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 695-710

Ndaa wonkiili ana ngondoy e torra.
Nunɗube ittoyan faa laaɓa janngal. 695
Haalnam iwdi maa ee ɓinnga Aada!
e hoto hen paatu-ɗaa ee taani Haawa!
Daabaa koyde didi haalnara ko ngon-ɗaa. »
Taton ɓee fuu yo Hammadi samti waawde
juheede so yuɓɓa tawa fay milloyaali 700
nii mo jaaboy mo wii :
— « Nguurndam e maayde wadaama nder meeɗen hoɗii.
Anniima gannde e gannde annii cippira.
Ndiyam ɗam e ndaa maa leydi anɗon duura tan.
Kala poolgu heɓoyaa nyaamo 705
nano mum daccitoo.
Tino fuu danyaa funnaange
gorgal murso woni.
Ndaa njolbu anndal koo
yo metengal kuɓɓungal. 710
Yoo henndu anndal maaɗa

Here are praying souls.
The righteous pay their tithe as they must.
Tell me where you come from, oh son of Adam!
And where are you going, grandson of Eve!
Oh biped animal, tell me who you are.”
Hammadi, the ablest of the three
— and never at a loss to improvise 60 verse-
responded in these terms, saying:
“Life and death wage their struggle within us.
Torso to torso, they fall on each other, they wrestle.
Like water against earth, they battle without rest.
Each victory won on the right
turns to defeat on the left.
Every advance in the east
turns to retreat in the west.
Our thirst to know is an always burning fire.
The wind of your knowledge

Notes (Lilyan Kesteloot)
60. The notion of improvisation might be misleading, for Hammadi does not improvise in the least; he responds conscientiously to the riddlesong, completes each unfinished phrase with an ease and precision that prove not his literary capacities, but his progress in initiation.
Let us analyse those questions and answers, as well as their meaning: death kills beings, time swallows death; this is a rebus which Hammadi explains in indicating his knowledge of fundamental dualism; within man there is death and life, good and evil, since good and evil come from the same Geno. In the same way, everything has its positive (diurnal) aspect and its negative (nocturnal) aspect; rivalry of the left and right, of the opposing cardinal points, is along the same order as that of the sexes, the day and night etc. … Hammadi does not go into detail here on the existing dualisms; he is content to show that he knows cosmic law.
The wind that blows fans the fire; here, it is a metaphor that Hammadi explicates: your knowledge heightens our desire to know; here are the souls, they pray; Hammadi responds: we ourselves have already prayed; at the hour of prayer, we have done it. The righteous pay their tithe as they must; Hammadi answers: we have paid the tithe in butter, we have paid our debt; in other words, insofar as rites are concerned, we have met our obligations. Where do you come from? Hammadi answers: from the drop of sperm lodged in the hollow of the feminine sex (fertile hollow, veiled, hidden). Where are you going? Hammadi answers: towards disjunction, putrefaction returned to the source, that is, the process of disintegration of the body after death and the return to mother earth whence man has come.
Who are you? Hammadi answers: from created creatures; and from creative creatures. III fact, if the human biped is created by Geno, he remains the only one able to create on his part; because of his intelligence, he can invent things that did not exist — he can create things.
Hammadi concludes: we have not weakened on the path, which means we have endured all trials and internal tests to follow through on the initiation of Kaydara.