A famous Somali gabay composed by Muhammad Abd Allah al-Hasan (1856 — 1920), the religious and military leader who established the Dervish state in Somalia. Richard Corfield (1882–1913) was a British colonial police officer, appointed in 1912 as commander of the Somaliland Camel Constabulary, charged with maintaining order but instructed to avoid any confrontation with ‘Abd Allāh al-Hasan. Disobeying this order in August 1913, he launched his 110 Camel Police against a Dervish force of 2,750. Most of his men were elimated and Corfield himself was killed. The poem is vivid for instructing Corfield what story to tell when he arrives in hell.
You have died, Corfield, and are no longer in this world,
a merciless journey was your portion.
When, Hell-destined, you set out for the Other World,
tell them how God tried you.
Say to them: “From that day to this the Dervishes
never ceased their assaults upon us.
the British were broken, the noise of battle engulfed us;
with fervour and faith the Dervishes attacked us.”
Say: “They attacked us at mid-morning.”
Say: “Yesterday in the holy war a bullet from one of their old rifles struck me.
and the bullet struck me in the arm.”
Say: “In fury they fell upon us.”
Report how savagely their swords tore you,
show these past generations in how many places the daggers were plunged.
Say: “Friend,” I called, “have compassion and spare me!””
Say: “As I looked fearfully from side to side my heart
was plucked from its sheath.”
Say: “My eyes stiffened as I watched with horror;
the mercy I implored was not granted.”
Say: “Striking with spear-butts at my mouth they silenced my soft words;
my ears, straining for deliverance, found nothing;
the risk I took, the mistake I made, cost my life.”
Say: “Like the war leaders of old,
I cherished great plans for victory.”
Say: “The schemes the djinns planted in me brought my ruin.”
Say: “When pain racked me everywhere,
men lay sleepless at my shrieks.”
Say: “Great shouts acclaimed the departing of my soul.”
Say: “Beasts of prey have eaten my flesh and torn it asunder.”
Say: “The sound of swallowing the flesh and the fat comes from the hyena.”
Say: “The crows plucked out my veins and tendons.”
Say: “If stubborn denials are to be abandoned, then my clansmen were defeated:
In the last stand of resistance there is always great slaughter.”
Say: “The Dervishes are like the advancing thunderbolts of a storm,
rumbling and roaring.”
from Somali Poetry
Bogumil M. Andrzejewski,
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