A Shona poem from Zimbabwe, recited by the farmer himself at a beer party given for his friends to celebrate his harvest. The poem ends with a well-known song in which everybody joined.

I have ploughed and I have sweated,
And now I am enjoying my crops, my friends,
Like the bushbuck which uses its tail to push rice-plants into its mouth (1)
As a sign of its contentment.

Good farming wins respect, my friends.
Where I drink beer now
I drink to my heart’s content: When I eat my food
I eat with a settled heart,
Like our little friend the fish
Which makes white soup for us,
Which plays in its pool all day
Without anything to trouble its heart.

A farmer is a king:
Even the wizard pays homage to you.

Farming brings honour, my friends:
You need not trail your feet to beg at the homes of junior men.

You see me in my prosperity today
Because during the rains I am the friend of the mud:
Rather, I attack the soil with my special friend, the hoe.

Fancy not cultivating!
Fancy not hoeing!
Fancy not cultivating!
Take the little hoe and break the soil!

The day when I killed a partridge,
When the child’s mother had gone to the field,
The porridge ran into my mouth like lightning.
Take the little hoe and weed the soil!

from Shona Praise Poetry
ed. Aaron C. Hodza & George Fortune, OUP (1979),


Footnotes

  1. Like the bushbuck: the bushbuck is believed to push rice plants into its mouth with its tail when it is relaxed and not aware of danger.