Another Somali Gabay. This one was composed by chieftain belonging to the Ogaden clan, living in eastern Somalia, and his dispute is with the Isaaq clan, living to the north-west. His son has been killed in a skirmish with the Isaaq, and he has demanded 200 camels in compensation. He has been offered 100 and, rejecting that, chants this war song composed of a single long and alliterative sentence, ostensibly addressed to his horse ‘Aynabo, but in fact to the enemy. This gabay was recorded in 1951 by Margaret Lawrence, whose husband Jack was a civil engineer in what was then British Somaliland.
If you, oh ‘Aynabo, my fleet and fiery horse,
Do not grow battle-worn, and slow of foot, and weak;
And if your shining flanks and finely arching neck
Do not grow gaunt and thin as the branch on the toothbrush thorn; (1)
And if your frenzied hooves do not flail through the dead,
The bodies piled as high as ever grew the grass;
And if a man among us can draw the name of peace
Forth from the deepest well where I have flung it down;
And if the strong-limbed spearmen of all the Bahawadleh (2)
Do not now fight in fury and fight unto the death;
And if our enemy’s food is not scant meat alone,
With milk gone from the land, and their camels seized as loot; (3)
And if my dead son, Ali, is not greater in their eyes
Than his craven murderers thought when they stabbed away his life;
And if the sky in future does not its colour change,
Filled with the dust of death, reflecting the flare of the fray;
And if all that I swear does not, as I swear it, come to pass -
Then the warrior son of my father has become a witless fool. (4)
A Tree for Poverty: Somali Poetry & Prose,
- A type of thin branch used by the Somalis for cleaning their teeth.
- The sub-group to which the speaker belongs.
- Meat and milk are the staple foods for Somalis living away from the coast, and to be deprived of camels is a disaster.
- That is, the speaker himself.