An extract from a Kanuri Praise-Poem from the ancient kingdom of Bornu in northern Nigeria (see also The Sultan of Bornu). The Gumsu was the chief wife of the king of Bornu, and the Gumsu praised in this poem was the wife of Sultan Arri Umarmi, 1645-85.

Queen Gumsu, owner of Maradi town, never looks behind her: (1)
Owner of the city of Yam and the land of Yemen,
And of N’gasargamu and Njimi town .
Your mortar is made of the scented Guinea-pepper wood,
You own a pestle of polished silver.
Gumsu Amina, daughter of Taiba,
A descendant of the great,
The great and the blessed,
Good morning, good morning!
You are like the moon at its full,
Like the morning star,
Precious as gold, daughter of a bush-cow,
you are a bush-cow among women:
Gumsu, daughter of a lion:
She is a lion as precious as gold among all women,
Like silver, Amina, daughter of Taiba:
May Allah give you the long life of a frog, (2)
And the dignity of an eagle.

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


Footnotes

  1. The praise never looks behind her means that she never hesitates.
  2. The prayer that she should have the long life of a frog uses a common metaphor in African oral poetry that connects the frog, which survives through the dry season and croaks during the rains, with long life and prosperity.