Amadou Hampâté Bâ

Translated by Daniel Whitman
With “Kings, Sages, Rogues: The Historical Writings of Amadou Hampâté Bâ”

Washington, D.C. Three Continents Press. 1988.

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Kaydara — Strophes 380-400

Ɓe nannguɓe suppa darawol ŋarrotoongol
fa ɓe tellii e tolo mum regoregorde,
ɓe cooynii mawna-waare
yo damngal juuta-leemre
endi nii waɗa wagga wanngoo, 380
ndi waɗa duu tella ŋabba,
ndi bammbina tayre lekki,
ndi nooɗaa ŋoottataa fey.
Hammadi ndeen halɓi haali
mo wii : « Ndaa wemmbinoore! 385
Ko ɗum fuu njannginoytaa
eehee ndamndi waare?
A wa'u hono gorko mawɗo
janngata koode kammu,
heɗoo nana gabbe diƴƴe 390
asuɗe ngaɗi reedu caalli
asiri ɗum heese heese.
Ko kolloy-ɗaa koo yo cumogal.
Hoko woni ngoonga maande?
Mi ŋeƴƴii miin e yiɓɓam 395
ŋeƴƴol doole kumpa.
Minen nii ndonki faamde
goral luwe tedda yiingo! »
Hammadi heddii na wiitoo
— « Eehee hoore gite am! 400
eehee duu noppi hooram!
ko njiyoton timmoyaali
hono noon nanɗe mooɗon. »
Yo ɗoon ɓii henndu jaabii.

Then they went down into one valley
and out at the next 41,
they saw his bearded majesty:
the great, thick-coated goat 42.
He paced back and forth
going down and climbing,
circling around a tree trunk.
He did not tire, but was indefatigable.
Hammadi cried out:
“Strange sight!” he said.
“What are you to teach us
oh there, billy-goat?
You look like an old man
who can read the stars,
listen and hear the water drops
that carve out and create the riverbeds,
shaping them patiently.
Your appearance is but an illusion.
What is this symbol's ‘reality’ 43?
I am overwhelmed, my friends and I,
overwhelmed by a weight of curiosity.
We are powerless to understand,
oh great male of imposing horns!”
Hammadi was the only one to say:
“Oh eyes of my own head!
Oh ears of my own head!
You have not yet finished seeing,
even as you have not yet finished hearing.”
Then a sylph answered 44.

Notes (Lilyan Kesteloot)
41. Still a symbol of the effort of the climb and of the rest in descending; the travelers will therefore soon see a lessening of their trials.
42. The he-goat covered with long fur symbolizes virility. It is the same with a man who has hair on his chest, chin, arms, legs, but it is a bad sign if he has it all over his body.
43. Hammadi is beginning to understand the system of initiation, that is, that each phenomenon presented “is but a form,” and hides a precise reality which is the only important one. He also feels that curiosity is an indiscretion here, and he excuses himself almost from posing a question even so; but, good student that he is, he admits he is incapable of understanding all alone.
44. Here, the spirit teaches them a lesson outright: presumptuous men can only acquire superficial knowledge. Only initiation can reveal to them the deeper reality of the universe.