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 790-810

Yo min ɓii henndu, terde cuurki dow mbeeyu koɗ-mi koo!
Miɗo naawa doon faa toowa ɓii Aadama yiya
gite wiirnoyii ee ɗannoyiibe ɗalee dukoo.
ƀalee daaɗe mooɗon leyɗa ko on kewtiima.
Kala maale njii-ɗon ɗee wanaa baayte ngarroyaa 790
Dame cuuɗi keewɗi mutii ɗe njoolori hoynude,
hono keewɗe ana fay halkoraade sabaabu mum.
Walaa fuu ko keddanii on so naa naadde luumndu nduu,
nanee kayru woni sappoo e ɗiɗaɓuru maale ndaa
gure leyde yaamana-juuju, sakitiinde maale fuu. » 795
Yo ndeen banŋe kokowol omtoyii ngayka njaajuka
ka hoontoy e nokku ɓutaaɗo kuudiiji comnuɗi
kuudiiji buubi e borde pallaade jilloyii
nder doodi pobbi e gaɗɗe waasuuji ɗuuɗuɗi.
Hammadi kanyum e yiɗiraaɓe naatoy ngayka kaa 800
ɓe nyiddaali fay hono nii, yo ndeen ngayka waylitii
ka wontoy waɗaa ndaa suudu mawnundu weɗɗitii.
Uuraa uuri ukkitii aafoyaa joonde kanŋe dimo
ana jooɗoyii dow mayre poofoowo jom ko'e
ko'e jeeɗɗi sappo e juuɗe ɗiɗi ɗum nii jogii 805
kaa koyɗe mum yo capanɗe tati ɗum limtoyaa.
Homo oo? Yo ceekudo aadi oo woni Kaydara
bayloowo mbaaki no muuyri ngooti jogaaki fey.
Hammadi heɓɓitii wii:
— « Minen min ɓiɓɓe Aadama min dahaaɓe; 810
ko dahi min semmbe mawɗo mehaaɗo;
ɗowii min waddi faa ɗoo, min jiyaaɓe.

“I am a sylph, my body is vapor, I live in the ether!
I glide so high that I remove myself from the view
of the sons of Adam! Oh travelers, refrain from crying out.
Try henceforth to speak in low tones.
The symbols you have seen were not presented in vain.
More than one clan has been swallowed up for spurning them 62
and many others will be destroyed for the same reason.
All you need do now is enter into the foul hut
which, you should know, is the twelfth and last symbol
of the country of the dwarf-spirits.”
Then a large hole opened near the wall,
revealing a place filled with filth 63.
Fly droppings and lizard scum were mixed
with hyena shit and excrement from other wild animals.
Hammadi and his friends ventured through the hole.
They showed no disgust; the hole transformed.
Now it was like a vast, carpeted room.
A fragrance wafted over to them, a golden seat appeared,
on which a human being sat
with seven heads, twelve arms, and, in addition,
endowed with some thirty feet 64.
Who was this? Kaidara 65 the supernatural
who changes form at will, and each of whose forms is unique.
Hammadi reflected, and said:
“We are sons of Adam, conquered
by a sovereign and secret force;
we were compelled, guided to this place.

Notes (Lilyan Kesteloot)
62. Meant to underscore the force of tradition.
63. This test causes the initiates to lose all the materialism remaining within them; they must not show any disgust. They must overcome their natural reaction and, especially, not complain, like the child in the Fulɓe tale who, for having spoken out against the dirtiness of a genie's house, received, instead of three miraculous eggs, three evil eggs that brought on calamity instead of the happiness expected of them.
64. The seven heads correspond to the seven days of the week, the seven stars of the Big and Little Dippers, the seven physical openings in the head; the twelve arms correspond to the twelve months of the years (in the Kabbalistic tradition, they also refer to the twelve ribs from each side of Adam's body); the thirty feet represent the thirty days of the month.
Such as he is revealed, Kaydara is the very structure of time. This is why he is constantly turning on his throne and why he “is like a great sun,” for it is said that the sun commands time.
65. The form in which the god Kaydara appears to the three travelers is a representation of the cosmos which remains entirely incomprehensible to them.