A poem of the Hurutshe people from South Africa. The honey-bird (also called the honeyguide or the hunter’s friend), will lead a hunter to a bee hive so that when he has taken the honey-combs the bird can eat the grubs.

Bird of the thorn apple trees,
Bird with more kind-heartedness than a chief,
Do not give me a tree, give me an antheap;
I have no axe to chop a tree with:
Tswedi tswerre. (1)

I have my digging stick of sickle-bush wood,
A digging stick to dig an ant-heap with.
If you give me, I shall give you without being asked,
I shall give you honey-comb with larvae in it:
Tswedi tswerre
Bird of the bees.

translated by D.F. Merwe,
‘Hurutshe Poems’
from Bantu Studies 15, 1941


Footnotes

  1. Tswedi tswerre: The hunter imitates the honey-bird’s own whistling. He asks the bird to lead him to a bee hive in an old antheap rather than one in a tree, since he has brought his digging stick rather than his axe.