your toil to-day.
Women with us have more to spend the hours
Than whine a hymn, or play with silly flowers.

Nay, father, all you bade your child fulfilled:
The golden maize to powdery fineness milled;
Pressed from the manioc root the poisonous juice,
And washed and fired it to our wholesome use.
Water and wood...

Enough! You chatter so ;
The priest himself you'd silence. Quickly go,
Pile high the fire, bid all the village come,
To share the feast - See what we bring them home;
Deer from the bush, and turtle from me shore,
Such as our fathers common deemed of yore,

p. 111

But now the chase yields sparely; and amain.
The heady vintage of the sugar cane
Bid bring in calabash in skin, in shell;
That men may drink, and, having wassailed well,
Forget the ignominy of these days
In the revivmg instincts of our race.

Exit Pohontas. Priest goes into Grotto and kneels
at the Altar. Cacique converses with his followers
and points scornfully at the Priest. They shake
hands, laugh derisively , then go off making
threatening gestures. Enter Mercedes, reading.

Mercedes (slowly, like a beginner):
"A babe unspotted as the snow
Was Mary boom on earth;
Growing, God gave her grace to grow
As faultless as her birth;
Dying, the angels came, and lo!
Straight from her hallowed hearth
To heaven her body bore, to show
Heaven was not more of worth.

"Oh, blessed Virgin, may my breast
Be spotless even as thine;
Thy chapel be my bed of rest,
My refuge place thy shrine;
Where I may kneel and oft request
Thy love to cherish mine.
And lay my prayers that please thee best
Before thy Child divine."

Priest has come to front of stage, and stands

Padre Jacinto (taking book from her and examining it):
Who taught you so to read, my child? Till now
I knew you not so learned. Tell me how
A book like this you happen to possess.

p. 112

The Sisters gave it me. Pray, Father, bless
'Ere you return it ; 'twill be holier then.

Padre Jacinto:
So you were in the Convent? Nay, but when?
In Martyrs' year - heaven rest their souls - the rule
Was made, forbidding college, priest or school
To harbour children of the cursed clan
Had slain God's clergy.

Father, 'twas that ban
Drove me - young now, still younger then, to read,
Scarce yet beginning - forth by stream and mead,
To meditate what I had learnt before,
And by heaven's light improve my scanty lore,

Padre Jacinto:
Poor child ! 'Tis thus too oft the fathers' deeds
Are visited upon the children's heads,
But you can read, and so may learn.

He gives back the book; she kneels and he blesses

Still, pray
To Mary Queen, and serve her day by day.

Mercedes goes into the Grotto and kneels to pray.
Enter Popocita (with a doll).

Padre Jacinto:
This one, methinks, will scarce have skill to read;
A simpler grace may shine on her instead.
A doll she carries, scarce herself much more;
And see how busily she eyes it o'er,
Surveys its clothing with a mother's care,
And wraps its head against the evening air.
Thus mimicry prepares great nature's schemes,
And heaven itself oft visits us in dreams.

p. 113

Popocita (chanting to her doll):
Little baby, baby mine,
Mary's face is divine ;
Mary's heart is all of gold.
So God made it of old ;
Mary's hands are bounteous
In her mercy to us;
Mary's feet are never shod,
For she stands before God.

Padre Jacinto:
Child, who taught you that quaint song?

Popocita (as though scarcely heeding):
I heard it in dreams.

Padre Jacinto:
How indifferent she seems! (Aside)
Have you known it for long?

She plays with her doll and makes no reply.

Padre Jacinto (kneeling and putting an arm round her):
And so you dream of Mary Queen?

Popocita (with less indifference):
I dreamt last night.

Padre Jacinto (gazing in wonder and pausing to think
how to test her genuineness):
So - was she clad in golden sheen?

Popocita (lifting a finger reprovingly):
In God's own light!

Padre Jacinto rises to his feet and regards her
with awe.

p. 114

Padre Jacinto (aside):
All things are possible with God, howe'er
Strange to our eyes,
Blind, because over-wise.
May, then, a thing that breathes earth's common air
Be heaven's harbinger?

He kneels and again putting an arm round the
child, speaks earnestly.

Padre Jacinto:
What said she, child?

Popocita (playing with her doll):
To pray to her.

Padre Jacinto leaves the Child and comes to front
of stage.

Padre Jacinto:
To pray to her? Nay, morn and eve I pray.
And half the night an hourly tribute pay.
I covet nought, nought else on earth I prize.
But to be found praise-worthy in her eyes
And God's. What lacks there more?

Popocita, at back, seems to grow thoughtful; she
drops her doll, which falls among grass and lies
half-hidden. She comes forward; Padre Jacinto
kneels and puts his arm round her as before; she
puts her head on his shoulder.

Popocita (timidly):
I had forgot.

Padre Jacinto:

Popocita (entreatingly):
Oh, pray to her to bless her grot!

Padre Jacinto:
Her grot? Then she accepts our humble prayers?
She, she has led me hither, unawares.
In the rude wilderness a spot to find,
And build a fane well-pleasing to her mind?

p. 115

She bids me pray? Nay, but my prayers shall rise
A never ceasing offering to the skies!

Goes near entrance to Grotto, kneels and prays
with hands raised to heaven.

Padre Jacinto:
Now glory be to Mary, full of grace !
This child has heard her voice, has seen her face;
And by its mouth a message hath she given:
This is no other than the gate of heaven.
Oh blessed spot, oh, cave obscure and lowly,
By Mary's grace auspicious made, and holy;
Here shall high heaven stoop to earth once more,
And all the riches of its treasury pour
Pilgrims shall come from many a region round,
And miracles attest 'tis hallowed ground.
Sinners, like snakes, shall cast their slough of sin,
And a new life of heavenly joy begin.
Disease shall quail, and hide its pallid head
By spiritual grace shamed and discomfited;
And Mary's fame, blown wide on every wind.,
Claim the encomium of all mankind.

Mercedes has come out of the Grotto and stands

Father, some day these things may come; meanwhile
The shrine defenceless stands, and men are vile.
This night I fear lest they may come again.
The sacred spot on purpose to profane.

Padre Jacinto:
Let come, my child, who may, who will, who dare.
The shrine is safe - 'tis now in heaven's care!

Exeunt Padre Jacinto, Mercedes and Popocita.
Stage darkens. Symphony. Re-enter Padre
Jacinto, carrying palm leaf screens.

p. 116

Padre Jacinto:
Nought to omit my slender means provide,
These from marauding herds the shrine may hide.
To such poor efforts heaven its aid extend,
And from man's violence its house defend!

Encloses the front of the grotto; kneels, prays and
exit. Enter Popocita, without her doll and crying.

I've lost my dolly ! Oh where can she be?
She used to behave so prettily.
Mary, help me to find my dolly...
She will be crying and very sorry;
I'll look in the grot, where I used to go,
And Mary will help me to find it, I know.

Tries to enter, but is prevented by the palm-leaf

My little hands are cut and sore...
Oh, Mary, help me to pass this door.

She succeeds in making an opening in the screen,
and looks in.

Thanks, thanks, dear Mary, for your aid.
'Tis dark... but I shall not be afraid.
For Mary will care for her little maid.

Enters the Grotto; the screen closes behind her.
Enter Cacique and followers, driving a herd of
swine, grunting and running in various directions.
Symphony becomes stormy and discordant.

On to the shrine, lads, drive them along,
There to sing their even-song.
Look at that old sow - Stop her, boys!
What a grunting, what a noise!
Shoo, shoo, you swine,
On to the shrine!

p. 117

During a long crescendo in the music a brilliant
star appears overhead illuminating all the stage.
Cacique, etc, stand motionless in terror; the
swine rush off. The star bursts, the music ceases;
thenm after a pause, a pastoral melody, andante,
religioso, tranquillissimo. Enter the Blessed Virgin,
dressed as a shepherdess, with a crook, etc., followed
by a flock of sheep, luminous on the darkened stage.
As the Blessed Virgin slowly approaches the grotto,
the leaf screen opens to admit her and flock; then
closes behind than. Celestial voices, singing, are
heard from within. Enter Padre Jacinto, Mercedes,
Inez, etc., also Carib women and other children.

Padre Jacinto:
What heavenly sounds are these? My ears ne'er heard
Aught so angelical. The air is stirred,
As by a million, million voices sweet,
Singing so dulcetly as might entreat
Nature herself in rapture to surcease.
And warring elements resolve in peace.

The leaf screen re-opens, showing the grotto
ablaze with light, and full of angels, the Blessed
Virgin in their midst. The music swells and dies
away again. As it does so, a cloud of incense
rises from the threshold and grows thicker and
thicker, so as to obstruct the view. Simultaneously
the light decreases, until eventually the grotto is in
darkness, except where a glimmering image (La
Divina Pastora) is seen on the altar. Then that
too fades from view. Commotion among the Caribs
without. Padre Jacinto advances to enter grotto,
but is prevented. Popocita comes out of the grotto
with La Divina Pastora iridescent and dazzlingly
beautiful in her arms.

See, Father, see.
She gives you this !
She sent it through me.

p. 118

Would it be amiss
Just its feet to kiss?

Children, Women and, finally, Cacique and Hunters all kneel and kiss the statue's feet.

Children, Cacique, etc. (in unison):
Oh, miracle! A gift from heaven!
Though lowly be the shrine,
To its rude worshippers is given,
A pledge of love divine!

Padre Jacinto:
The love which loved us unto death.
Still loves us from on high ;
The things of earth are little worth
Before His Majesty.
Not to be noble, to be great,
Is precious in His eyes;
To people of a low estate
He brings the heavenly prize:
A blissful fate, immaculate,
Immortal in the skies.

Children, Cacique, etc.:
Then let us kneel at Mary's shrine.
And praise her virtues mild:
She is our Shepherdess Divine
Who sought us in the wild.
And sent our eyne this blessed sign
By a pure, holy Child.



p. 119


Siparia, now the terminus of the southern branch of the Government Railway and a town of some little importance, as importance goes in those parts, was in former days chiefly known as the shrine of "La Divina Pastora," a composite statue a couple of feet in height, with features of markedly Coolie (or may it be, Carib?) type, which stands on the altar in the Virgin's Chapel in the church. Tradition represents it as having been sent down from heaven, and found by hunters in a wood. Notable miracles are supposed to have been worked by it. Pilgrims come to the annual fete from all parts of Trinidad - nay, even from Venezuela; and the church is for size and richness of adornment among the first in the island.

On one occasion La Divina Pastora was removed to another Church, viz,, St. Mary's, Oropouche, eight miles distant to the north. Next morning it was found back in its place at Siparia, covered with mud, "having walked all night."

Scribbler has followed tradition fairly closely, and his picture of the difficulties encountered by Spanish priests is not overdrawn. In fact it falls far short of the reality. The Caribs were treacherous and blood-thirsty. On one occasion they ambushed and murdered the Governor and principal clergy of the diocese, at San Francisco de les Arenales (i.e. Arena, in what is now the parish of San Rafael). (See Borde's "Histoire de l'ile de la Trinidad," VoL II, page 56, seq.).

"Quenk." Local name for a kind of wild hog.

"Howlers." Red howlers are the largest variety of monkey
in the island*

"Manioc." The root is extremely poisonous, but is rendered
edible by maceration, pressing and curing. The process is an
Indian secret of immemorial antiquity.

"Martyr's Year." 1700, being the year when the Governor
and clergy were murdered. Great severity was exercised by
the Spanish Government in punishing, not only the offenders,
but their families. (See Borde, loc. cit, where an account will
also be found of the sensation which the occurrence made
throughout Spanish America, the romance muy doloroso in which
it was celebrated, the miraculous preservation of the bodies of
the priests, and the pious controversy which arose as to where
they ought to be buried).

p. 120

"Cabresse." Half Carib, half Spanish (with or without the
prevalent African admixture).

"San José." The capital of the island in Spanish times.
San José de Orufia, is its full title.

"And wrap its head." Creoles have a well-nigh supersti-
tious dread of exposing the head to night dew or the slightest

"Popocita," i.e., "little baby" diminutive of popo, a Spanish
Creole word for baby. Popocita is the feminine ; popocito the
masculine form.

"Iridescent and dazzlingly beautiful." So tradition declares
it to have been when first discovered.

"Eyne." To lend his doggerel an antique air. Scribbler
here employs the old plural. Cf.  "Plumpy Bacchus with pink
eyne." (Shak.).


p. 121

SOURCE: Legends of the Bocas, Trinidad. By A.D. Russell, London: Cecil Palmer, 1922.pp. 108-121
"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!