A look at Philip Sherlock’s ode to Long Mountain

Philip Sherlock


Long Mountain rise,

Lift you’ shoulder, blot the moon,

Black the stars, hide the skies,

Long Mountain, rise, lift you’ shoulder high.


Black of skin and white of gown,

Black of night and candle light

White against the black of trees,

And altar white against the gloom,

Black of mountain high up there,

Long Mountain rise,

Lift you’ shoulder, blot the moon,

Black the stars, black the sky.


Africa among the trees,

Asia with her mysteries,

Weaving white in flowing gown

Black long mountain looking down

Sees the shepherd and his flock

Dance and sing and wisdom mock

Dance and sing and falls away

All the civilized today

Dance and sing and fears let loose

Here the ancient gods that choose

Man for victim, man for hate,

Man for sacrifice to fate.


Hate and fear and madness black

Dance before the altar white.

Comes the circle closer still,

Shepherd weave your pattern old.

Africa among the trees

Asia with her mysteries.


Black of night and white of gown,

White of altar, black of trees,

Swing de circle wide again,

Fall and cry, me sister now.

Let de spirit come again,

Fling away de flesh and bone,

Let the spirit have a home.


Grunting low and in the dark

White of gown and circling dance

Gone today and all control,

Power of the past returns,

Africa among the trees,

Asia with her mysteries.


Black the stars, hide the sky,

Lift you’ shoulders, blot the moon

Long Mountain rise.

                                                     Philip Sherlock

Long Mountain is an elongated, oblong-shaped landform that looms over the landscape of Kingston in Jamaica. It borders the capital city on the north-eastern side, but the urban development curves around it at both its ends, as it hovers there always visible from anywhere in the sprawling city as a dark, brooding boundary to the north while the cultural, urban life illuminates the stretch from the foot of the mountain to the sea.

Long Mountain plays a part in the geographical as well as the cultural and demographic landscape of Kingston. It angles itself, slanting from the city’s eastern edge where it bears down, leaving a narrow passageway between itself and Kingston Harbour. At that end it partakes busily in urban economic development while harbouring a garrison community in the downscale, down-market East Kingston. At its other end in the north-east, the city curves around it with a series of upscale upmarket residential areas – Liguanea, Beverley Hills and Mona Heights. Continuing around it there is its most ironic, geographic, demographic and economic paradox. The Hope River, over time, has cut a large valley which actually separates Long Mountain from the massive St Andrew mountains to the north. The river ends up at the extreme end of East Kingston where the mountain stops. Its opposite end where the city curves around it is occupied by the fairly affluent Mona Heights, the intellectual community of the University of the West Indies (UWI), and in the deepest reaches of the Hope River Valley – August Town…..

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