A Yoruba funeral song from Nigeria. The metaphors have the force of proverbs, expressing but generalising the son’s grief.
Slowly the muddy pool becomes a river,
Slowly my mother’s disease becomes death.
When wood breaks, it can be repaired
But ivory breaks for ever.
An egg falls to reveal a messy secret:
My mother went, and carried her secret along.
She has gone far –
We look for her in vain:
But when you see a Kob antelope on the way to the farm, (1)
When you see the Kob antelope on the way to the river –
Leave your arrows in the quiver,
And let the dead depart in peace.
from Yoruba Poetry
Cambridge University Press, (1970)
compiled and edited by Ulli Beier
- This beautiful image also suggests something of the woman’s qualities.