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 1420-1450

Ɗoon Hamtuuɗo jokkini golle haala 1420
mo dunyi cummboowo bibbiti junngo makko,
ngo oon joginoo pati mo jola junngo maayo
hunyi Hamtuuɗo ŋabbini tuuba makko
mo joli nder ɗam ndiyam omo jumpa yaade,
mo waɗi taaɓanɗe sappo e goo mo taakii 1425
Mo muuyi wadde wootere faw! mo yoolii.
Mo wulli mo walloyee cummboowo oo wii :
— « So naa taw maayde yaawnde walaa ko noottoo! »
Hammadi nannyoyaa fade heptinoyde
heɓa hakkille fuu Hamtuuɗo yoolii, 1430
ndiyam moɗoyii mo Hammadi ronkinaama
so naa ana ƴeewa ɗee pooƴolle laaɓde
daneeje na ummoyii dow maayo holla
yanaande ndiyam nde ndaa Hamtuuɗo fodanaa.
Hammadi naati ley kaa laana suŋli, 1435
mo yeeŋoy fonngo wii cummboowo « Ndaa koo
nyeddude kanŋe ɗiɗi ndewataa-mi naa hono? »
« Yo noon fii worri » jaabii cummboyoowo.
« A naannii kam e laana kisal mi waaɓii
ko njoɓiran-maa-mi ko ɓam donnge kanŋe 1440
dammaa ɗaalli tati Hamtuuɗo ɗali ɗii,
kootaa suudu maa ŋoottaa e golle
tiiɗɗe ɗe ngaddataa fay huunde sanne.
Kemeeɗi alsilaame e balɗe noogay
aɗa waɗa ɗum heɓaali mo lummbinaa ɗoo. » 1445
Ɗoon cummboowo ƴeewoy dow e ley fuu
gere nano faa e nyaamo mo ƴeewi Hamma
Mo wii :
— « Giɗo maa oo nde woyannoo maayde giɗo mum
« Hammadi danyi nganyaari hol to ngon-ɗaa? » 1450
Cummboowo ko haali Hammadi faamoyaali
mo wii : « Cummboowo moƴƴo e maayo keerol
ko ɗum ŋomi-ɗaa e teelal kaalnoyaa kam? »

Then Hamtoudo, following words with action,
jostled the ferryman who was holding him
to prevent him from going down into the stream.
Hamtudo rolled up his pant legs
and started walking in the stream.
He took eleven steps and then stopped.
He was about to take the twelfth when — whoosh!
He cried for help but the ferryman answered
that no one could come to fetch him but death!
Before Hammadi could even get over
his surprise, Hamtoudo went down,
sucked in by the waters; Hammadi could only
watch the white bubbles
rising to the surface of the water, indicating
the watery tomb destined for Hamtudo.
Hammadi got in the boat sadly
and reached the other bank, then asked the ferryman:
“Here: two cupfuls of gold. Is that correct?” 97
“That's right, in fact,” answered the ferryman.
“You took me across with the dugout of safety,
and I offer you these loads of gold in payment, take them;
keep the three oxen Hamtudo has left.
Go back to your house and rest
from your hard labor that pays you nothing.
There must be times when hundreds of days 98 pass
without anything coming to you.”
Then the ferryman looked Hammadi up and down 99,
and considered him from side to side 99.
He said:
“Your friend, weeping over the other's death,
had said ‘Hammadi the victor, where are you?’” 100
Hammadi could not understand the ferryman's words
and said, “Good ferryman of the Border-Stream,
what did you just murmur?”

Notes (Lilyan Kesteloot)
97. One more time, Hammadi, who had promised two cup-measures to the ferryman, proves his indifference towards wealth, for which his friends have risked and lost their lives.
98. Two hundred and twenty days, that is to say, a long time; this is a sacrificial number and a current expression in initiatory language; in ordinary language, one would say a hundred or a thousand days.
99. A sort of ritual blessing; indicates not the cross, but the cardinal points.
100. The ferryman, quoting words of a scene where he had not been present, betrays himself; he is no ordinary boatman; but Hammadi does not understand, for he has not heard the words of his companion, not having arrived at the time.