In the history plays that comprise The Haitian Trilogy—Henri Christophe, Drums and Colours, and The Haitian Earth—Derek Walcott, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature, uses verse to tell the story of his native West Indies as a four-hundred-year cycle of war, conquest and rebellion.
In Henri Christophe and The Haitian Earth, Walcott re-casts the legacy of Haiti's violent revolutionaries—led by Toussaint L'Ouverture, Jean Jacques Dessalines and Henri Christophe—whose rebellion established the first black state in the Americas, but whose cruelty becomes a parable of racial pride and corruption. Drums and Colours, commissioned in 1958 to celebrate the first parliament in Trinidad, is a grand pageant linking the lives of complex, ambiguous heroes: Columbus and Raleigh; Toussaint; and George William Gordon, a martyr of the constitutional era.
From Henri Christophe's high style to the bracing vernacular of The Haitian Earth, to the epic scale and scope of Drums and Colours, in these plays Walcott, one of our most celebrated poets, carved a place in the modern theater for the history of the West Indies, and a sounding room for his own maturing voice.
"The Nobel poet laureate attempts to recreate West Indian history on a canvas as large and mythic as Shakespeare's War of the Roses. It's a heroic, monumental undertaking—and not surprisingly, St. Lucia-born Walcott summons the ghost of Shakespeare in his epigraphs, echoes and metaphors. Walcott's lines weave in and out of blank verse as easily as an old man walks in and out of memory."—Cynthia Haven, San Francisco Chronicle
"Filled with passages of startling poetry . . . Throughout the trilogy, Walcott's ear for dialect is remarkable."—Jack Helbig, Booklist
"Brilliant . . . These three early theater experiments by Nobel prize-winning poet and playwright Walcott center around three historical characters: Christoff, Dessaline, and Toussaint L'Ouverture. Moving freely through the history of the West Indies, these verse plays are the work of a powerful imagination struggling to find a language to realize its vision on stage. The first play, 'Henri Christophe,' is a Shakespearean meditation on the corrupting influence of power, while the second, 'Drums and Colours,' is a pageant of history from the age of discovery with Columbus to 1833 with Toussaint L'Ouverture. 'The Haytian Earth' is a long historical drama of the slavery, rebellion, murder, greed, and power struggles that have fertilized the Haitian earth with blood."—Thomas E. Luddy, Salem State College, Library Journal