A drinking song from Benin, formerly Dahomey, celebrating the pleasures of life which should be enjoyed while we have the opportunity. Agongolo, who was King of Dahomey in the late eighteenth century, is chiefly remembered chiefly for two things: for good living, and for ‘walking in blood’.

If I had money
I should buy drinks to drink,
One for seventy-five centimes:
Son of Xolo, drink! (1)
Let all of you hear – O,
To have a pleasant thought,
Yes, yes, yes.
If I had money
I should buy drinks to drink,
One for seventy-five centimes:
Son of Xolo, drink!
Let all of you hear -O,
To have a pleasant thought,
Yes, yes, yes.
He who has money
And hoards all for the future,
Of him I do not think well.
Remember that Gbeko, too, was destroyed. (2)
In the coffers of the houses of the dead are many drinks;
Had he for whom this was bought drunk of it?
No, no, no, no.
Seller of drinks, give me drinks to drink
For today my head is turning.
I see it: There is no pleasure for the dead.
I say: What you eat in this world, the pleasure of it goes with you.
I say: The wives you had, the pleasure you had of them goes
with you.
I say: The meat you ate, the pleasure of it goes with you.
I say: The drinks you drank, the pleasure of them goes with you.
I say: The pipe you smoked, the pleasure of it goes with you.

from Oral Poetry from Africa (1984)
compiled by Jack Mapanje and Landeg White,
Longman


Footnotes

  1. Xolo: Agongolo’s father, the previous king.
  2. Gbeko: The hero of a Dahomean tale who is destroyed by his miserliness.