A song of a Shona clan from Zimbabwe, boasting of the invincibility of their ancestors as a warning to other rival clans. The ‘Sons of Chihuri’ say that their enemy has taken on more than he bargained for.

We, the grandsons of Makomo, are not treated like that!
No one in this country plays with us,
Sons of Chihuri, grandsons of Makomo.
There will be no cultivation this year.
If we are all to perish at this time, then let us perish!
This year the axe-head will burn and the haft survive. (1)
What you are doing now is something never done before.
What you have already done is a fight on the edge of a precipice.
It is a journey over the sand; (2)
it does not know who will survive.
On the journey you have robbed a hive without a fire. (3)
You have trapped an elephant in a mousetrap,
And hidden its body like the grey-backed gerbil
Which hides only to leave its tail outside.
Sit down and use your minds like men!

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


Footnotes

  1. The axe-head will burn: The axe-head is made of iron, with the implication being that the impossible will happen.
  2. A journey over the sand: A journey through the unforgiving desert.
  3. Robbed a hive without a fire: The metaphor being of someone who attempts to steal honey from a bees hive without smoking the bees out first.