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 1455-1480

Cummboowo wii:
— « Ko mbii-mi mi waawataa jaɓa kokku-ɗaa kam. 1455
Nyedduɗe ɗiɗi ndewaa-mi kokkataa kam.
Hokkam ɗee ne dammaa donngele jeegom. »
Nde Hammadi yeeŋi laana nanngi kaakol,
mo hebbini laabi ɗiɗi faa heewi kanŋe,
mo hokki cummboowo nanngiri kanŋe juuɗe. 1460
Ndeen cummboowo nanngiri kanŋe juuɗe,
mo ɓami sasa makko soortoy laɓi e ley mum
mo yuldi ki laana makko mo yoppi yoolii.
Mo toowti mo jooɗoyii dow fonngo maayo,
mo yani omo tanka booke baleeje tanka, 1465
mo moɗi hen tanke sappo e ɗiɗi faa yooltii.
Ndeen wa'i reedu makko no uure loownde,
mo nirkiri nyaamo makko reedu makko,
mo nirki ndu sanne nii faa reedu hoondii
ndu huɓɓi no jomre faa lewlewndu toowi. 1470
Mo ummii ŋabbi maayo mo yaɓɓa yaade
omo yaha dow ndiyam ɗam hono yo leydi.
Kanŋe mo Hamma hokki mo oo e junngo.
Nde mo yottii to hakkunde maayo ngoo wii:
— « Ee maa njamndi teddundi coggu iwndi 1475
ley luggeendi leydi, mbirfitaa toon!
Onon suuɗiiɓe doomuɓe keeri leyɗe
yaamana-juuju janngal moon yoɓaama,
kala jaltinoowo kanŋe ko haani yoɓde.
Hammadi koo yoɓi ana waawi nafiroo 1480
ndimri e jamɗe laatike jawdl makko. »
Ndeen cummboowo wii nii wonti henndu
duluuru mo laatoyii yoolii e maayo.
Hammadi tannyorii ngoo junngo maayo

The ferryman answered:
“I was saying, I can't accept your offer.
I'll accept the two cupfuls of gold you owe me,
but you keep the six loads.”
When Hammadi got out of the boat, he took the measuring cup
and filled it twice with gold nuggets,
gave them to the ferryman who accepted them.
The moment he took the gold, from the bottom of his sack
the ferryman took out a knife
which he used to break the boat and sink it 101.
He got back up and sat on the riverbank.
He began to knead black silt,
swallowed a dozen balls of it 102 and bloated up.
His belly blew up like an advanced abcess.
He rubbed it with his right hand;
rubbed so hard that his stomach burst into flames 103
and his whole body became one live flame spreading.
He got up and walked to the river.
He walked on the water as though on earth,
holding in his hand the gold Hammadi had paid.
When he reached the middle of the stream he said:
“Oh priceless metal from the center of the earth,
you will return there!
And you, invisible guards of the borders
of the country of the dwarf-spirits, your tithe
owed by those who remove gold has been paid.
Having paid it, now Hammadi can enjoy
the rest of his metal that is now legitimate.” 104
After saying that, the ferryman became wind
and made off in the sky like a cyclone.
Hammadi did not doubt that this stream

Notes (Lilyan Kesteloot)
101. He thereby eliminates any means of returning to the land of Kaidara, for Hammadi as well as for the gold he is carrying.
102. Eating earth is a form of obscure symbolism; the sacrificer usually tastes the earth; in the same way it is recommended for pregnant women to eat a bit of earth.
103. Is it fireborn of eaten earth that water will embrace in turn? Again, an allusion to the process of destruction by the mutual devouring of the elements.
104. In fact, in order for Kaidara's gold not to be taken by the spirits of the dwarf-country, some token amount must be left to them. Thus, possession of sacred gold will be legitimate and Hammadi will be able to enjoy it. Popular dictum has it that, in the exoteric sense, “if the poor have no part at all of fortune, then fortune will melt and return to the earth”; this is said in order to incite the rich to give to charity. The tithe here, then, is that planting which will grow back.