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 1935-1965

hono gaygel ti kala fuu talka dokko
hokkan saama fuu bada junngo laaɓaa, 1935
abada mo waasataa heɓa huunde hokka.
Ndeen a yiyaano Hammadi sey ɗe maale.
Joonin kaa a anndii sirru joyaɓo
yaamana-juuju Kaydara sirru kam jey,
woɗɗa ɓadaajo Kaydara leyde gotte. » 1940
Fooyre mawnde yayni Hammadi wii:
— « Ko ɗum fiirtoyta jeegaɓo maale leyɗe?
Mi lamndete mobbo annduɗo suura duule
e maaje kaalnoyaa kam ɗum ko firata
jeegaɓe maale yaamana-juuju leyɗe. » 1945
Gariibu nayeejo ummii e daago muuɗum
mo taaɓii beene Hammadi njuunndi njaannji
mo yehi tippi yitere ley faada ndaari
fa mo yananee walaa kala tuttiniiɗo
ley conngore'ooje faa heɓa felsa nanoya 1950
ko haaloytee e dow bili faama laaɓa.
Mo warti mo joottitii e kofi koyɗe makko
mo wii : « Doobal! Doobal! tew na tekki
ana weli! Foondu mawndu, foondu boowe
juutundu koyɗe tekkuɗe laatoyiindu 1955
jeegaɓo maale koyngal mum gootal
hono noon wibjo muuɗum seeɓi daasii.
Maanaa mum nyalooma yo suudu dun-ya.
Jiiɗo ndu gidda sukkan nanngoyan ndu,
nii haƴayta buurude faa e mayru 1960
nanngoytaa ndu doppondiran be caama.
Yo hono noon dawla tewtuɗo suudu-reere
dukidan kapta liɓondira maa du caamda
faa bona dawla mum'en maa du maayda.
Hakkillaaji ndaa maa ndonto doobal 1965

as it empties out; like the little hole, the poor
and generous man is always giving, though his hand is never bare.
He who gives in good faith will always find things to give.
Oh Hammadi! You had only seen the signs.
But now you know the fifth secret of the country
of the dwarf-spirits, which belongs to Kaydara,
the distant, the nearby Kaydara.”
A great light shone and Hammadi asked:
“What about the sixth symbol of those lands?
I ask you, master who knows the form of the clouds 134
and of lightning bolts! 135 Tell me the meaning
of the sixth symbol of the land of the dwarf-spirits.”
The old beggar got up from his mat,
paced up and down Hammadi's terrace,
and gazed in the yard
to see that no one was listening
from under the gutters, overhearing
what was said, or understanding 136.
He came back and sat on his folded legs
then said, “Bustard! Bustard! Good, savory
meat! Giant bird, bird of the plains
with large, strong feet, appearing
as the sixth symbol with a single foot
and a pointed, trailing wing.
Diurnally, he symbolizes the earthly world.
Those who see him and pounce and try to get him.
Alas! Alas! Going after him,
they aren't able to capture him, they knock themselves over.
Thus those who seek honors in this world
quarrel and fight, then unseat themselves,
or fall together in death's disgrace.
The crest of fine feathers sported by the male

Notes (Lilyan Kesteloot)
134. The shape of the clouds also serves in divination, following the resemblances they have, or the shadow cast on earth, according to their degree of intensity (in small dunes, waves, lakes…)
135. Lightning, idem. It is at sunrise and sunset that the silatigi will most willingly perform his auguries and incantations, for the colors of the sky and clouds are more varied and significant at those times.
136. He is suspicious since slaves are often posted in places where they can overhear others, or receive what is left of sacred baths of kings … and end up by becoming kings in their own right, for the magic waters act upon slaves as much as on the prince!