Not a sound was heard in the coffin-maker’s workshop, that is to say no human sound. Mista Courifer, a solid citizen of Sierra Leone, was not given to much speech. His apprentices, knowing this, never dared address him unless he spoke first. Then they only  carried on their on their conversation in whispers. Not that Mista Courifer did not know how to use his tongue. It wasincessantly wagging to and fro in his mouth at every blow of the hammer. But his shop in the heart of Freetown was a part his house. And, as he had once confided to a friend, he was a silent member of his own household from necessity. His wife, given to much speaking, could outtalk him.

‘It’s no use for argue wid woman,’ he said cautiously. ‘Just like’e no use for teach woman carpentering; she nebba sabi for hit de nail on de head. If’ e argue, she’ll hit eberything but de nail; and so wid de carpentering.’

So, around his wife, with the exception of his tongue’s continual wagging like a pendulum, his mouth was kept more or less shut. But whatever self-control he exercised in this respect at home was completely sent to the wind in his official capacity as the local preacher at the chapel, for Mista Courifer was one of the pillars of the church, being equally at home in conducting a prayer meeting, superintending the Sunday School or occupying the pulpit.

His voice was remarkable for its wonderful gradations of pitch. He would insist on starting most of his tunes himself; consequently they nearly always ended in a solo. If he happened to pitch in the bass, he descended in such a de profundis that his congregations were left to flounder in a higher key; if he roared and volleyed and thundered to such an extent that the poor little mites were quickly reduced to a state of collapse and started to whimper from sheer fright.

But he was most at home in the pulpit. It is true, his labors were altogether confined to the outlying village districts of Regent, Gloucester and Leicester, an arrangement with which he was by no means satisfied. Still, a village congregation is better than none at all.

His favourite themes were Jonah and Noah and he was forever pointing out the great similarity between the two, generally finishing his discourse after this manner: ‘You see, my beloved Breben, dem two man berry much alike. All two live in a sinful and adulterous generation. One get inside am ark; de odder get inside a whale.  Day bof seek a refuge from de swelling waves.

And so it is today, my beloved Bebren. No matter if we get inside a whale or get inside an ark, as long as we get inside some place of safety – as long as we can find some refuge, some hiding place from de wiles ob de debeil.’

But his congregation was by no means convinced. Mr Courifer always wore black. he was one of the Sierra Leone gentlemen who consider everything European to be not only the right thing, but the only thing for the African, and having read somewhere that English undertakers generally appeared in somber attire, he immediately followed suit.

He even went so far as to build a European house. During his short say in England, he had noticed how the houses were built and furnished and had forthwith erected himself one after the approved pattern – a house with stuffy little passages, narrow little staircases and poky rooms, all crammed with saddlebags and carpeted with Axminsters. No wonder his wife had to talk. It was so hopelessly uncomfortable, stuffy and insanitart.

So Mr Courifer wore black. It never struck him for a single moment that red would have been more appropriate, far more becoming, far less expensive and far more national. No! It must be black. He would have liked blue black, but he wore rusty black for economy.

There was one subject upon which Mr Courifer could talk even at home, so no one ever mentioned it: his son, tomas. Mista Courifer had great expectations of his son; indeed in the back of his mind he had hopes of seeing him reach the high-water mark of red- tape officialism, for Tomas was in the government service, Not very high up, it is true, but still he was in it. It was an honour that impressed his father deeply, but Tomas unfortunately did not seem to think quite so much of it.

( From Mista Courifer, by A. Casely – Hayford.)


a) What is the passage about?

b) Describe the narrator’s attitude towards Mr. Courifer?

c) What techniques does the writer use to bring out his message?

d) Do you find this passage humorous? Give reasons for your answer.

e) Describe the tone the passage.

2. Read the passage below and answer the questions that follow.



a) i) Identify the two levels of listening to music expressed in the passage.

ii) Distinguish between those two levels of listening to music.

b) How do some people abuse the listening to music?

c) Why is Beethoven’s music considered superior to Tschaikovsky’s?

d) i) Why is it difficult for any music to have the same effect on any two people?

ii) What, according to the writer, is the role of music in our lives?

iii) What should a professional musician base on to pin a definite meaning to a particular work of music?

e) What do the following expressions mean in the context of the passage?

i) … bathes in the sound… (line4)

ii)… plane … (line 12)

iii) … potent … (line 18)

iv)… usurp a disproportionate share … (line 19)

v) …commensurate … (line 26)

vi)… intransigent … (line 36)

vii) …musical commentator… (line 53)

viii) …subtle shadings… (line 62)

ix) … novices… (line 67)

x) …put your finger right on … (line 73)



A cockrelcrows
as a broken axe
Fallsat your feet.
Diarmed by time
You stand unashamed,
Crying ‘It is not  fair’.
Tied by your own hate-traps
And fouled by the urine
of your flag-bearers,
You have gambled away
the labours of our motherland;
entered trade with death
to batter humanity
with the wave of a flywhisk.
You hace locked up the fires
Of living youth,
Damned in the torrents
of conscience
and drenched your entrails
with greed and with pride.

But you have lost the bet
and your line shall we
Bury the stool of your mother’s house
for vengeance is unleashed
and contempt is in our spittle.
And as public office
zigzags corrupt
like the trail of a drunken whore
that menstruates,
and as gunmen freely execute
insane commands
We know that the time
has come to kill,
To cleanse,
To free our motherland
From the grip of a gambler.



a) i) Identify the speaker in the poem

ii) What is the subject matter of the poem?

b) Comment on the tone of the speaker.

c) How effective are the poetic devices used in the poem?

d) What lessons do you learn from the poem?