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 1760-1795

Kaydara kaawnoyiiɗo to leyɗe muuɗum,
yo ɗum daabaawa waylata noone muuyri 1760
reedu butlindu ɗemngal nyorwinaangal.
Ɗum waɗi hippataako e ɗum ko lohotoo.
Mo tewtan fooɗiroyde so nii mo ronkii,
mo wartir ngal e makko mo sottoyaali.
Nde wootere koyɗe yaɓɓoytaa e leydi, 1765
gootal ɓaawo gootal tawa henyaaki.
Se muuyii yeewde tatte mo yeeyataako,
mo ballam hoore waylita yitere lawloo
kala banŋeeji yitere e luuro heddoo,
tergal makko ana moorii no kokowol. 1770
Noorol makko jogolol yooltoyli dow
laacol makko nanngan teeŋa tooɗa.
Ndaama ko fiirti yoga alhaali doonyo,
nyalooma e jamma Hammadi anni koro mum:
waylude noone maanaa mum nyalooma 1775
ɗum woni belɗo baaldal Aadamanke
nyeennyuɗo munyɗo gondal fuu na waawi,
waawde heƴoyde kala fuu no huunde wardi,
wonda e mayre kala to nde iwi nde wardi
fa baaldal moƴƴa ɓama neesuuji wondi. 1780
So maanaa jamma ɗum woni naafiqaaku,
waasude sommu laatoo wayla-wayla
faa heɓa tan na jiiɓoya yaadiroyta
walaa neɗɗaaku waawaa huunde ersu.
Doonyorgal damal mum ngal na inndee 1785
bolongal laamu sabu ɗoon noone kawra.
Yoga war hokkitirde tanaa e yeru mum.
Yoga war nyaagoyaade tefoobe hokkee.
Yoga war fende yoga kaa perte ngaɗa e mum.
Ɗemngal nyorwungal ɓuta reedu heewa, 1790
maanaa mum nyalooma waawde haala
faa yananee mo haaldi walaa no salorii.
Koro wartirde ɗemngal mum e muuɗum,
ɗum woni waawde yaltude kala do naati.
Maanaa yaadu doonyorgal e koro mum, 1795
annduɗo huunde buukoytaako naata,

of Kaydara the magnificent,
is an animal that changes color at will;
it has its belly filled with help from its slimy tongue.
This allows it not to have to chase its prey.
It tries to snatch it and when it can
it pulls its tongue back in, without the slightest movement.
It never puts all its feet on the ground at once,
but puts down one after the next, without hurrying.
To look around, it needs not turn.
It tips its head and rolls its eye
that turns in all directions in its socket;
but its body is still as a wall.
Its back rises up in a crest
and its tail can grab and hold things forceably.
Certain traits of the chameleon, Hammadi,
have these diurnal and nocturnal meanings:
changing color, in the diurnal sense, means
that one is sociable and pleasant,
full of tact, patiently willing to live and let live
and able to adapt to every circumstance
and accept it as is, as well as its origin;
one is sociable and accepting others' customs.
In the nocturnal sense, this changes to hypocrisy,
lack of constancy, and unstable change,
to the point of being impossible to be with,
and having no personality or dignity.
The rank of the chameleon is called
royal vestibule; in fact anything can happen there.
Some come to inflict evil on their species.
Some come to beg, others are there to offer what they may.
Some come to lie, others come from having been lied to.
Having the belly filled by a slimy tongue
means, diurnally, knowing how to talk
so as to convince the person one is talking to;
while pulling back the tongue
means knowing how to get around impasses.
“As for the demeanor of the chameleon, it indicates that
the knowledgeable, wise person never proceeds with his head lowered,