The story of Dubulihasa strictly falls within the tradition of Xhosa folktale (nstomi) and not poetry (izibongo) but I thought readers would find it interesting as the story has at its heart a song that is repeated throughout the tale. Harold Scheub describes the Xhosa Ntsomi tradition of oral literature here:

The ntsomi is a fabulous story … a fairy tale … endlessly repetitious. It is also the storehouse of knowledge of Xhosa societies, the means whereby the wisdom of the past is remembered and transmitted through the generations … The performance of a ntsomi at a certain time and in a certain place is a unique and evanescent phenomenon; it cannot be repeated, it will never be recaptured. The artist will never again create that particular image in that particular way… A series of images, original and often improvisational use of details, stylistic effects, the alchemy of performer-audience relations, the temperament of the artist – these join briefly in time and space and then only a memory remains. The creation of a ntsomi is essentially a solo performance. The focus is the performer. She has memorized no “lines”; she has a repertory of “core-clichés” and in the arrangement of the parts and the whole, she in effect writes her own script. She is her own director, her own cast of characters. She is actress, singer, dancer, mime, and the only general guides that she has are a general theme sanctioned by the tradition and her own experience. She has almost unlimited freedom to extemporize.

Harold Scheub
“The Technique of the Expansible Image in Xhosa Ntsomi Performances”
From Research in African Literatures (1970)

Various versions of the story of Dubulihasa have been recorded with the earliest I’ve seen referenced being a Zulu version of the story called “Ubongopha kamagadlela”, performed by Umatshotsha umkaMafuta and collected in 1868. Here I’ve included a Xhosa version of the story called Dubulihasa that was performed by a Hlubi woman, collected by Harold Scheub for his book The Poem in the Story. I’ll also be making reference to a Zulu version of the story called “uMshayandlela”, collected by C.L.S. Nyembezi for his Igoda series of books for school children. The story of “uMshayandlela” can be found in pages 180-182 of this thesis by Noemio Noverino Canonici, C.L.S. Nyembezi’s use of traditional Zulu folktales in his Igoda series of school readers.

The story goes like this, a young boy responsible for herding cattle is threatened by thieves who demand that he brings the cattle to their place (in the “uMshayandlela” version of tale the boy is chased by cannibals or ogres who threaten to eat him, when he escapes from them they steal his cattle instead). However, as the thieves try to lead the cattle away, an ox (a bull in the “uMshayandlela” story) refuses to move and the cattle will not go. The ox named Dubulihasa (uMshayandlela in the Zulu tale) will only move if sung to by the boy and so the child sings the song that becomes the central part of the extended poem.

“Dubulihasa!, Dubulihasa!
You must go, Dubulihasa!
Because you can see
That I’ll be killed, Dubulihasa!”

On their journey to the thieves house the ox stops at various points, before crossing a river, before entering the thieves enclosure etc. Each time the boy must sing to the ox to persuade it to move. The thieves are unable to slaughter the ox until the boy sings his song. Even when the ox has been slaughtered the thieves find they cannot bring the meat into the house unless the boy sings. In the “uMshayandlela” story the cannibals go to wash themselves in a river after butchering the ox, in the Dubulihasa version the ox is eaten and then the thieves leave to wash. In both versions the boy is left alone with an old woman in the thieves house. At this point the ntsomi really becomes a fairy tale for the boy distracts the old woman, brings Dubulihasa back to life with his singing, gathers his cattle and escapes riding on the ox. In the “uMshayandlela” version of the tale the boy then leads the cattle across a river and tricks the thieves into following him into the river inwhich the thieves drown. Upon returning home the boy is given the ox as a reward by his father for overcoming his adversaries and bringing back the cattle that he was guarding.

Ultimately, the tale appears to be a journey of initiation with the boy becoming a man by overcoming his fears and outwitting his enemies. Through his song he guides the ox, the cattle and himself over the boundaries of the river, the thieves enclosure, and even crosses over the border of life and death by resurrecting the ox. The transformation of the ox mirrors the transformation of the boy, who through patience, cunning and perseverance leads his cattle home.

This version of the story was performed by a Hlubi woman and collected by Harold Scheub.

An intsomi goes like this –
There was a boy who herded cattle.
He continued herding day after day, and then he would go home.
Then he would return and herd the cattle, and again he would go home.
It happened one day that a man arrived and said to the boy,
“Boy I want you to come to my place!”
The child said “I’m afraid!”
This man said then, “Now, I want you to bring these cattle and come to my place!”
The child fled.
The man returned three days later, and said, “There’s no way out today! I’ll beat you!”
The child said, “All right then.”
The man said, “Well speak boy, so that these cattle move!”
The child sang,

“Dubulihasa!, Dubulihasa!
You must go, Dubulihasa!
Because you can see
That I’ll be killed, Dubulihasa!”

The ox traveled on, it traveled and traveled, the ox traveled.
Again the man said, “speak boy, so that this ox travels!”
It stood there.
The child said,

“Dubulihasa!, Dubulihasa!
You must go, Dubulihasa!
Because you can see
That I’ll be killed, Dubulihasa!”

The ox bellowed, “Mpoooooooo! Mpooooooo!”
The man said, “Speak boy, so that this ox moves!”
The boy said,

“Dubulihasa!, Dubulihasa!
You must cross, Dubulihasa!
Because you can see
That I’ll be killed, Dubulihasa!”

At a river. The ox crossed over.
Again, the ox bellowed, “Mpooooooo!”
The man said, “Speak boy, so that this ox moves!”
They were now fairly close to the home of this man.
Again the boy said,

“Dubulihasa!, Dubulihasa!
You must go, Dubulihasa!
Because you can see
That I’ll be killed, Dubulihasa!”

The ox traveled, it traveled. Then, when it entered the yard above the cattle-kraal the ox stopped.
The man again said, “Speak boy, so that they ox comes into the yard!”
The ox bellowed, “Mpoooooooo! Mpooooooo!”
Again the boy said,

“Dubulihasa!, Dubulihasa!
You must enter, Dubulihasa!
Because you can see
That I’ll be killed, Dubulihasa!”

The ox entered the yard. It stopped and urinated.
The man said again, “Speak boy, so that the ox comes into the enclosure!”
The child spoke,

“Dubulihasa!, Dubulihasa!
You must enter, Dubulihasa!
Because you can see
That I’ll be killed, Dubulihasa!”

It entered the enclosure. The man took some ropes, and came with them.
He said, “Speak boy, so that I can snare this ox and kill it!”
The child repeated,

“Dubulihasa!, Dubulihasa!
You must be snared, Dubulihasa!
Because you can see
That I’ll be killed, Dubulihasa!”

The ox was snared, and it bellowed now for the last time.
It said, “Mpoooooooo! Mpooooooo!”
The man said, “Speak, boy, so that the ox may be pierced!”
The child said,

“Dubulihasa!, Dubulihasa!
You must be killed, Dubulihasa!
Because you can see
That I’ll be killed, Dubulihasa!”

He killed the ox then, and it was skinned, it was finished. Then it was necessary that it be roasted.
The man repeated, “Speak, buy, so that the ox may be roasted, so that we can eat!”
He said,

“Dubulihasa!, Dubulihasa!
You must be roasted, Dubulihasa!
Because you can see
That I’ll be killed, Dubulihasa!”

They roasted the ox, and it was eaten.
The man again said, “Speak, boy, so that we can bring the ox into the house!”

“Dubulihasa!, Dubulihasa!
You must be enter, Dubulihasa!
Because you can see
That I’ll be killed, Dubulihasa!”

They took it and brought it into the house. When the got into the house this woman could not eat it at all, this ox would choke her.
It appeared that the boy must speak again, and so he did:

“Dubulihasa!, Dubulihasa!
The old woman should also eat this ox, Dubulihasa!
Because you can see
That I’ll be killed, Dubulihasa!”

The old woman then ate the ox.
Time passed then, time passed, time passed, and then they got up. When they went to wash, the child remained behind with this old woman. When they had gone away and were on the other side of the homestead, when they had arrived at the river, they washed. The boy came back to the old woman and gave her some tobacco.
He said to the woman, “Smoke!”
The old woman smoked. When the old woman had finished smoking, the boy said.

“Dubulihasa!, Dubulihasa!
You must get up, Dubulihasa!
Because you can see
That I’ll be killed, Dubulihasa!”

The ox got up, it stood at once!
Again the child said, “Dubulihasa, I want you to go outside now, so that we can travel!” And again he said,

“Dubulihasa!, Dubulihasa!
You must leave, Dubulihasa!
Because you can see
That I’ll be killed, Dubulihasa!”

Dubulihasa went out. This child sat on the ox’s horn and drove the other cattle.
Then the old woman said, “The cattle are gone, cowards! The cattle are gone, cowards!” Again the child said,

“Dubulihasa!, Dubulihasa!
You must travel, Dubulihasa!
Because you can see
That I’ll be killed, Dubulihasa!”

Dubulihasa traveled and went home. He got home then, and he was asked, “Where have you been?”
He said, “I was taken away!”
He told them everything that he had done, and there was happiness at home because he had returned.
The intsomi is ended, it is ended.

Collected by Harold Scheub
From The Poem in the Story
University of Wisconsin Press (2002)