Two Gonga laments from the Kaffa Highlands of south-west Ethiopia. They use the form of the Praise-Poem to mourn the defeat of the king, Hinnare-tato, and the scattering of his people. The over­throw of the Hinnaro kingdom actually occurred in the early eighteenth century, but these songs were popular in the 1970s when they expressed the feelings of the people of the area about the rule of Haile Selassie before the Ethiopian Revolution of 1974. The poems convey a vivid impression of former wealth and glory and the sadness of living under alien rule.

I

The Hinnare-tato has become a simple man,
Our magnificent gold has become copper.
O King, how we long for you!
We have become simple,
Our greatness has become simplicity.
We are sorrowful and sad.
O King, how we long for you!
Let me be beaten and thrown for my King,
Let me be buried for my King.
O my King who is like gold,
O my King, a magnificent not a simple man,
O my King, the husband of four wives,
O my King, with powerful and accurate throws,
O my King, with an excellent aim for buffalo,
O my King, who can compare with you?
You are like an imposing omo tree,
You are like a calf sucking the udder,
A man who lives a long life.
We bless you, saying
Live long!
Be greater than you are! Feed the people!
O my King, who can compare with you?
You bring back sheep tied in the forest vines,
You are wealthy and generous.
Who feeds and satisfies the people with abundant supplies?
We bless you, saying
Live long!
Be greater than you are!
Feed the people!
What more can I say to praise you?

II

They took the Kafa-tato from his house!
They took the gold from his finger.
Since he has gone our land has turned to dust.
Our handsome dark Cinito and our golden Gallito are gone.
Our King who was like a wife to us
Was taken from us like a wife from her hearth.
The cup from which he drank,
The saddle upon which he sat
Have decayed on the wall.
We miss our kind prosperous Kings, Gallito and Cinito,
Who were as expansive as oceans:
Our people are now scattered,
No one is present to unify them.

Werner J. Lange,
Domination and Resistance: Narrative Songs of the Kafa Highlands (1979),
Michigan State University.